NATCHITOCHES — As a father of three, a grandfather of six and a father figure to more than a thousand athletes during his marvelous 46-year coaching career at Catholic High School, Pete Boudreaux relishes the opportunity to visit with youngsters.
That was the case Saturday when, nine hours before his official induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Boudreaux and his fellow honorees addressed a group of children taking part in the Saints Junior Training Camp at Natchitoches Central High School.
“For some reason, the switch goes on when I’m around kids,” he said. “I enjoy doing that. I enjoy clinics and coaching at camps; it’s a passion. I’m fortunate to be doing that and making a living, so life’s pretty darn good.”
The message Saturday from Boudreaux, only the 17th high school coach to receive the state’s highest sports honor (and the first track coach to be inducted), was short and to the point.
But even on a hot, muggy morning, Boudreaux did it with a smile.
“At some point, God tells you what your mission in life is supposed to be. … Mine was to work with young people,” he said. “He stuck me with that and steered me in the right direction. It’s incredible.”
Almost as incredible, Boudreaux quickly admitted, as having his name listed in alphabetical order somewhere between Pro Football Hall of Famers Mel Blount and Terry Bradshaw among the more than 300 men and women enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
“That’s some pretty good company,” Boudreaux said with a smile.
While his career has been spent in relative anonymity compared to Blount and Bradshaw, who helped the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in the 1970s, it’s a well-deserved award for the 72-year-old Baton Rouge native and former Southeastern Conference pole vault champion for LSU.
Boudreaux has won 41 state titles in track and field and cross country — with another 21 runner-up finishes — and gives back much more to the sport as a longtime official.
Yet Boudreaux politely puts the brakes on talk about how many titles he has “won” during his career.
“I say this to everybody, and I always tell it in coaches meetings: ‘It’s not about me,’ and I always tell them to remember that,” he said. “People say, ‘You won 41 state championships.’ I didn’t win any; those kids did. We just prepare them, and then sit back and watch the show.”
As a testament to his — and his athletes’ — success, more than 100 family members and friends made the 360-mile roundtrip trek to Natchitoches on Saturday to be with Boudreaux on his special night.
So many came, among them a number of sprinters, jumpers and throwers he has mentored in nearly a half-century, at least one bus was chartered.
He cared about them, so they care about him.
Which is one of the reasons Boudreaux stayed at Catholic High all these years rather than jump at a chance to coach on the collegiate level — particularly at his alma mater.
Former LSU coach Pat Henry and several of his predecessors unsuccessfully tried to get Boudreaux to join their coaching staff — as did former LSU Athletic Director Joe Dean.
“I was flattered, but I always wanted to watch all my children grow up, and I wanted to see everything they did athletically,” Boudreaux said. “I knew that I would be away from home a lot and would miss watching them grow up.”
So he did the next-best thing: He got the best of both worlds, watching his own children and the children of a lot of other people grow up with his coaching and direction in life.
“To this day, it’s important for me to let all of them know that I care about them,” he said. “I shake their hands every day after practice. I want them to know I care about them as people, and I never want to lose sight of that.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.