More than 300 persons have been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall Fame in its 55-year history.
But there’s always room for groundbreakers.
That’s happening next year with the induction of a trio of New Orleanians — football coach Otis Washington and basketball star Avery Johnson, the first persons with St. Augustine backgrounds and Frank Brothers, the first horse trainer.
They will join football’s Kevin Faulk, Jake Delhomme, Leonard Smith and Pat Collins, along with softball’s Yvette Girouard being honored June 20-22 in Natchitoches.
“To go in as the first guys from St. Aug — that’s very special,” said Washington, who coached three state championship teams during his 11-year tenure (1969-79) in charge of the Purple Knights. “It was very important in those days to represent our school and our community both competitively and in doing all things well.
“I’ve always felt we did that.”
Johnson’s time at St. Aug including leading the Purple Knights to an undefeated state championship season in 1983.
After a couple of junior college stops, he found his way to Southern where he twice led the country in assists. That led to a 16-year career in the NBA for “The Little General.”
“This is very humbling experience to know I have such an honor bestowed on me,” said Johnson, now a commentator for ESPN. “Thirty years or so ago when I was sitting on the bench at St. Augustine, that would have been the last thing on my mind.”
By the time Johnson got to Southern, Washington was the football coach of the Jaguars.
“I always told him that he would have made a heck of a quarterback or a cornerback,” Washington said of Johnson, who led the nation in assists in his two year at Southern before going on to a 16-year career in the NBA. “But it looks like he made the right choice.”
Brothers won five training titles at the Fair Grounds and nine at Louisiana Downs during a 40-year career. In that span, he saddled 2,359 winners with $48.9 million in purse money. Brothers saw his election as a special one.
“I was shocked because even though there are some very fine jockeys in the hall, there were no other trainers,” he said. “It’s very flattering.
“I hope it opens the doors for others, because there are a lot of them out there.”
Washington, a native of Selma, Alabama, came to New Orleans in the late 1950s as a football-baseball player at Xavier.
He graduated in 1961 as the school’s last captain in both sports and then began his coaching career with the junior varsity at St. Aug.
After succeeding Eddie Flint in 1969, Washington produced powerhouse teams that went 106-26-1, winning Class 4A state tiles in 1975, 1978 and 1979, taking a runner-up finish in 1971 along with seven district titles. More than 120 players earned college scholarships.
“We had some competition in those days which was intense,” Washington said. “Jesuit, Brother Martin, Shaw and Rummel were always so soundly coached, and those games where challenges every week.
“I may be prejudiced, but I think we were playing a better brand of ball than they are now.”
In 1980 Washington became one of the first African-American assistant coaches at LSU, and a year later became head coach at Southern where he remained through 1986.
As Washington said, Johnson was also at Southern in those days, but even though he led the nation in assists, he was undrafted out of college.
Still, Johnson latched on with Seattle and spent time with six teams, most notably the San Antonio Spurs where he was an integral part of their 1998-99 championship team. Johnson averaged 5.5 assists in his NBA career.
He went on to be the head coach at Dallas and New Jersey/Brooklyn and is now an analyst at ESPN.
Brothers began his career as a trainer under Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg, striking out on his own in 1980.
Along with titles at the Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs, Brothers won training titles at Keeneland, Oaklawn and Churchill Downs and had the 1991 Preakness and Belmont winner in Hansel.
Brothers retired from training in 2009, and is now a bloodstock agent for Starlight Racing.
“I never wanted to be one of those guys who died with his boots on in the shed row,” Brothers said of his current career. “But going at it from daylight to dark seven days a week for 40 years — I’ve got no complaints.”
Faulk, who is from Lafayette, left his mark at all three levels of football — two-time Class 5A offensive MVP at Carencro where he had 7,612 all-purpose yards and 89 TDs, career rushing leader at LSU (4,557 yards), where he was a three-time all-Southeastern Conference pick and an All-American in 1998, and 13 seasons with the New England Patriots where he was a member of three Super Bowl championship teams, where he compiled 12,349 all-purpose yards.
Another native of the Lafayette area, Delhomme was a record-setting quarterback at Louisiana-Lafayette where he threw for 9,216 yards and 64 TDs.
Undrafted, Delhomme spent three seasons as a backup with the Saints before signing with Carolina in 2003, leading them to Super Bowl XXXVII in his first season there. Delhomme spent 11 years in the NFL.
Girouard, the third Lafayette native in this year’s induction class, founded the softball program at UL-Lafayette in 1981, remaining there until 2001, when she moved to LSU.
Girouard, who retired in 2011, was 759-250 with the Ragin’ Cajuns and 526-171-1 with the Tigers, taking her teams to five Women’s College World Series.She retired in 2011.
Smith, who prepped at Lee High in Baton Rouge, was a FCS All-American safety at McNeese before going on to a nine-year NFL career with Arizona and Buffalo. He is a member of this year’s College Football Hall of Fame induction class.
Collins coached Louisiana-Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana) to the 1987 Division I-AA national championship. He was the head coach at ULM for eight years compiling a 57-35 record.