NATCHITOCHES — Their approaches to being inducted to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame couldn’t have been more different.
But the St. Augustine High School duo of football coach Otis Washington and basketball standout Avery Johnson each were scene-stealers in his own way.
Johnson kept the crowd in stitches, laughing as he told the story of his life, recounting his system of vision, investment and execution. He told the crowd that his father gave him the push to attend an out-of-state junior college.
“My whole life has been about vision, investment and execution,” Johnson said, telling family members and friends that he loved them multiple times. “They’ve talked about my Mom, but today is about Jim Johnson. He had a vision and made an investment in me. All I had to do was execute. And here we are.”
A record crowd of 831 attended the ceremony held Saturday at Natchitoches Events Center.
Johnson, Washington and horse trainer Frank Brothers, a New Orleans native, helped highlight the eight-member induction class that also included LSU and NFL running back Kevin Faulk, Louisiana-Lafayette and NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme, former Ragin’ Cajuns and LSU softball coach Yvette Girouard, McNeese and NFL defensive back Leonard Smith and Louisiana-Monroe football coach Pat Collins.
Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan received the Dave Dixon Sports Leadership Award. Two Distinguished Service in Sports Journalism Award winners, the late Bobby Dower and Glenn Quebedeaux, also were honored.
Washington was a legendary coach at St. Aug, compiling a 106-25-1 record that included three state titles from 1969-79. He went on to be an assistant coach at LSU and was head coach at Southern.
“People have tried to talk to me and congratulate me for past accomplishments,” Washington said. “I have just been along for the ride, and what a ride it has been.”
Brothers is the first trainer inducted into the Hall of Fame. He won 14 training titles combined at Louisiana Downs and the Fair Grounds. Brothers trained Hansel, a Preakness and Belmont winner, and is an Eclipse Award-winning owner.
“Louisiana, this is a wonderful award … I didn’t see it coming,” Brothers said. “Thank you, Louisiana.”
Faulk was an all-state player at Carencro who won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots while racking up 12,349 all-purpose yards. He rushed for 4,557 yards and is the all-time leader at LSU.
During his speech, Faulk said every stop along the way made him the person he is.
“Every place I’ve been helped make me the person I am today,” he said. “I thank LSU for understanding the little kid from Carencro could do it.”
Girouard built the Cajuns softball program from scratch and took them all the way to the Women’s College World Series in 20 years. She then led LSU to new heights and finished with 1,285 career wins.
“They’re red; they’re purple … I love them both. I feel like I have the best of both worlds,” Girouard said. “I was a pre-Title IX baby. I couldn’t play anything growing up. Never played the game of fast-pitch softball. I feel very special. I grew up playing with the guys because that’s all I could do. Tonight I’m still playing with all the guys.”
Collins coached ULM to the Division I-AA national title in 1987 and posted a 57-35 record. He talked about going from a 135-pound high school player to an assistant to Louisiana Tech and then on to leading ULM to Louisiana’s lone I-AA/FCS title.
Delhomme was a record-setting passer who rolled up 9,216 yards and 64 touchdowns for the Cajuns.
He was undrafted but earned a backup role and garnered popularity with the New Orleans Saints before earning Pro Bowl honors while helping the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl.
“I am so grateful to be a part of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame winning team,” Delhomme said to close out the evening.