NATCHITOCHES — Peyton Manning offered his ideas on what a perfect quarterback would be, invoking the names of several past Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductees.
“You could get a pretty good start with this Hall of Fame right here … you could take Bert Jones’ arm, and you would be in good shape,” Manning said. “You take (Terry) Bradshaw toughness and size, my dad’s speed and Doug Williams’ delivery and Shack Harris’ height. I could keep going on and on.”
Manning’s references to past inductees generates an obvious question about the 2019 class he helps headline: Could the 60th induction class enshrined Saturday night at the Natchitoches Events Center be one of the best? It is certainly is diverse and uniquely accomplished.
“When you think about it, there’s 4 million people who live in this state and only 422 are in this Hall of Fame,” former Southern baseball coach Roger Cador said. “That is a select group. I’m very, very honored to be part of this great group of people.”
Manning and former LSU football coach Les Miles are the headliners in the 2019 class. Miles won a national championship at LSU in 2007 and compiled 114 wins in 11 seasons. Manning, of course, was a five-time NFL MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion. The New Orleans native passed for 71,940 and 539 touchdowns in 17 seasons. The group that also includes Dave Dixon Leadership Award winner Marie Gagnard, a tennis official, and two Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism winners, sportswriter Philip Timothy and Louisiana Tech announcer Dave Nitz, offers a taste of Louisiana sports on many levels.
Cador is just one example. Five-time volleyball Olympian Danielle Scott and 92-year-old rodeo legend T. Berry Porter are the first inductees in their sports. Former Louisiana Tech quarterback Matt Dunigan led teams to six Grey Cup finals in 14 seasons and is already part of the Canadian Football League’s Hall of Fame.
The list goes on. Former Ferriday High and LSU star Max Fugler was part of LSU’s unbeaten 1958 national championship football team. Fugler was a high school and college All-American. Boys basketball coach Charles Smith of Alexandria’s Peabody High has over 1,039 career wins and is poised to become Louisiana’s all-time wins leader soon.
Another common bond for the group is passion, something Miles exemplifies with his continuing passion for football.
“I don’t know if I could do it any other way,” Miles said, when asked about the fun he has coaching and recruiting. “When I took the field for the Tigers, the hay was in the barn. My preparation was strong and I trusted it. There is some time, until that first play is over, that you can smile.”
Manning talked about being humbled to join the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and lauded his fellow inductees.
“I’m from Louisiana, and the people who have been part of my football journey … it’s more than just coaches and teammates in there," he said. "I’m honored. When you’re playing football, you don’t really look back much, you stay in the present and focus on what you’re doing.
“Especially with this honor, and I’m humbled to be going in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame next weekend, I have had a chance to reflect on my time in Louisiana and Tennessee as well. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Scott, who played internationally in three decades, also noted the accomplishments of the other inductees. And how the event truly hits home.
"The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame means a lot to me because it is Louisiana ... it is where I'm from and it's my home," Scott said. "All the inductees represent our sports and our culture. We're all a part of Louisiana."