Two members of Acadiana’s brand-new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame trio had to leave home to realize their athletic dreams and reach the pinnacle of their sport. After that was done, both returned home.
The third of the trio? Well, she never really left, finding success within the confines of her native Louisiana.
Now, Jake Delhomme, Kevin Faulk and Yvette Girouard will be honored by the state in which they helped add chapters to a storied athletic history, with their enshrinement into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s always nice to be recognized for your accomplishments,” Faulk said, “especially when it comes from where you’re from.”
The three are among eight state sports legends announced Tuesday as part of the 2015 Hall of Fame class selected by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The group also includes NBA champion point guard and Coach of the Year Avery Johnson, coaching legends Pat Collins and Otis Washington, College Football Hall of Famer Leonard Smith and championship thoroughbred trainer Frank Brothers.
The group will be officially enshrined Saturday, June 27, at the stunning Hall of Fame building in Natchitoches as the highlight of a three-day series of Hall of Fame Induction Celebration activities.
The Hall of Fame has existed for more than a half-century, and the Acadiana area has been represented in each of the past four inductions with the likes of legendary Louisiana-Lafayette basketball coach Beryl Shipley, award-winning jockeys Mark Guidry and Ronald Ardoin, tennis great Chanda Rubin and softball standout Kyla Hall Holas.
But never in the long history of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame has there been a class with such a heavy Acadiana concentration.
“It’s that Carencro-Breaux Bridge-Broussard connection,” said Girouard, who grew two Louisiana college softball programs and took both of them to the Women’s College World Series. “When you look at it, it’s a boy from Breaux Bridge, a boy from Carencro and a girl from Broussard, three kids from small Cajun towns who had dreams
“I’ve known Jake since high school, and I’m tickled to death that I get to go in with Jake and Kevin. It’s going to make it special and fun.”
“With Kevin, there’s always a connection, with us being around the same age,” said Delhomme, who like Faulk was a local prep standout well before the two met up in the Super Bowl following the 2003 season. “We stayed friends throughout the years.
“With Yvette, the football and softball teams were so close back then. Our fields were next to each other and when we’d finish spring practice we’d go over and watch at the softball field ... some of them ended up getting married, that’s how close the connections were. Yvette made some football trips with us. You talk about a good person, one that’s so humble, that’s her.”
Faulk, now back in his Carencro hometown as an assistant coach at Carencro High, was a two-time Class 5A Offensive MVP and was on the USA Today and Parade Magazine prep All-America teams. He later became LSU’s career rushing leader, joining the Tigers when their football fortunes were not as bountiful as recent years.
“I just thought it was my role in helping to rebuild the program,” Faulk said. “It’s kind of like coming back to Carencro now.
“I feel like that’s my role, to give back.”
Faulk remains the SEC’s career all-purpose yardage record holder before becoming the 46th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. He totaled 12,349 all-purpose yards in helping the New England Patriots to five Super Bowls – winning three.
“Since I retired, it’s been nice to have the opportunity to reflect back on my career,” he said. “I really enjoyed my career. I had a lot of fun.”
Delhomme also had his share of fun, although his path was very different. The Breaux Bridge native was an all-state selection at Teurlings Catholic and was a four-year quarterback starter at UL-Lafayette , leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to four straight winning seasons and never losing to a state team. But despite becoming Louisiana’s all-time career passing leader at the time of his graduation, Delhomme was undrafted and eventually signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.
He later signed with Carolina prior to the 2003 season and eventually threw for 20,975 yards and 126 touchdowns for three NFL teams. He still holds Panthers records for pass yards and scores while leading 23 game-winning drives for the Charlotte team.
“Football’s taken me places I’d never dreamed of,” Delhomme said. “Now that I’m done playing, I probably appreciate it more ... not that I didn’t appreciate it when I was playing. Playing in the NFL, it’s a stressful job but it’s a rewarding job.”
Girouard coached both at Lafayette High and Comeaux before being approached to inaugurate a softball program at UL-Lafayette in 1981. Starting from scratch, the Broussard native whose father played baseball in the old Evangeline League eventually compiled 1,285 wins in 31 years as coach of the Cajuns and LSU’s Tigers. That total still ranks as the fourth-most in NCAA history, and she was twice the National Coach of the Year at UL-Lafayette and four-time SEC Coach of the Year at LSU. She remains one of only three coaches to take two different schools to the WCWS.
“Softball was just a passion for me,” said Girouard, already honored in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“Something like this, it’s something you never even dream of, that you have the chance to do something like this. I’ve told people a million times how lucky I am.”