This has not been an especially good year for John Fourcade.
The former Shaw quarterback who went on to a stellar career at Ole Miss then embarked on a circuitous tour of professional teams — including the New Orleans Saints — has already endured knee and back surgeries this year, with more scheduled on his other knee and neck.
“Things have been kind of gloomy,” the 58-year-old Fourcade said. “It’s been brutal. My life the whole year has been in and out of hospitals since October of last year. ”
But the outlook improved for the Gretna native the day he got the call from the folks at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, informing him that he had been selected for this year’s induction class.
Fourcade, along with former LSU and Miami Dolphins football player A.J. Duhe, former UNO and NBA veteran Ervin Johnson and the late Tom Benson will be enshrined during an Aug. 4 ceremony at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The annual Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award also will be presented.
Each year’s class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, made up of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of award-winners, including monthly amateur athletes.
On this day, Fourcade said the phone call was just the pain relief he needed.
“It made my day, it made my year,” Fourcade said. “My knee wasn’t hurting; my back wasn’t hurting. I was feeling good. There’s only so many who can get voted in. I’m so excited. All those guys that wrote about me, remembered me, they still kept my name out there.”
Fourcade certainly had a memorable career, first at Shaw, where he was a four-year starter — beginning as a 13-year-old freshman.
“It all started with my coach, Joe Zimmerman,” Fourcade said. "He put me out there as a starting quarterback - 13 years old, playing football. I still can remember this game against Holy Cross High School and guys were with them that had full beards. I’m a 13-year-old kid who probably just (****) in his pants.”
Eventually Fourcade grew into the role, taking the Eagles from an 0-10 finish in 1974 to the Class 4A quarterfinals two years later. As a senior, Fourcade led the team to an 8-2 season and a trip to the state semifinals at South Lafourche, who were led by Bobby Hebert.
The Eagles had their chance, but a Fourcade pass was deemed illegal after officials ruled he had crossed the line of scrimmage.
“Was I over the line or was I not?” he said. “You know, when you play on the road, the field can be tilted one way or the other. We should have probably won two state championships with the team we had.”
Football analyst Mike Detillier said Fourcade was one of the best the area's ever produced.
"John certainly did put Shaw on the map," Detillier said. "When I think about the 1970s and prep football in Louisiana, he was one of the signature names. He wasn't just a good player, he was a great player. He was just an unbelievable talent, one of the most outstanding players this state has ever produced."
Fourcade, the All-Metro co-MVP and the Class 4A all-state MVP fielded a slew of recruiting offers before deciding to attend Ole Miss.
“I could have gone to Alabama, I could have gone to LSU,” he said. “I tell people I went to Ole Miss because they paid better than the rest of the schools.”
Fourcade is kidding, of course.
"A big part of John signing with Ole Miss was that he was going to play right away," Detillier said.
Fourcade started as a freshman and played all four years.
While the team struggled, Fourcade made a lasting impression, amassing 6,713 yards to surpass local hero Archie Manning. It was a record that stood until Eli Manning came along. Fourcade was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection and the 1982 Senior Bowl MVP.
He said his biggest moment as a college player came in last his regular-season game.
“My last play ever in college football was to beat Mississippi State on the last play of the game to win 21-17, when we were down 17-14 with two seconds left on the 1-foot line,” he said. “I ran in to score the winning touchdown. That’s how I ended my college career. Not too many people can say that their last play was to beat their archrival.”
Fourcade then embarked on his journey through the Canadian Football League and the defunct USFL before given a Hollywood movie-like opportunity.
In 1987, the NFL players went on strike and the league decided to carry on with replacements. Fourcade got the call from his hometown team.
He remembers that moment too. So do most NFL fans.
“The funny thing about that game is, there’s a video out there of the NFL’s greatest touchdowns,” he said. “Secondly, it’s the "NFL Follies." There was a play that happened in the game, I threw an interception and the guy ran it back and fumbled it. I scooped it up and ran 85 yards for a touchdown. So it made both the NFL’s greatest touchdowns and the "NFL’s Follies.”
After his release from the Saints in 1990, Fourcade began another journey as a player and coach through the Arena League before giving it up just two years ago. Now he is a broadcaster, working as an NFL analyst for WDSU.
And on Aug. 4, he will become a New Orleans Hall of Famer.
“After a while, you start to wonder if you’ll ever get in,” he said. “I had some success.“I was fortunate enough to play for the hometown team. And I’m going in with a great group of guys. It would be great if Tom Benson was there because I played for him. I’m just glad I’m still here to enjoy the moment.”