Get to know this year’s inductees. All bios follow:
By TED LEWIS, Written for the LSWA
The story goes that 3-year old Peyton Manning was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he answered without hesitation, “A quarterback,” quickly adding, “like my daddy.”
Even Peyton acknowledges that he was too young to remember that happening.
And Archie Manning admits that there might have been a bit of family embellishment going on.
But no matter how much truth is involved, Peyton’s prediction certainly came true. He became not just a quarterback, but among the best of all time.
In one of the most storied careers in the history of the game, Peyton excelled first at Newman High in his native New Orleans and then at the University of Tennessee before exiting the NFL three years ago with a stack of records, five Most Valuable Player awards and two Super Bowl championships.
It made him an immediate selection, as soon as he was eligible, to enter the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Manning and 10 more state legends will be enshrined Saturday evening, June 8, at the Natchitoches Events Center, in front of a sold-out crowd and a Cox Sports Television live audience. For details on the June 6-8 Induction Celebration, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
His last Super Bowl capped one of the great comeback stories in sports history.
Overcoming a career-threatening neck injury which caused him to miss the 2011 season and resulted in his release from the Indianapolis Colts where he’d spent 14 seasons and was the MVP of SB XLI, Manning went to the Denver Broncos for four more years, leading his team to the Super Bowl in the last two, including a victory in SB 50 in his final game.
What a way go out on top!
But then again, no one could have been surprised.
“Peyton was a quarterback from the get-go,” Archie said. “And then, at every step along the way, Peyton made good choices and handled his business in the right way.
“I guess you’d have to say he had a good ending.”
Except it’s not over yet, not by a long shot.
He’s soon joining Archie, who toiled for 10 seasons with the Saints, as one of only three father-son combinations in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (When Eli’s turn comes in a few years, they’ll be the first family trio in the hall).
Then, the following week, Peyton will enter the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
He’s already in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (Indiana doesn’t have one, or he’d doubtless be in it, too), plus others such as the College Football Hall of Fame.
And a couple of years from now, Canton will be calling and his bust will be placed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think much about that sort of thing,” Peyton said. “I try to live in the moment, and be excited about what’s happening this summer.
“Tennessee is obviously where I played college football and I’ll always feel a real connection there. But you’re only born in one state, and for me, that’s Louisiana. I can’t tell you how humbled and honored I am.”
And although his playing career may be over, Peyton’s “second life,” remains in high gear.
Peyton’s enduring popularity comes in large part from the “lovable doofus” character he projects in numerous commercials and other endeavors, many involving his and wife Ashley’s charity, the PeyBack Foundation.
That’s a marked contrast to preparation-obsessed player (nicknamed “The Computer,” at Tennessee) whose work ethic set a new standard for quarterbacks. That ranks as his most-enduring legacy to the sport, especially since it the central message he preaches to young quarterbacks at the annual Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux.
The goofball character is actually more of the persona of Cooper Manning, Peyton’s older brother by two years whose own football career was cut short by a congenital spinal condition at the onset of his freshman season as a wide receiver at Ole Miss, where Archie had a legendary career and which would later become Eli’s alma mater.
In fact, Peyton likely would have been a Rebel as well to keep the “Coop and Peyt Show” going.
“I was always a pretty serious kid,” Peyton said. “So Cooper and I made a deal that he would help me loosen up and I would maybe help him become a little more serious from time to time.”
Indeed that mutual assistance has remained so strong that Cooper, who has become a highly-successful real estate investor, continues to offer direction to Peyton on commercial shoots.
“I’d like to think I had lot to with making Peyton a comedian,” Cooper said. “He knew early on that a little self-depreciation goes a long way in the locker room.
“And being Peyton, he puts himself into it wholeheartedly. It’s done pretty well for him.”
Beyond that, one can give Cooper a large measure of the credit for Peyton’s competitive spirit.
“We were the perfect age gap for us to push each other,” Cooper said. “We used to go at it pretty hard sometimes.
“I think it made Peyton more driven to succeed and had a lot to with him working his tail off, because he certainly did.”
The brothers may have been ultra-competitive when they were youngsters, but they did have one special year together.
That was in 1991 when Cooper was a senior at Newman and Peyton, then a sophomore, was the starting quarterback.
“Chips off the Block,” was the headline on a newspaper preview section featuring Cooper and Peyton along with Archie on the cover.
Cooper would catch 76 passes for 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns that season and earn All-State honors for a team which reached the state semifinals.
And Peyton would mark himself as a prospect to be watched in an era when little attention was paid to recruits until they were seniors.
“We’d developed all of these secret hand signals and head nods to communicate at the line of scrimmage,” Peyton said. “It was maybe the most fun season I ever had, and one I’ll always remember.”
Not that it was easy being Archie Manning’s son who also happened to be a quarterback.
The number of father-son combinations who have both reached the NFL is a small one. Archie and Peyton are by far the most accomplished.
It was never a career path Archie had pushed him towards. He’d actually kept Peyton out of organized football until the seventh grade.
But perhaps it was also inevitable.
“Peyton always was an inquisitive kid,” Archie said. “He was always asking a lot of questions about quarterback stuff.
“Cooper had already gotten a lot of attention because of me, but he moved to wide receiver because he wanted to play right away when he was a sophomore and he’d always had pretty good hands.
“Peyton never played anything else but quarterback and never wanted to.”
Although his immobility, especially in the last part of his career, may have created the impression that Peyton was never a great athlete, he played both basketball and baseball at Newman along with football.
But it was that determination to outwork everyone which put him on a higher plane.
“Football is a team game, but when you’re the quarterback and your teammates and coaches are counting on you so much, above all else, you want to be prepared to do your job,” Peyton said. “I loved to play the game, of course, but I always looked forward to the preparation part, too, because if there was some kind of edge I could get on the competition, I wanted to find it.
“There are a lot of talented players who don’t work hard and some who do work hard but maybe don’t have the physical ability. But if you can combine the two and have a passion for the game, well, then you have a chance to be really good.”
Peyton’s combination of determination and passion was such that he succeeded at every level.
It was particularly needed during the season he missed and the Colts released him, an action Archie calls “heartbreaking,” considering how Peyton and teammates like 2018 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison had changed the culture of football in Indianapolis.
After four surgeries, Peyton could barely throw a football 10 yards. And after his release, the former top recruit in the country and the No. 1 pick in the draft was reduced to going around trying to find a team to take a chance on him until he decided to visit Durham, N.C. (where his passing mentor David Cutcliffe, his college offensive coordinator, is Duke’s head coach) and let teams come to him instead
“It was first time I’d been hurt, which was bad enough,” Peyton said. “And then I had to learn how to be an effective quarterback again, even though it meant adjusting my game.
“To be able to come back with a new team and be part of an organization that won another championship was very special.”
“There were times when things didn’t look good and Peyton would get discouraged,” he said. “But I don’t think he ever came close to giving up and he wouldn’t have until it was clear he was out of options.”
Fortunately, he never was. And we and football were rewarded with a storybook finish.
Although Peyton can’t imagine what his life would have been without football, Cooper is convinced that his younger brother would have been “massively successful,” in any walk of life.
Also fortunately for football, and for us, Peyton chose the path he did.
Even if he hadn’t really decided that when he was 3.
LES MILES: Michigan transplant Miles left unique, indelible mark on LSU football
By SCOOTER HOBBS,Written for the LSWA
A noted Michigan Man from Ohio who first made his name in Oklahoma and now toils in Kansas is about to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
No, Les Miles wasn’t from around here and he doesn’t live here anymore. But if he hadn’t wandered into Louisiana, the Bayou State just might have had to invent him.
Sure, he brought the Tigers their third national championship in 2007, played for another following a 13-0 2011 season, all the while winning games in nutty, sometimes unexplainable fashion as he finished with the best winning percentage of any other LSU coach in history.
That’s just the highlights of a far more fascinating story. It will be celebrated June 6-8 in Natchitoches at the 2019 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration (see LaSportsHall.com for info), culminating with the sold-out Saturday night, June 8 Induction Dinner and Ceremony on Cox Sports Television.
Oh, this born Yankee took some getting used to.
There was the language barrier, of course. South Louisiana is used to telling new arrivals to bring an interpreter for their own good. But Miles turned the tables with his own brand of Les-Speak, an odd language or dialect — whatever it was — that was native to nowhere except the head beneath that ill-fitting ball cap.
It was head-scratching stuff, roughly translated to where “desire” became a “want for victory,” where unwanted “rain” became a “good stiff dew,” where a loss was “failure to achieve victory” or a “jog” was “not a full run but the upper quadrant of speed.”
Les Miles was The Mad Hatter and the Awkward Clapper, the frequent Riverboat Gambler and noted natural grass aficionado prone to munch on his own stadium turf during tense moments.
Whether he was tripping over a cheerleader running onto the field before winning the Game of the Century in Tuscaloosa or dialing up an over-the-shoulder fake field goal as a football whoopie cushion for Steve Spurrier, Miles was always different.
He might be scaling a Baton Rouge skyscraper or, on a whim, showing up unannounced and incognito at an international baseball game in Cuba. If it took a tight end reverse to beat Alabama, fine. Dial it up … right after putting a pinch of Tiger Stadium turf between gum and cheek. If it took five fourth-down gambles to beat Florida in the national championship season, go for it.
Of course, if he was leading his team into battle, you never knew when he might zig left toward the Oregon bench in Dallas’ AT&T Stadium while his team zagged right to their own bench. He might, out of the blue, refer to his next opponent as the Ar-KAN-sas Razorbacks and strain diplomatic relations between the two states.
At heart, he was the lovable Bad Dad Joke come to life, and his appearances at SEC Media Days became must-see moments just to hear the misadventures of the latest Family Miles vacation.
But when the Tigers beat Ohio State for the 2007 BCS National Championship in the Superdome, there was Miles afterwards celebrating from a Bourbon Street balcony throwing beads to fans.
Yes, Miles fit Louisiana as naturally as an old mud boot.
“I really wasn’t aware of how much fun people have with the hat. I’ve always worn a cap … I haven’t changed, it’s that hats have changed. They come down a little flatter in front. It’s important to me that there’s a little high-rise to the front of that. My hats aren’t as old by design as some, but I like a traditional cap, if you don’t mind.”
On how to wear a coach’s cap
Say whatever you want about Miles, but nobody ever enjoyed being LSU’s head football coach more. It’s one of the two or three most high-profile jobs in the state … and maybe the most stressful and occasionally the most thankless.
That part never seemed to bother him. Accepting of his quirks, he could laugh along with his adopted state when the fans got a kick out of them. He was happiest when leading those Tigers down Victory Hill or out onto the field and ultimately, in his own unique words, “Celebrating the achievement of victory.”
“To not have the ability to smile and enjoy that time, is not the way to live,” he explained. The best example might be the little farce he played with his team just before running out on the field. He’d make a big show of struggling to hold the eager Tigers back before finally giving up and letting them roar into the stadium.
That started by accident before the 2011 season-opener in Arlington, Texas against Oregon.
“They walk you down and then it’s up, so it’s a come-out-of-the-tunnel field,” he said. “We get there, the TV guy says to me ‘You’ve got a minute-and-a-half before taking the field.’ I said that’s way too much time. There’s no chance that I’m going to hold that team for a minute-and-a-half. As I’m telling him that, I reach around and feel a helmet pushing on my hand. Then another one and another pushing against my hand. I’d never seen that. So I’m trying to hold them back and it’s not going to happen.”
That was the Wrong Way Les debacle, when the team had to turn right to their bench while watching their coach lead the way to the opposite side of the field. He never quite lived that down — not that it ever bothered him — but it became an LSU tradition with him, albeit with him making the proper turn toward his own bench.
“You can’t be soft-handed, it has to be an aggressive clap, You keep your fingers out so that you don’t get them caught in between. If you get them caught in between the fingers, it can be an ineffective clap and you can get hurt. Injuries can occur if you don’t keep your fingers spread.”
On the odd way he claps
Miles knew next to nothing about Louisiana when his old mentor and advisor, legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who hadn’t really commented on some other job opportunities, told him, “You might want to look into that one, Les.”
“I knew that food was important and I knew the football was important,” he said of his perception of Louisiana going in. “That was about all. I knew that they could eat and enjoy a party and I knew that they could enjoy football.”
But he had to wonder what he had gotten himself into when Hurricane Katrina postponed his original debut and he eventually opened the season two weeks later at Arizona State for what was also supposed to be a home game.
“Kept seeing these news reports where they had this circular thing covering the entire Gulf. I’m saying certainly this storm does not cover the entire gulf. The TVs are saying ‘We’re here in Baton Rouge covering the storm.’ I’m thinking the storm is way over there, you need to go over there. But it became obvious that the first responders were going to transition wounded people to our campus.”
Amid the chaos, eventually the Tigers ended up in Tempe for their “home” opener. Tiger fans, many watching on generator power, got a pretty good preview of the Miles Era.
It took two blocked kicks returned for scores and a fake punt from their own end zone, but finally the Tigers scored the game-winner with just over a minute to play on a fourth-down, 39-yard pass.
Back home, a fan told Miles that he started crying that night when he turned on the TV to see the yellow helmets bobbing as the Tigers cued up in the end zone to run out — it was the first time in weeks, he said, that something about Louisiana looked familiar and reassuring.
“I recognized very quickly,” Miles said, “how this team was very important to this state. If they could perform well in the odds of a storm … I felt like it was an important season, not just a football team, that the people really needed this team.”
Perhaps fittingly, LSU won the SEC West and finished the season with a rout of the Miami Hurricanes in the Peach Bowl.
“Just witnessed something I’ve never seen in my entire life. They just called that team (Tennessee) the winner. Then they said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, come back here.’ Then they called us the winner. As an experience, dammit, I’m going to enjoy that one as much as I hate to admit it.”
After beating Tennessee with an extra play only after the Vols had too many men on the field while LSU was botching the substitution for the previous play
The five fourth-down gambles to beat Florida might have been the signature game of the 2007 national championship. But the signature moment came off the field, two hours before the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
The rare pregame press conference barely lasted a minute as a furious Miles denied rumors that he had agreed to go back to his alma mater to take the Michigan job.
“I’ve got a championship game to play and I’m excited about the opportunity for my damn strong football team,” he shouted. “It’s really all I’d like to say. Have a great day!”
The subsequent wins over Tennessee in the SEC game and Ohio State for the national championship almost seemed anti-climactic.
“I now know what it’s like to ride an elephant. It scares you to death and you just pray you can hang onto the ears. There’s not much to grab onto.”
On being carried off the field after a bizarre Texas A&M game
There’s no getting around the fact that it did not end well for Miles as he was fired four games into the 2017 season.
But a better example of his relationship with the state might have come in the final regular season game the previous year against Texas A&M, which was played under the assumption that he was being fired afterwards. Those awkward plans got put on hold midgame when the powers that be got cold feet after Tiger Stadium turned into an all-night lovefest for the Mad Hatter.
“I didn’t expect it,” Miles said. “It was senior day; I was walking out to thank them for their service. And when I got out there, where I was was where the fans were screaming at. And so I stopped and it got louder. And then I took my hat off and it got loudest. I damn near shed a tear. It was tremendously special.”
“Tiger Stadium turf tastes the best.”
Miles recently accepted a far bigger challenge when he got back into coaching to take over a Kansas program that has virtually no history of winning. He knows he still has the “want” to coach.
He knows something else.
“I guess what I’m saying is that LSU has a special place in my heart and will always have a special plac for all of the guys that fought and did the things that they could do for victory … how much I enjoyed taking a team onto the field there when that crowd just roared when their Tigers came out. I promise you that will never be forgotten.”
CHARLES SMITH — Doing it his way paved Smith’s path to national prominence, and state shrine
By LAMAR GAFFORD, Written for the LSWA
Early in his career, Charles Smith was not sure if he would get to 100 wins.
Now with over 1,000 wins and seven Louisiana High School Athletic Association basketball titles to his name, the longtime Peabody coach is set to receive the latest honor in his illustrious career: induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Saturday, June 8 in Natchitoches in a sold-out ceremony carried live on Cox Sports Television.
Smith and 10 others in the Class of 2019 will be spotlighted during the June 6-8 Induction Celebration, which includes the 80’s Bowling Bash in his hometown of Alexandria on Friday, June 7. For details and participation opportunities, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
“I was totally surprised,” Smith said of the day he received his induction call. “I had talked to (central Louisiana sports media titans) Lyn Rollins and Bob Tompkins, who worked closely with me over the (past) year putting my documentary together. Lyn had said, ‘Coach, you know what? With your records and all the stuff that you’ve done, it’s a good possibility that you get in.’
“So, we just laughed and joked about it, but then Bob called me in mid-August and said, ‘Coach, I have some good news for you. You were selected for this year’s induction.’ I was at my parents’ house on a Sunday afternoon and I had a chance to share with my mom before she passed before Christmas.”
Born just north of Alexandria on May 15, 1949 as the oldest of seven children, Smith credits his upbringing in making him the man that he is today. Two of Smith’s biggest influences were his parents –his father being an Army veteran and his mother, a church-house school teacher.
“Growing up in Central Louisiana was a big plus for me,” Smith said. “I had a lot of people to encourage me. My mother played a great, great role in my life for me getting an education and being a leader as the oldest of seven children. That gave me the responsibility early of how to be a leader and what it means to take on responsibilities.”
“My dad helped me quite a bit in showing me work ethic. Although he worked in common labor at a saw mill, he never missed a day. That gave me the insight that if and when you get a job, you need to be there every day. God also gave me the ability to work with people and children and gave me good health through my coaching career.”
While he would eventually become one of the best high school basketball coaches in Louisiana, or anywhere else, Smith’s first love was baseball.
Introduced to the game in the sixth grade after watching a local Negro League team play every Sunday after church, Smith earned a baseball scholarship to Paul Quinn College and became the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college.
“My senior year, I had some great numbers and I was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds,” Smith said.
Even though his professional baseball career did not materialize, it became the start of something special. He moved back to Central Louisiana to become a teacher and a basketball coach.
In the first four years of his career, he taught two years each at Slocum and Pineville High School, and was an assistant coach at Slocum before it closed due to integration. One of his first players was Clarence Fields, who would later become the mayor of Pineville for five terms.
His coaching career took off when he accepted a teaching job at Peabody in 1975, a move that allowed him to coach, an opportunity that didn’t exist for him at Pineville.
At the time, the Warhorses were coached by another legendary coach, Earnest Bowman, who won nearly 400 games and the Class 3A title in 1979 with future Tulane star and NBA player Paul Thompson.
“He was an outstanding basketball coach and also a math teacher, so academics was first with him,” Smith said of Bowman. “I learned early in my teaching career that you had to be a student-athlete, not just an athlete. He was a great X’s and O’s man and gave me a chance early by letting me be the junior varsity coach. He also let me make decisions on the varsity team. That helped me advance my ability to coach at the early stages of my career.”
He became Bowman’s successor in 1985, finally given the opportunity to become a head coach after turning down an assistant principal position at Bolton High School.
The first two seasons were rough with a combined 21-34 record. The Warhorses had losing seasons and did not qualify for the playoffs.
However, those years provided him with important lessons in how to be a great head coach.
“I still had some of the players left over from Mr. Bowman’s tenure and I tried to imitate his coaching style,” Smith said. “He was successful, don’t get me wrong, but we were two different people. I had to step back and evaluate what I was doing. I finally figured that out in my second year after our second consecutive losing season. All of the players from Mr. Bowman’s era left and I brought in my players and I started my style of basketball.”
The Warhorses were off and running in Year Three of the Smith era in the 1987-88 season with a 28-7 season, which included the first of numerous state tournament appearances and district titles and featured his first standout player, College of Charleston signee Kevin Madden.
“I brought in a young bunch of kids and (Madden) was the leader of that team,” Smith said. “He was my first scholarship player as a head coach. I realized then too that if these young men worked hard enough in the classroom and on the basketball court that I could get them into college. Over the course of my career, I made contact with different college coaches and now I have a repertoire that is so wide that I can get on the phone and call coaches and say, ‘I have a young man that you might be interested in.’ ”
During his career, over 60 players have received basketball scholarships – a stat that Smith takes much pride in.
It is also a result of an equation that Smith always gives his players prior to every season: “Education + Basketball + College = Success,” with basketball being the least significant part of the formula.
“I’ve coached at least 15 players per season over the course of 34 years. That’s a lot of basketball players,” Smith said. “But the thing I’m most proud of is out of all those players, I was able to have 60 players receive basketball scholarships.”
One other big number for Smith is seven, as in the number of LHSAA titles he has collected for Peabody.
The Warhorses’ championship collection began in 1991, when they defeated Carroll for the Class 3A state crown a season after losing in the title game to Rapides Parish rival Pineville.
“Being a part of one (as an assistant coach) was great but being the head coach of a championship team was outstanding,” Smith said. “I think we did more crying that year than we did celebrating, because we had worked so hard over the course of the years to get to that point, and we finally got there.”
Smith followed that with titles in 2000, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2017. The 2004 and 2010 teams stand out as they were both 41-0 and ranked nationally in the top five.
Those two teams hold a special place in Smith’s heart as they competed during the summer in the AAU circuit.
“Those two teams bonded together as a family,” Smith said. “They didn’t spend a minute apart from each other. They were together on and off the basketball court. They challenged each other academically – 75 percent of the boys on those teams were honor roll students. They were very competitive; they had that desire and that will to win. They would put themselves out front to do what they had to do in order for the team to win.”
If there is one regret that Smith has, it would be not coaching his son and his grandson to state championships. Each joined the program the season aftera title win and closed their senior years with a loss in the LHSAA state tournament semifinals.
His son, Kedric, starred at Peabody from 1991-1995, while his grandson, Jacoby Ross, was the team’s point guard from 2012-2016. Both players earned a chance to play in college. Kedric signed with Kansas City Community College and later to UNC Charlotte before eventually joining his dad’s coaching staff. Jacoby — Kedric’s nephew — signed with Alabama State, where he is currently the Hornets point guard.
“When you coach your son or your grandson, the first thing people want to say is that he’s playing because he’s your son or grandson,” Smith said. “I have to take my hat off to both of those young men, because they were truly outstanding players in high school. I wouldn’t want to play a game without those two guys. They both were outstanding leaders and great scorers.”
At 1,039 wins, he is 32 away from surpassing former Southern Lab and Lake Providence coach Joel Hawkins, who has the Louisiana record for wins with 1,071. Having won 30 or more games every year since 2000, it’s almost certain Smith can reach that mark late in the 2019-20 season or early in 2020-21.
“Without my wife, Rosa, I never would have been able to accomplish this,” Smith said. “She’s been with me every step of the way. When I struggled in my early years, she was there for me. She’s been very supportive of me and the basketball program.
“My daughter, Dr. Camacia Ross, was a cheerleader here during her four years at Peabody. We’ve been connected in some form or fashion to Peabody over the last 40 years.”
While stacking up wins, Smith is a father figure to his players and students. He wants the best from them on, and off, the court. The real victories come after their Peabody days.
“My shining moment,” he said, “is helping these at-risk, underprivileged young men use the game of basketball to obtain countless degrees and become productive members of society.”
DANIELLE SCOTT: Hall’s first volleyball inductee sets an extraordinary standard
By ROBIN FAMBROUGH, Written for the LSWA
Charles Young has plenty of stories to share. Young watched his daughter, Danielle Scott, grow up to become an indoor volleyball legend who played in an unprecedented five Olympic Games.
A story that explains the essence of the Baton Rouge native took place far from an Olympic arena. It happened at one of Scott’s high school track meets for Woodlawn High.
“Danielle was going to run the last leg of the relay. It was the 4×400. The team was way behind,” Young recalls. “I told her, ‘You know, there is a lot of ground to make up.’ And she told me, ‘We won’t finish last.’ Then she took off. I watched her start passing people. And you know what … she won that race.”
There are many ways to describe Scott. She is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and an intense competitor. Scott also is a woman of strong faith, a survivor, proud daughter and a doting mother, all characteristics that define her today.
Those attributes and her accomplishments made her initial appearance on the ballot short-lived for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame selection committee picking the Class of 2019. She and 10 others will be enshrined Saturday, June 8, at the Natchitoches Events Center in a sold-out ceremony carried live on Cox Sports Television. For information on the Induction Celebration activities June 6-8, visit LaSportsHall.com.
Anytime you are recognized, it is quite a feat. There are so many deserving people out there and for me to be selected is humbling,” Scott said of her Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction with a bright smile. “It is really cool to be back home again and then to be recognized. The class I am with is phenomenal. It’s nice to be recognized for the time I put in. It is even better for me to share this with my daughter, along with the entire family.”
There were early mornings when her mother, Vera Scott, would turn on the television in order to do a morning workout before heading off to work. Scott and her sister would join in. Call it a humble beginning to an epic athletic career.
After one year at Baton Rouge High, Scott moved to Woodlawn and got involved in as many things as she could. “Danielle has always had energy and always does a lot of things to this day,” Young said. “Even with all the sports she did and her high school classes, Danielle wanted to join the band.”
Her mother even insisted she enter a local Miss Louisiana teen pageant.
It did not take the 6-foot-2 Scott long to catch the eye of Bonnie Hunter, who coached volleyball, basketball, and softball at Woodlawn. Scott played all those sports and competed in track.
“I had three or four tall girls before Danielle,” said Hunter, who now coaches softball at Minden High. “You could see her athleticism right away. She was very quiet. But she was always like a sponge and wanted to learn anything you can teach her. Danielle also was so sweet and kind.”
Scott signed with volleyball power Long Beach State, where she played volleyball and basketball. She even competed in track one spring, scoring points in three events at the 49ers’ conference meet.
Though Scott garnered two tryouts with the Los Angeles Sparks in the early years of the WNBA, volleyball was undoubtedly her signature sport. She earned All-America honors and was selected as the National Player of the Year in 1993 after leading Long Beach State to an NCAA title.
A year later, Scott joined the USA Volleyball national team and remained on the top U.S. team for 20 years. She was the top middle blocker in the world for several years, played professionally in places like Italy, Japan, and Brazil, and was the MVP of the World Grand Prix in 2001.
Of course, Scott also played in the Olympics from 1996 to 2012. She helped lead the USA to its first volleyball medals since 1992 in 2008 and 2012, while, in between, becoming a mother.
That total body of work led to Scott’s undeniable induction into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2016.
“Five Olympics? Who does that other than Dani,” said USA Volleyball/Olympic volleyball teammate Tayyiba Haneef-Park. “There are two things that set her apart — her strong faith and her ability to adapt throughout her elite volleyball career.
“Dani always says she puts things in God’s hands. But she never sat around waiting to see what was going to happen,” Haneef-Park said. “She worked to improve. She made herself a better player.
“Not all great players adjust to or are willing to take on a different role,” she said. “Dani was a starter; she played as a back-up. She was a leader, a mentor to younger players, and a great teammate. Dani played whatever role she was asked to fill.”
Having the in-born tenacity to prove skeptics wrong never hurt, either. Hunter recalls a conversation with Scott during her early years at Long Beach. Some questioned whether she could play the back row in addition to the front row role of a middle blocker.
“Somebody told Danielle, ‘You just don’t have it,’ ” Hunter said with a laugh. “Danielle did what she does. She stayed after practice every day and worked on the skills she needed to play the back row. The next time I talked to her she said, ‘Oh, I got it.’ ”
Haneef-Park recalls the matches when Scott, quiet but ever so competitive, would respond to making a key play with a fist pump. Or she would offer an over-the-eyebrows glare at opponents.
A series of different challenges off the court began as Scott’s professional career wound down. She returned to Louisiana and helped care for her mother, who died of cancer in 2014. Scott’s home and car were damaged by Baton Rouge’s historic flooding in 2016.
Last November, Scott’s sister Stefanie died as the result of a domestic attack by her estranged husband. Scott herself was hospitalized for stab wounds suffered while defending her sister.
USA Volleyball created a Courage Award and presented it to Scott at its Hall of Fame induction held May 22 in Columbus, Ohio. After months of physical therapy, Scott returned to the court as a player-coach in the USA Volleyball Open Division championship.
“There are no words to describe how brave Danielle was on that fateful night last November,” USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said in a press release. “She exemplifies everything good about humanity, and we couldn’t be prouder to have created a new USA Volleyball Courage Award to recognize her heroic actions. She should be a role model for us all.”
Scott insists age is just a number, and she still loves to compete in competitions like the USA Open. Or even on sand volleyball courts in and around Baton Rouge.
With Scott, there is always more going on. She works in the investments field, does speaking engagements, hosts volleyball camps, enjoys age-group coaching for USA Volleyball, and she promotes the sport of volleyball wherever possible, including an April trip to Shreveport, where an Olympic Qualification volleyball is scheduled August 2-4.
Actively helping to coach her nine-year-old daughter Julianne’ in a variety of sports is something Scott also relishes.
“By nature, I am a positive person and I do rely on my faith,” Scott said. “For me, age is just a number. My time with daughter and my family is so precious to me. I am excited about whatever the future holds.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Scott’s volleyball legacy is set. Haneef-Park puts Scott among the top five USA Volleyball women’s players ever, ranking her among 1980s heroes like Debbie Green-Vargas and the late Flo Hyman.
Hunter, now Scott’s friend and a proud former coach, sees other things.
“When I think about Danielle,” Hunter said, “you know what I’m proudest of? That she got her education and pursued her dreams.”
Almost Heaven: Dave Nitz talks his way into the Louisiana Sports HOF
By TEDDY ALLEN, Written for the LSWA
An innocent action by my colleague Dave Nitz convinced me he was so delighted with living in the past that at any moment he might morph into a man wearing a leisure suit, drinking a Tab, and thumbing through the latest TV Guide.
I know things.
For the past eight autumns, I’ve done what passes for “color commentary” on Louisiana Tech football games for the Tech Sports Network and Learfield IMG College.
The star of the show is that same sepia-toned Dave Nitz, play-by-play broadcaster, LA Tech Athletics Hall of Famer Class of 2010, and now a Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Class of 2019.
June 8 in Natchitoches, he steps alongside many of Tech’s greats who have gone on to Hall of Fame enshrinement. The sold-out Saturday evening induction ceremony, live on Cox Sports Television, wraps up induction festivities beginning June 6 (visit LaSportsHall.com for details).
August 31 in Austin, Texas, he’ll begin his 45thseason broadcasting Tech Football, which puts him in the Top 5 of guys broadcasting one college program’s football games for the most seasons. In February, he began his 44thseason of broadcasting Tech baseball, the longest streak with one team of any other broadcaster in America.
Of course he had no idea about any of this until I asked him.
“Dave, how many seasons have y…?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “You’ll have to ask somebody.”
Dave’s not big into counting.
He also does Bulldog Basketball. He used to do that and Lady Techsters Basketball, but he gave the Lady Techsters up and has done only men’s games for the past couple of decades. For some reason, he figured one team a season was plenty and that trying to call the games of two teams at the same time might be a bit of an overload.
Some guys just don’t want to work.
And we should mention, although it has nothing to do with Tech, that Nitz called 35-plus summers of professional baseball at various levels until he hung it up last summer and became a slave to cutting grass at his Haughton home and watching the MLB Network.
Guy gets around more than the flu.
“Dave’s been awfully good at what he does for a long, long time,” said fellow Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Leon Barmore. “Paints a picture where I feel like I’m there; I can shut my eyes and feel like I’m at the game just by listening.”
He’s very good. When Dave’s calling a game, listeners, whether they realize it or not, know that the guy on the radio would rather be no place else than at the ballgame.
For all the reasons there are to praise “the Nitzer,” his talents as a wide-ranging conversationalist and his refusal to live in the present — not counting his very present broadcast of whatever game he’s calling—are not two of them. His life experiences, mostly by choice, limit him to knowledge about baseball, the United States Interstate System, bland food, “real” pre-1985 country music, and West Virginia, his home state and probably where most of the blame lies for his present condition.
It’s not all his fault. But some of it is.
He’s seen three movies in his life. Coal Miner’s Daughter. Urban Cowboy. And the outlier,Goldfinger.
“Can’t remember why I watched that one,” he said.
He promised his wife of 50-plus years, Marlene, when he was finishing his college degree as an early-30-something at Tech that if he graduated and passed English Lit, he’d never read another book in his life.
So far, a promise kept.
So you want to talk to Dave about the team he currently broadcasts? You’ll get plenty of info. But do you want to talk about current events? Cultural references? Please.
Some of us know.
I already knew Dave’s weak spots. I’ve known Freeway Dave (yet another story; we’ll get to that) since I was a Sports Information student assistant and then graduate assistant when he was less than 10 years into his remarkable string of 45 seasons in Ruston. But I was gifted with an exclamation point one fall Saturday night not so long ago.
The Bulldogs were playing football and Dave, as always, was on the call. After a tailback rips off a run of some magnitude, I often say something insightful like, “I wish you could have seen that.” Talent shortage.
But inspired by the goings-on after this particular run, I tried to offer some perspective. I said, “That guy might be faster than Forrest Gump. Dave, when’s the last time you saw Forrest Gump?”
Brain cramp on my part. I should have known but…
Dave looked at me like a kid who’s lost his momma in the mall looks at a stranger, then he put his finger at the top of the alphabetical roster and immediately started working his way down to the G’s. Gump wasn’t on our team.
Then he went to the top of the other team’s roster. Started working his finger, frantically, down.
And I said, “My bad Dave. Wrong guy. Bulldogs in the hurry-up…”
Dave: “Empty backfield. Here’s the snap. Higgins drops, looking…”
And there you go. True story. An American who had no idea who Forrest Gump was.
I’ve known Dave for 40 years, and even I was flabbergasted. He’s an unchanging man who remains a constant surprise, a human paradox who wears his hard-headedness like a badge of honor.
One autumn evening we were five minutes from Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field in Starkville to tangle with Mississippi State. We’re five hours ahead of kickoff, which is the norm for the gang in the radio van. We’d been to this hallowed site several times but were going by Google Maps to be safe. Dave had other ideas.
“My map’s in my head,” he said. “Take a right.”
Memory fails, so maybe he said take a left. Either way, we parked 40 minutes later.
And still…that’s the Dave we all know and love/hate. If you work with him, you gripe about his over-eagerness for truck stop food, his refusal to eat at any nice restaurant that doesn’t have his fallback –chicken strips — and a flip phone that rudely blares Almost Heaven, West Virginiaeach time it rings. (Tech played Marshall for the Conference USA football championship in December 2014, and not during our three days in Huntington, 30 minutes from Dave’s boyhood home of Milton, did I ever see anything naturally green or blue. Not the sky. Not a tree. West Virginia’s default color was gray. The only blue I saw was on Tech’s jerseys and the only green I saw was on Marshall’s jerseys. “I love it,” Dave said. Sigh…)
But listening to Dave do play-by-play, that’s another ballgame. On the mic in a game, that’s his wheelhouse, where the colors come alive, where you can tell you’re listening to a guy who loves what he does.
Malcolm Butler, because of his position as Tech’s Associate Athletics Director/Communications for the past 20 years, has been forced to go head-to-hard-head with the Off-The-Air Dave all of that time. Gripes over parking passes, lost press badges, tickets requests. It’s awkward to have to stiff-arm a legend and childhood hero.
“But Dave will always be the voice in my head when I remember listening to Tech ballgames as a kid,” said Butler, who, as the Voice of the Lady Techsters, knows intimately the demands of broadcasting. “Hearing Dave was hearing Tech to me.”
Of course none of the ribbing bothers Nitz, who was told as a young man he might have a place on the staff of an East Coast rookie league baseball team. But by then he had steady work at a radio station and decided to see where that led.
Sixty years of radio later, that seems to have been a good move.
The first play-by-play he did was in his backyard in Milton, back in West Virginia. The only child of a coal miner, a bat boy on his dad’s baseball teams beginning at age 3 and a kid who loved sports, Dave would shoot hoops alone and pretend he was whoever the stars were on the West Virginia Mountaineers’ basketball teams, literally calling his own shots.
He listened to Pittsburgh Pirates games on the radio and wondered if he could do what Bob Prince made seem so effortless.
His break came at Fairmont State, where he’d gotten a basketball scholarship. When his JV games were over, he’d shower and keep stats of the varsity games for Frank Lee, who did play-by-play for Fairmont hoops on WMMN.
A new station came on the air in Spencer, West Virginia, and the owner was a friend of Dave’s grandfather. “I think he finally let me on the air so I’d quit asking him,” Dave said. “Made $40 a week; they gave me an extra $5 if I cleaned up the station after I signed off and locked up.”
Tom. T. Hall, who wasn’t yet the famous country music songwriter and performer Tom T. Hall, was the station’s night director. It was his idea that the station needed to become more involved in the community and broadcast some high school football. By default, they decided to “let the 19-year-old kid do it.” So off Dave went to do Game No. 1, Spencer vs. Glenville.
That was more than 4,000 athletic events ago.
He worked at more than a dozen stations during the next dozen years, did play-by-play for William & Mary and Georgia Southern for a while, and found himself with no ball to call when his latest employer decided to quit carrying sports. So, he answered an advertisement for the Louisiana Tech job. He told Marlene they’d move to Louisiana and be back in Ohio or West Virginia within three years.
“Guess I lied,” Dave said.
Tech fans are glad he did. Many of them feel the same way as Tech’s faculty athletics representative and chair of the University’s Athletics Council, Dr. Donna Thomas. Dave’s called the Tech baseball careers of both her husband and their two boys; daughter Anna Claire is an assistant director on Tech’s Athletic Communications staff.
“It’s difficult for me to separate Dave from anything that has to do with Tech and Tech Athletics,” she said. “The minute you turn on the radio and you hear ‘Hello, everybody, this is Dave Nitz,’ from wherever he is, you’re listening to an old friend and you’re at the game. It feels like he’s a member of our family.”
He’s formed a habit of continuing to show up for Tech fans during the past five decades for sure.
“My first thought about Dave is he’s always been a pro,” said fellow Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Keith Prince, Tech’s sports information director during Dave’s first 20 years at the university. “He’s always ready to go.”
That was never more true than in January of 1981 when the Lady Techsters made a West Coast trip and beat San Francisco, No. 6 Long Beach State and No. 4 UCLA on their way to a 34-0 record and the national championship.
“The only time we saw Dave was courtside at the games,” Barmore said. “Otherwise he was sight-seeing.”
The trip inspired Barmore to write “The Ballad of Freeway Dave.” A nickname was born, one that fits Dave like a pair of headphones.
“I rented a car with unlimited mileage,” Freeway said, “and managed to exceed that.”
He’s been on the road and on the air since. Forrest Gump wishes he could be so lucky.
MARIE GAGNARD: Trailblazing tennis official Gagnard still proving worthy at 60
By BOB TOMPKINS, Written for the LSWA
When Marie Gagnard showed up at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City to officiate her first U.S. Open in 1984, she was feeling lucky to be there.
Yet, any self-esteem she had about being there took a quick hit.
“The chairman of officials, a grumpy sort, looked at me and my credentials and barked, ‘Where have you worked?’ I told him, ‘I haven’t.’ He said, ‘You better be damned good!’ ”
She was – and still is, 35 years later, as one of the longest running officials at the prestigious event.
Fewer than 10 officials who are still current, she guesses, have worked longer at the Open than she has. In 2010, as a line judge during the U.S. Open women’s final, Gagnard became the first Louisiana official to work a Grand Slam final.
That highlight in her officiating career was among the reasons she is receiving the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award Saturday, June 8, in Natchitoches and being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. For information on all of the Induction Celebration events June 6-8, including the ‘80s Bowling Bash June 7 in her hometown of Alexandria, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
“That they took me (in ’84) was amazing,” said Gagnard, who can thank Robert Cavanaugh for making her debut at the Open that year. It was the weight of a recommendation by Cavanaugh, then the district chairman of tennis officials in Louisiana, that delivered Marie to America’s tennis mecca at Flushing Meadows in Queens.
Cavanaugh, a former chancellor at LSU Alexandria where Marie played tennis for two years when it was a junior college, was familiar with Gagnard’s officiating skill. Two years earlier, she had worked an exhibition match at LSU between Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors, the top two ranked men’s players in the world.
“The exhibition match at LSU between Borg and Connors was her professional debut,” said Cavanaugh, who had been serving as a ref for LSU’s home team matches at that time. “When they got ready to do the exhibition, they asked me if I could provide some (volunteer) officials.”
Cavanaugh said he could, and he called Marie and some other tennis types from the Alexandria-Pineville area, asking them to volunteer.
“Marie jumped in with both feet and did a bang-up job,” said Cavanaugh. It might have been just an exhibition but was “still the best tennis you’ll ever see,” according to Cavanaugh.
That first experience as an official for Marie was intoxicating.
“After that, I said, ‘I want more of this. Where do I sign?’”
In 1976 as the first person to receive a tennis scholarship at Louisiana College, Marie, a graduate of Alexandria’s Bolton High School, would become the first native of Louisiana to reach the professional umpiring level in tennis.
Her trail-blazing efforts and her longstanding accomplishments as a professional tennis official have led to her selection as this year’s winner of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award presented by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. With a résuméthat includes working the U.S. Open 29 times since 1984, including the last 26 years, she is being inducted with 10 other legends into the state’s sports shrine in Natchitoches.
Her love affair with tennis took root in summer boredom in 1971 for her and her older sister by one year, Alice. Her mother wrote to “Action Line” at the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, asking, “What is there for kids to do around here besides Little League baseball?”
The answer offered a few alternative activities, including free tennis lessons at Bringhurst Park.
“The City created eight days of free lessons for me and Alice and one of Alice’s classmates,” said Marie. “That was the start.”
She recalls she and Alice each bought a “Bluebird” racket for $1.19.
“On my sixth lesson, I went to hit the ball and the ball hit the neck of the racket and broke it in half. Then I bought one for $4.97.”
She and Alice quickly took to the game, with Alice starting to play competitively first as a freshman at Bolton. The following year, Marie joined the Bolton team as a freshman.
Bolton’s coach at the time was Alice (Kelly) Doyle.
“She was an extremely hard working young lady,” Doyle said of Marie. “She gave her all in everything she did. She was so dependable and worked so extremely hard. What she lacked in talent, she made up for it with hard work, and developed her talent.”
Led by the Gagnard sisters in 1975, with senior Alice at the No. 1 girls singles position and junior Marie at No. 2, Bolton won the Class AAA state championship, and Marie was the state singles runner-up as Bolton’s ace in 1976 – the year she received Louisiana College’s first scholarship for its new tennis program.
“She was my No. 1 player when she first started,” said Frank Ashley, LC’s first tennis coach, now a longtime senior associate dean in the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M. “We didn’t win a lot of matches, but she was a fighter, and never gave up. Her tenacity, just how hard she played really was an inspiration to other players on the team. She got to a point where, physically, she couldn’t compete, but because of her love for the sport, she wanted to stay attached to it, and she got into officiating.”
A former teacher for more than two decades at the elementary, high school and college levels in Acadiana and Central Louisiana, Gagnard, now a resident of Lafayette, rose to the top level of tennis officiating, but it did not come easy.
She is a two-time thyroid cancer survivor; the second discovery came shortly before her induction into the Louisiana College Wildcat Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000. That same year, she went through a divorce after 8½ years of marriage that triggered depression, and that depression and the stress of trying to raise two handicapped stepchildren weighed heavily in her decision to take a two-year hiatus from officiating.
Before she went to the U.S. Open in 1993, she received her first diagnosis of cancer and underwent surgery but incurred a paralyzed vocal chord. She went to the Open, thinking her voice would come back, but it didn’t and she had to return home.
“I went through speech therapy and, ultimately, implant surgery on my vocal chord,” she said.
She recovered enough to make a triumphant return in ’94 to the Open.
“On the first day, when I got my first call, I belted it,” said Marie. “The national evaluator gave me a thumbs up, and I was beaming inside.”
Perhaps Marie’s best experience in tennis was at the 2012 U.S. Open, when she celebrated an officiating trifecta:
*She called the men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, won by Murray, in a duel that tied the longest U.S. Open men’s final in history (4 hours, 54 minutes), as Murray became the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936to win a Grand Slam singles title.
* She called the women’s final when Serena Williams won her fourth U.S. Open singles title, defeating Victoria Azarenka, despite Azarenka serving for the match and leading 5–3 in the third set. With the victory, Williams became only the third woman in history to win Wimbledon, the Olympics andthe U.S. Open in the same season.
* She also called the men’s doubles final, with America’s Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike) breaking the all-time record for Grand Slam victories by a doubles team.
“For all three of them,” Marie said, “not only was I on court for match point, but all three winners were in front of me when they won – when Murray fell on his knees, when Serena fell on her back and when the Bryan brothers did a chest bump. In the picture of Serena, my knees are in the background.”
Marie was in the background early in her tennis career to her sister, Alice, who says they were “two peas in a pod” in those days. Alice, a professor of advertising at SMU for 33 years, who coached tennis for three years at Marquette (1983-85), says she tries to see her sister at the U.S. Open as often as possible.
“I’ve come to appreciate how well trained those officials are, how professional they are, how responsible they have to be in a day with electronic checks and balances,” Alice says. “I’m a big fan of linespeople now.
“Think of having to concentrate to find where the ball lands on the court, and those balls are coming at 140 miles-per-hour,” Alice continues. “When you make mistakes, it’s very public.”
It’s very public, too — and satisfying — being correct on a call, as Marie was in March during an ATP Masters 1000 match in California between Giles Simon and eventual tournament champion Dominic Thiem of Austria, ranked No. 4 in the world. Giles challenged a “fault” call by Gagnard on a serve, and the slow-motion, stop-action replay showed the call was accurate by perhaps the width of a weevil’s snout.
“She couldn’t have done better with the aid of the Hubble Telescope,” cracked Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame sportscaster Lyn Rollins after seeing that.
A National Guard veteran of both Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a support battalion’s computer programmer analyst, Marie worked the fiery Naomi Osaka-Serena Williams championship match at last year’s Open. Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title, but the match generated controversy as a result of a series of rants Williams had with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
“I was standing right by Serena,” Marie said. “It was deafening, it was so loud. I was just standing there, thinking, how’s this going to play out? All I can say is, the chair umpire is one of the most seasoned and did everything by the book.”
Gagnard, 60, has seen and been a part of major professional tennis for decades, and she’s not ready to give it up.
“Every day that the bus drops us off at the front gate and we walk to where we’re going to go,” Marie said, “it feels like I’m doing a happy dance. When that feeling leaves me, I won’t go anymore.”
Matt Dunigan: Swagger, an arm, and Southern charm
By TEDDY ALLEN, Written for the LSWA
The temperature was somewhere around frying-pan hot on this August afternoon, the second of Louisiana Tech’s two-a-day football practices, the season still a couple of torturous weeks away, a promised break if you could make it through all the monotony and the steam and the chaos.
It was about this time when someone told Matt Dunigan, a freshman from Dallas, a 5-9 lightning-in-his-arm quarterback — he’ll tell you he’s 5-10-and-a half, which none of his coaches or teammates or friends ever remembers him being but he plays like he’s 6-4 so who cares — that he might want to dial it back a bit.
Dunigan was running the scout team on the lower of Tech’s two practice fields. Five feet up a gradual rise was the “Upper Field” where the No. 1 offense practiced. The “Lower Field” was where the No. 1 defense had its way with the scout team, made up mostly of freshmen like Dunigan, who came to Tech with the reputation of a rifle arm, quick feet, and the determination of an army of ants.
Nobody on Tech’s defense knew that though, so Dunigan was already bleeding, again, and equipment managers were busy making up new pads and taping them onto the small but muscular and determined hustler as best they could.
“We’re going to need you down the road,” a friend said between plays. “You can’t go 100 percent every play, not down here. You’ll get killed.”
“Can’t do it,” Dunigan said. You could almost see his face through the dirt and the heat waves, if you looked hard enough.
“This is scout team. Why are you going at it so hard? You’ve…”
The future Canadian Football League and Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Famer nodded toward the No. 1 offense, 50 yards away, Up, on the Promised Land.
“’Cause I gotta get on that Upper Field.”
He didn’t say he wanted to get on the Upper Field. “I’ve got to,” he said.
So he huddled again, looked at the play a graduate assistant had drawn up on stock paper, yelled for his fellow scrubs to give the defense a “good look,” and took another snap, one of the last one’s he’d ever take on the Lower Field.
“Matty” got to the top field. And from there, he kept going up.
Dunigan went on to be the only QB in the history of the Canadian Football League to lead four different organizations to the Grey Cup; Dunigan played on five Grey Cup teams and won the Cup twice.
And now he’s heading into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches, set to be enshrined Saturday, June 8, culminating the three-day 2019 Induction Celebration (check LaSportsHall.com for details).
His remarkable run in Canada was rooted by everyday “Kill The Guy With The Ball” games in his boyhood backyards in Ohio and in Dallas, then came a record-setting career at Tech. He played for the Bulldogs from 1980-82 when the program, today one of only two in the NCAA to win five consecutive bowl games, began making its way to Division I. In 1982, he was Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Offensive Player of the Year, and All-American as Tech finished 10-3.
“He brought us back to the level Tech hadn’t been at in a while,” said Billy Brewer, the Ole Miss Hall of Famer who passed away last May and was Tech’s head coach all three years that Dunigan started.
Dunigan did all this with a mix of enthusiasm, sheer joy, determination, and will. He played football with the frantic urgency of a guy late for a plane or a hot date. It was as if he were in a hurry to finish this game so he could shower and eat a sandwich, then get his uniform back on and play the next one.
“Only way I knew how to play,” said Dunigan.
He’s a guy who wouldn’t take slow for an answer. It was that competitive streak and rifle arm that took him and his teams to the top of some mountains.
“Who’s the little buff dude?” said wide receiver David Williams when Dunigan, who’d been traded from Grey Cup-champion Edmonton (a seven-for-one trade), strolled into the BC Lions locker room for the first time. “Somebody told me he was our quarterback. Then I saw him throw the ball. Dang. Lightning in the little dude’s arm.”
Williams will go into the CFL Hall this summer.
“I’m not in there,” Williams said, “without him. Matt threw me like 50 touchdowns in 67 games we played together. And that’s not counting playoffs. It’s a dream come true for a receiver to play with a guy like that who can make every single throw on the field.”
“Boy, he could chunk that apple,” said E.J. Lewis, the longtime Tech assistant who, with a chew of tobacco and spit cup, recruited Dunigan out of Lake Highlands.
“If Matt winked at you in the huddle, he was going to throw the ball to you whether you were open or not,” said teammate Karl Terrebonne, an All-SLC receiver who had just three catches for 45 yards in the 1982 I-AA quarterfinal win over South Carolina State, but each one was on third down and “I was never really open,” Terrebonne said. “Matt just threw the ball in between everybody. Going back to the huddle he’d just smile.”
“He’s throwing 30- and 40-yard corner routes on a line,” said Leland Padgett, another all-league receiver for Tech in the early-’80s. “We could do what we did because of this guy.”
“It was a joy to coach him,” said Larry Dauterive, Tech’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator during Dunigan’s years. “It was a pleasure to be a part of, the way he controlled the game. I told him to just trust his arm, throw it where you want to — and he’d throw people open.”
Longtime NFL scout C.O. Brocato was at a lot of Tech practices during Dunigan’s Bulldog days and told Dauterive that his quarterback’s arm was stronger than any other quarterback’s arm in the country, but that he wouldn’t be drafted because of his height. Six of those quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, the most in the league’s history: John Elway, Dan Marino, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, and Ken O’Brien. Big boys.
Not Dunigan. But he took with him to the CFL a few other intangibles that helped him play big and play tall.
“He’s so tough,” Dauterive said. “He was an undersized linebacker playing quarterback.”
“That’s what I remember most about him,” Terrebonne said.
“He’s probably the best quarterback I ever played with,” said CFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Chris Walby, who played three seasons with Dunigan in Winnipeg. “But he was definitely the toughest SOB I ever played with. He’d do whatever it takes to get that extra yard.”
“He broke his collarbone in a playoff game in ’91 on a good (Toronto) Argonauts team,” said Rod Smith, host of CFL on TSN, the network Dunigan’s been with as an analyst since 1999. “It didn’t look like he’d be able to play. The doctors assured him he couldn’t hurt it any worse; he could play if he could handle the pain.”
Dunigan told the doctors they’d have to cut his arm off to keep him from playing. In minus-19 degrees weather in Winnipeg, Dunigan threw touchdown passes of 48 and 36 yards and the Argos beat Calgary, 36-21 for the CFL title.
“I think that defined who he was as a player,” Smith said. “With raw determination through incredible pain he found a way to get it done. He’s done bigger things and had great individual accomplishments, but this was the ultimate team accomplishment too. It’s not the game with his greatest numbers, but it’s the one game that defines him.”
In 1993, Dunigan and Winnipeg beat Edmonton by a combined 80-plus points in two regular season games—then lost the Grey Cup to the Eskimos by 10 with Dunigan out with an Achilles injury.
“When he went down we were just good,” Williams said. “We weren’t great anymore.”
When the two teams next met during the 1994 season, a healthy Dunigan hung 713 passing yards on them. “Against the defending champs,” said Dunigan’s QB coach and offensive coordinator at Winnipeg, Mike Kelly. “It was an exhibition on how to play quarterback.”
“We called off the dogs or he could have thrown for 1,000,” Williams said.
To play that way takes confidence, something Dunigan never lacked because of his respect for both competition and preparation.
“First one in the meeting room,” Dauterive said, “and the last one to leave.”
“I called him the peacock,” Walby says. “He’d strut into the locker room on game day and we’re thinking, ‘Matty’s in the zone. We’ll win today.’ ”
“He demands you be on time, look sharp, keep notes; he likes everyone to be prepared,” said Smith. “The day he doesn’t come into the studio strutting like a peacock, that’s when I’ll worry. That would be really, really disappointing.”
“Our production meetings were like games,” said sportscaster Dave Randorf, former host for 12 years of CFL on TSN. “Matty’s locked in. I learned so much football from that guy.”
“Preparation breeds confidence; his teammates knew Matty was prepared and the team elevated itself because of his swagger,” said Kelly, whose middle daughter, Lindsey Rose, is the goddaughter of Matt and his wife and college sweetheart, Kathy. “That swagger put tremendous doubt in the minds of our opponents. They’re not sure if they can win the game if Matt’s got the ball in his hands. No matter who he played with, that was part of the package. He’ll always be a winner.”
“Once his playing career was over, he brought us viewers from coast to coast,” said Randorf, “not only because of his sharing his knowledge of the game, but it’s also the immense excitement and passion he has for the CFL and all the people around it. He has that Southern twang, then throw charm in the mix…people just gravitate toward him.
“He has a big personality, but he doesn’t take up the room,” Randorf said. “He’s got time for everybody. I’ve seen it time and time again. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback on the field; everybody knows that. But he’s also a Hall of Fame person.”
MAX FUGLER: Hero of 1958 LSU national champion squad knew how to win
By JOEY MARTIN, Special to the LSWA
LSU sophomore Max Fugler stood silently under the Tiger Stadium goal post, head down and hands on hips on that hot, humid night of September 21, 1957. His Tiger team just lost its season-opener to Rice, 20-14.
Fugler remembers teammate Tommy Davis walking up to him and consoling him and asking if he was all right.
“You don’t understand.” Fugler said. “I’m not used to losing a game.”
Make that a total of four games over the previous five years.
Fugler’s Ferriday High football team finished 10-3 in 1952 in his freshman year, and lost only one game over the next three years. He and Frank Brocato were the lone Bulldogs to letter five years as both played as eighth-graders.
In Fugler’s sophomore season at Ferriday High, the Bulldogs lost their 1953 season-opener 20-19 to Westlake, a team that would go on to win the Class A state championship.
Ferriday, which won the Class B state title that year, went on a state record streak of not losing a game for 54 straight contests, following up the Class B state title with three straight Class A state championships.
“It seems like only yesterday, but I know it was more than 60 years ago,” Fugler said. “The birthdays do still come around. (Fugler will be 82 in August). Right now I’m just glad to be anywhere.”
Saturday, June 8, he’ll be in Natchitoches, taking his place among other LSU greats and some former Tiger teammates, along with his high school and college coaches, in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The sold-out ceremony is carried live on Cox Sports Television. For information on the June 6-8 Induction Celebration, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
Fugler, Ferriday High’s first prep All-American, played on high school and college teams that combined to go 68-8-0.
Max also had the fortune of playing under Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame 2002 inductee Johnny Robertson, who took over as head coach at Ferriday in 1951.
“Coach Robertson was way ahead of his time,” Fugler said. “When he arrived it was a 360 degrees turnaround times five. And that’s nothing against the previous coaches. They credit Forrest Evashevski at Iowa with starting the wing T. We were running that in high school.”
Winning 54 games was an achievement unmatched for decades.
“Toward the middle of the run I began thinking about the streak,” Fugler said. “Every game we played was just as important as any other game. But we didn’t want the streak to end.”
Fugler’s championship collection did not end at Ferriday. In 1958, as a junior, Fugler played a major role in LSU winning its first national championship under coach Paul Dietzel, another Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member.
Fugler earned LSU’s Iron Man Award in that championship season, leading the team in minutes played—more than 35 minutes a game, both ways—in the days of platoon football.
“I just loved to hit people and I never wanted to be at a game sitting on the bench,” he said.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Fugler had a lot of offers as a senior at Ferriday, some he didn’t know about until later.
“My mom had thrown a lot of them away because Abner Wimberly, who was an assistant coach at LSU, told her to,” Fugler said. “I was blessed to have a lot of offers.”
Fugler visited Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
“I really liked Darrell Royal when he was at Mississippi State, and Johnny Vaught at Ole Miss,” Fugler said. “But I was from Ferriday, so why would I go to Starkville or Oxford? I wanted my mother to be able to see me play. She had seen all my games up to that point. I also loved the oilfield and LSU had a great petroleum engineering program.”
Fugler played most of his career at center and linebacker. He also stayed busy on special teams.
“He loved being on punt returns because he liked being able to get a good block on somebody,” Robertson said.
Fugler also saw time as a fullback as a freshman at LSU because Doug Skinner of Minden was so good on the line he forced Fugler into the backfield. Skinner was left behind on a road trip as punishment midway through the season and went home, never to return. Fugler was moved back to the offensive line.
“We had to separate them because you can’t have two really good football players at the same position,” Dietzel said at the time of the switch. “Max was very versatile and played really well. I don’t think his ability lended itself at fullback as much as an offensive lineman.”
In his brief stint at fullback, Fugler scored a touchdown on a short run.
“I can say I scored a touchdown at LSU before Billy Cannon,” he said, grinning.
In a 62-0 romp over Tulane in the 1958 regular season finale, Fugler cut in front of the Tulane left end to intercept a Richie Petibon pass at the Wave 40 and returned it down to the 30. Eight plays later, Warren Rabb scored to put the Tigers up 12-0 early in the third quarter.
That seemed to pick up the team’s spirits and the rest is history,” Fugler said.
Dietzel said Fugler was an outstanding linebacker.
“He had great speed and range,” Dietzel said. “When he got to a running back, he knew what to do. He was a fierce tackler and competitor.”
Fugler is best known at LSU for making all four tackles on a goal line stand against Ole Miss on Nov. 1, 1958 in a 14-0 Tiger win. It was five tackles if you count the fact Fugler tackled quarterback Bobby Franklin on one play when he pitched the ball to Charlie Flowers.
“Everybody asks about those plays,” Fugler said. “Coach McClendon (then defensive coach and later the Tigers’ head coach Charlie McClendon) had me calling defensive signals and we were in a seven-man front. He told me to stay where I was and keep doing what I was doing.”
Kent Lovelace gave Ole Miss first and goal at the LSU 2 on a running play.
On first down, Franklin carried the ball within a foot of the goal line. LSU was offsides on the play, but Ole Miss declined the penalty.
“I said, ‘Alleluia,'” Fugler said. “I didn’t want to give them another down. They had a fine offensive unit and they had to prove they could do it.”
On second down, Lovelace went off tackle. End Billy Hendrix, tackle Lynn LeBlanc, and Fugler stuffed him for no gain.
“I knew which way they were going by looking at the quarterback’s feet,” Fugler said.
Fugler added he and Hendrix had a scheme called music and lightning: if Fugler said “Music” it meant Hendrix was going hard from the outside and Fugler would take the middle, and if Fugler called out “Lightning” it meant Fugler was blitzing.
“If we didn’t say anything, then neither one of us would crash in,” he said.
On third-and-a-foot, Flowers tried the middle and was stopped just short of the line of scrimmage by Fugler, who was named National Lineman of the Week for his efforts against the Rebels that night.
On fourth down, Ole Miss opted not to try the field goal, but sent Lovelace off tackle where Cannon hit him first and Fugler dropped him for a one-yard loss.
“After we stopped them the final time I went to center and I was like, ‘What are we going to do now? We have the ball on the 1-foot line.'”
Fugler said he knew the 1958 team was good, but didn’t know it was that good.
“I think we owe a lot to Marty Broussard, who was the athletic trainer,” Fugler said. “We never went into a game not at full strength because we had no major injuries and all our minor injuries were over in a hurry.”
Fugler was named Look Magazine All-American and All-SEC.
“It was great to be an All-American, but that whole unit could have made it,” Fugler said.
Fugler believes LSU should have won two straight national titles.
In 1959, with Fugler now at a 217-pound playing weight, the Tigers went 9-1, their only loss to Tennessee, 14-13 in Knoxville.
“I am more disappointed with how we lost that game,” Fugler said. “We beat them everywhere but on the scoreboard. On the winning score, they were holding me and Billy Hendrix. The guy had his hands hooked in my pants. There was some serious home cooking. We would have been the first team to win the national championships back-to-back since Notre Dame.”
Third-ranked LSU lost to Ole Miss 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl.
Fugler said he voted against playing Ole Miss a second time.
“When you beat somebody 7-3 on a run like Cannon’s there has to be a little bit of luck involved,” he said. “Once you beat somebody that close, you better be happy about it.”
Fugler was the 10th pick in the eighth round, selected by the San Francisco 49ers as the 94th overall player taken in the 1960 NFL Draft. He aspired to play in the AFL, though.
“I knew I wanted to get into the oil business, so I wanted to play for the Dallas Texans, who later became the Kansas City Chiefs,” Fugler said. “(Oilman) Lamar Hunt owned them. I didn’t go there because they didn’t have an injury clause.”
That was a prudent choice. Fugler’s NFL career ended in his rookie year when he injured a knee while making a block against Cleveland.
“My foot was planted in the grass and I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was career ending,” Fugler said. “When you’re 22 years old you don’t think like that, but two days after that I knew it. Dr. Francis Cox came in and said he was sorry. I asked him what did he do, operate on the wrong leg? He told me I had torn two cartilages and the two ligaments separating them.”
The New Orleans Saints began their franchise in 1968, and Saints head coach Tom Fears called Fugler four times, offering him a contract.
“I told him, ‘Coach, I am crippled and don’t want to be crippled for life,’” Fugler said.
Fugler said he doesn’t spend time thinking of what might have been.
“I don’t worry about such things as burning bridges, because I don’t ever plan to retreat,” he said.
Between his junior and senior years at LSU, Fugler took a summer job with a Houston oil company. He then formed his own oil-service company, Gammaloy, Inc., which he operated for 31 years before selling it to Tom Hicks, owner of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars.
Fugler now works for Omega West in Spring, Texas, his adopted hometown. A man who rarely left the field as a football player can’t accept taking time off from the daily grind, even in his later years.
“I’ll have all the time to sleep when I am dead,” he said. “I only take a day off when I am fishing.”
PHILIP TIMOTHY: Timothy’s talent, tenacity, passion made him Hall-worthy
By JOHN MARCASE, Written for the LSWA
There is a fine line between being stubborn and being dedicated.
Philip Timothy blended the two perfectly.
That may explain why Timothy is being presented with the highest honor in Louisiana sports journalism – the 2019 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
That means Timothy is being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame along with the rest of the Class of 2019 Saturday, June 8, in Natchitoches. For information on the June 6-8 Induction Celebration, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
In November 1999, Timothy, then serving as assistant sports editor at the Alexandria Town Talk, helped put the paper to bed one Friday night during the high school football playoffs. That meant he left the office after midnight. Timothy drove to his camp in the Saline-Larto Complex to go duck hunting the next morning.
After the hunt, he drove home to clean up before heading into the office to help work on Sunday’s paper. About 200 yards from his house, he fell asleep at the wheel of his truck. He awoke the next morning at Rapides Regional Medical Center with both feet and ankles shattered, external fixators protruding from both legs.
By the time he moved to a rehab hospital, Timothy was back writing stories. As long as he could type and use a phone, he decided, he also could work.
Subborn or dedicated? Or both?
“I never thought P.T. was stubborn for stubborn’s sake,” said Raymond A. Partsch III, who worked with Timothy at The Town Talk in Alexandria. “To some, he may have come off as stubborn, but what appears to be stubbornness is just a reflection of his immense passion for sports journalism – whether that is for page design, headline writing or writing a story. Philip truly believed in what he was doing and would defend that with every ounce of his being. That is something you always had to admire and respect.”
Glenn Quebedeaux, a 2015 DSA honoree, recalled his first face-to-face encounter with Timothy. Quebedeaux was covering sports for the Daily Iberianin New Iberia when Timothy arrived at the Daily Advertiserin Lafayette in 1986. A rivalry quickly developed.
“When he came to the Advertiser, they didn’t cover St. Martinville; we did in New Iberia,” said Quebedeaux. “Well, Philip started covering St. Martinville. The Associated Press started running individual stats in football and one week they used his stats instead of mine. We got into an argument over the phone so we met at the Cajun Field track parking lot.”
Consider it the sports writing version of a duel, except with pica poles (a ruler) instead of pistols.
“I pulled up in my car and Philip and (fellow Advertiser reporter) Kevin Foote pulled up in Philip’s truck,” said Quebedeaux. “I get out of my car and Kevin gets out of the truck. I tell the ‘Big Guy’ to get out of the truck and he wouldn’t. He made Kevin relay messages back and forth.”
“As I remember, their first big fight was a heated debate about an All-Acadiana MVP baseball selection,” said Foote. “Looking back, the beauty of the fight was that both were intensely passionate about their stances. That’s what made them both so good at their jobs and willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. That’s the biggest lesson Philip taught me early on in my career.”
Fortunately for athletes in Acadiana, a détente was reached between Timothy and Quebedeaux.
“We hashed it out and ever since then, we’ve been best friends,” said Quebedeaux. “We were so competitive. He was a competitive son of a gun.”
And quite talented.
“He was the best the Advertiser ever had for all-around ability,” Quebedeaux said.
If it had been up to Timothy, he never would’ve gone into journalism.
“I wanted to be a school teacher and teach history,” said Timothy, whose parents, Philip Sr. and Janette, were both longtime public school teachers in Rapides Parish. “My dad talked me out of it. He told me he would not help me with college if I went into education.”
Timothy was part of the first sophomore class at Alexandria Senior High, but due to a parish-wide court order, was forced to finish high school at Tioga High School. It proved to be a turning point in his life.
“As a senior, I met Donna Howell, who was an English teacher,” said Timothy. “She said I had a gift for writing and I should try to be a writer.”
Timothy already knew he was going to college at Northwestern State, where both of his parents went.
“I majored in journalism and minored in English,” he said. “I thought I was going to be on TV. I was majoring in broadcast journalism. My advisor, Ezra Adams, questioned why I got into journalism. He said I didn’t have a propensity for words. That made me bow my neck and get to work and prove him wrong … when someone tells me I can’t do something, it’s engrained in me that I’m gonna do that.”
Timothy worked for the school paper,Current Sauce, as well as in the sports information department, and he called Demon baseball games on the radio. Finally, Dan McDonald, a 2017 DSA recipient, asked Timothy to be the Current Sauce’s sports editor. A career took off.
“That was the beginning of it,” said Timothy.
Timothy honed his craft at small weekly papers, mostly in Louisiana: The Natchitoches Times, The Red River Journal (Pineville), The Journal-Enterprise (Mansfield), The Beauregard News(DeRidder) and The Centerville Pressin Alabama. He also worked for the Monroe News-Star before he moved to Lafayette in 1986.
“That was 13 years of my career,” said Timothy. “We had a small staff – me, Kevin and Bruce Brown. Fifty-four schools that played football and 64 that played football and basketball. We stayed busy.”
“During all of those long hours in the early years together, we learned how to make covering sports fun while we were working our tails off,” said Foote.
It was in Lafayette where Timothy honed the skills that would make him one of the top sports page designers in the South, let alone the state of Louisiana.
“Philip always had more of an attachment to the layout side of being a sports writer,” said Foote. “That’s fading away now in many places in our industry, but the lesson from that was when something special is taking place, that big moment or that big achievement should be reflected in the page’s layout.”
Philip is the best combination of a journalist I know – writing, headlines, layouts,” said Quebedeaux. “He’s a complete newspaper man. Today, there aren’t many. Even when he was working (in sports), there weren’t many. Rarely, do you find one person who is good at all of these.”
“At a weekly, you always have to do your own makeup,” Timothy said. “As my career progressed, technology progressed with me. I got to Lafayette and it was the first time I saw a computer capable of designing a paper. That’s when I really got into it.
“When I started out, I did everything because you had to – I wrote, laid it out, took photos, developed photos, put the paper on the press, took it off the press. I even took the papers and dropped them off at the post office. When I got to Lafayette, it was the first time I didn’t have to do all of that.”
Timothy wasn’t looking to move when he left Lafayette for The Town Talkin Alexandria. He was hired to cover high school sports and outdoors, but quickly became the assistant sports editor. It was also a chance for him to enjoy more time with his wife, Joanne, and their three children – Joshua, Jessica and Jacob.
“Following my father’s death in 1997, I moved back to Alexandria to be close to my mother,” he said. “I don’t know how much I helped her over the years, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise for me. After years of covering other people’s children, I was finally able to watch my own kids as they competed in athletics and school. I was able to teach them to hunt and fish, coach their summer ball teams, and just watch them grow up.”
Timothy also served a crucial two-year term as president of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association shortly after moving toThe Town Talk. It was under his watch as president the movement began for a permanent building to house the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
“Philip was rock-solid in crucial times when we were building the support for funding the museum,” said Doug Ireland, executive director of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. “Not only did he provide sage advice, he had relationships around the state that provided us with valuable insight and influence.
“At that pivotal juncture, we made some strategic decisions, notably moving the induction activities to Shreveport-Bossier City for three years that were misunderstood by many people who cared about the Hall of Fame. Philip stayed the course and calmed the waters.”
Ironically, Timothy has never stepped foot inside the Hall of Fame since it opened in 2013 on Front Street in Natchitoches. The first time he will do so will be in June during the induction weekend.
Despite the numerous awards he has won – more than 80 national, regional and state awards at last count – Timothy remains grounded in what is important: his faith and his family. He serves as managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Messageand teaches Sunday School at his church in Deville; he’s also a proud grandfather of two and has another grandbaby on the way.
And he is thankful for the legacy he has left around the state as a writer and editor who focused on high school athletes.
“I covered them when they were nobodies,” he said. “I was there as they developed into the athletes they became.
“After I went to The Town Talk, I got a card from a guy asking if I was the Philip Timothy from the Red River Journal. He wrote, ‘I have everything you ever wrote about me in a book.’ That meant the world to me. It showed me I made an impact. I wanted to make an impact as a teacher, but this was the next best thing.”
ROGER CADOR: Legendary Southern coach Cador emerged as one of college baseball’s iconic figures
By MIKE GEGENHEIMER, Written for the LSWA
Roger Cador stood before a group of students at Istrouma High School a few weeks ago and started doing what he does best.
He regaled them with stories from his 33-year career as one of the most significant voices in baseball, from college to the Major Leagues. And there are certainly a lot of stories to pick from.
By the time he retired from Southern University in 2017, Cador finished with a career record of 913-597-1. He had earned 14 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, a dozen 30-win seasons, 11 NCAA regional appearances, and three regional wins. He had coached 10 All-Americans and 62 players drafted by MLB teams.
Cador was known around the country as the first coach to ever lead a historically black college program to a win in the NCAA regionals. And he remains the only black college coach to produce a Golden Spikes Award winner for the best amateur baseball player in the United States—Rickie Weeks in 2003.
The resume’ paved his path to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Cador will join 10 other 2019 inductees entering the Hall Saturday, June 8 at the Natchitoches Events Center in sold-out ceremonies carried live on Cox Sports Television. The Class of 2019 will be feted June 6-8 during the Induction Celebration, with details and participation opportunities available at LaSportsHall.com or by calling 318-238-4255.
In the past two years since his retirement, Cador traveled the world, living out the exact life he had planned when he stepped down. Some trips were for pleasure. Others were to give talks to a new generation of young baseball players. Honestly, he saw little difference in the two.
But his message that day at Istrouma wasn’t one that touted his own accomplishments. Cador wanted to give the students the bigger picture about what it means to be successful and how to overcome what can feel like insurmountable odds.
Even in his coaching days, Cador always imagined himself more as a coach of life than of baseball.
He isn’t about to change that now.
“Here are young people in a disadvantaged situation but very in tune with what’s going on around them,” Cador said. “They asked questions, and they want to be successful. To me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not where you’re from; it’s where you’re trying to get.”
Cador learned that lesson for himself the day he walked into Southern as the new baseball coach in August 1984.
And it’s impossible to understand what Cador accomplished at Southern without talking about the grocery basket.
The grocery basket is a symbol of the struggles the man from New Roads faced at the start of his career — as well as what he overcame.
When Cador was promoted from an assistant coach, the entirety of the program fit into an old grocery basket kept in a closet at Pete Goldsby Field, an off-campus stadium near downtown Baton Rouge that served as the Jaguars’ home in those early days.
The once-proud Jaguars had fallen on hard times. They were left with just a few dirty uniforms and some old practice balls, all kept in that basket.
There was virtually no equipment, no facilities, a minimal budget, and little incentive to fix any of it.
Only a few years removed from his playing days, Cador didn’t know where to begin, so he called friends from around baseball, looking for donations.
One of his first calls was to a young hitting coach with the San Francisco Giants by the name of Dusty Baker, a friend from his playing days.
Cador asked whether Baker could convince the Giants to donate spare equipment. Without hesitation, Baker jumped at the chance to help his former teammate, telling him to meet the team on a road swing through Atlanta.
Baker not only convinced the Giants to donate equipment, he got the Braves to do the same. In a day, Southern needed UPS to ship all of its equipment back to Baton Rouge.
“It’s his genuineness,” Baker said. “The fact that he cares so much about the game, his players, the school of Southern University, and you want to help somebody that has that deep, genuine concern for what they’re doing. He’s touched many, many lives.”
Legendary LSU coach Skip Bertman arrived in Baton Rouge the summer before Cador took over at Southern. From the moment they met, the future pillars of Louisiana baseball bonded.
Entering Cador’s first year as Southern’s coach, Bertman invited him to his annual season-opening news conference. It was there they announced the annual Mayor’s Cup, a three-game series between the schools.
LSU usually came out on top, but Cador always made the game more interesting.
Cador said his fondest memory of their friendship was how committed both were to community service and to helping the Baton Rouge community.
One of the most significant aspects of Southern’s program during those early days, Bertman recalled, was how much Cador achieved despite so few resources. The most notable example: Cador’s makeshift batting cages.
Cador pushed Southern to set up nets and batting cages beneath the Harding Boulevard overpass into campus, affectionately known as “The Hump.” The remnants of those batting cages, long since abandoned, can still be seen behind the visitors’ dugout.
“Roger has never complained one bit and has been a great representative of Southern University,” Bertman said. “He didn’t have everything that I had or the coach at LSU now has, in terms of another pitching machine or a FungoMan and those extra goodies that coaches have in the Southeastern Conference. Whenever he asked for something, it was always for the players. He never asked for himself.”
It’s hard to nail down Cador’s greatest achievement at Southern. The most famous came in 1987, when Southern became the first Historically Black University/College to win a game in an NCAA regional, upsetting No. 2 Cal State Fullerton, 1-0 in New Orleans.
Less than a year later, funding was almost immediately approved for the construction of Lee-Hines Field, the on-campus stadium at Southern.
The achievement that stuck out most to Cador wasn’t his own. He cited the campaign to make Rickie Weeks the 2003 Golden Spikes Award winner a two-year process, starting when Weeks won his first NCAA batting title in 2002 as a sophomore.
In his junior season, Weeks — who later spent 14 years in professional baseball — again won the batting title, posting a .479 average and 16 home runs. His career batting average of .465 remains the highest in NCAA history.
Cador called in every favor he had saved up over his career and put on the famous charm he’s known for. (As he put it, his people skills and public relations abilities were always his strongest attributes.)
When Weeks’ name was finally announced as the nation’s best amateur baseball player, it was as much Cador’s victory.
“A lot of times, when you go out in the community or just around Southern’s campus and he’s able to talk to people, they can believe in him because that’s what he does,” Weeks said. “He’s not just saying anything and then all of a sudden goes off and does something different. The biggest thing for him is being able to have that persona where he’s the man. He’s the man because they believe in what he does.”
Cador’s friends are eager to praise him. That’s partially because he’s charismatic, but also because he has never been the type to say no when a friend needs a favor.
Cador worked extensively as an ambassador for baseball, helping Major League Baseball with its diversity task force in an effort to bring baseball back to inner-city communities.
He has raised money for just about every cause in Baton Rouge, from the American Heart Association to local youth teams. Every year, when Southern hosts its fundraiser banquet, Cador makes sure to invite the softball team, so its players receive attention for their hard work.
“He’s never let what he does for a living become who he is,” longtime UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux said. “We have to be so careful in sports that sports can define us. … The thing I respect about Roger is, he’s never let the game define him. It’s the way he’s lived his life. It’s his personality.”
If you ask Cador about his legacy, he’ll tell you about two things.
The first is how he has influenced the sport by helping former players and coaches climb the ranks of organized baseball. Cador takes immense pride in the people he helped put in positions of authority throughout the sport.
Former players like Marco Paddy, Arnold Brathwaite, Jerry Flowers, Don Thomas, and many others dot the landscape of MLB front offices and scouting departments.
The other aspect of Cador’s legacy: he did it all his way.
Cador never shied from who he was, as a coach or a person. Almost to a fault, he stayed the same throughout the past three decades.
In many ways, he said, he credits his family for that strength. His son, Jonathan, has been a grounding force in the past few years and will be by his side when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame in June.
Before his wife, Donna Fairfax Cador, died in 2010, she wouldn’t allow her husband to decorate their house with any of his baseball memorabilia. It’s part of the reason he keeps so much of it now.
Her reasoning was that their home should be a place away from baseball, somewhere Cador didn’t have to think about his latest problem.
He also needed to remember who he was outside of baseball. To this day, he has not forgotten.
“That’s the one thing I want to commend Southern for — all the people and the administration and athletic directors who have worked at Southern — for letting me do it my own way,” Cador said. “I’ve been able to do a lot of good things by doing it my way, and I never once embarrassed the university.”
The irony of his wife’s ban on baseball at home is that he never would’ve had a coaching career if it hadn’t been for her.
For two months in 1984, Southern tried to persuade Cador to take the coaching job, but he refused. It wasn’t until the university president convinced Donna that he should take the position did Roger finally accept.
“He convinced her and she told me when I came home that I had to take the baseball job, because I had a fair man who wanted to treat me with dignity to be the baseball coach and that he’d be fair to me,” Cador said. “The next day, I accepted the job on Aug. 3 — and on Aug. 4, 1984, she and I got in my car, and we went to Atlanta to meet Dusty Baker.”
T.B. PORTER: Louisiana’s legendary first rodeo cowboy is a tough act to follow
By RAYMOND PARTSCH III, Written for the LSWA
There is toughness, and then there is rodeo cowboy toughness
- Barrett “T. Berry” Porter epitomized that vast difference throughout his storied and lengthy career as Louisiana’s first professional rodeo cowboy. Porter spent decades putting his body on the line as he saddled and rode his horses night after night while trying to lasso calf after calf in dusty rodeo arenas dotted across the American landscape.
That true grit of overcoming broken bones, torn ligaments and more nasty bruises than one can count, for the love of a sport, was apparent during an accident on his ranch seven years ago.
In 2012, the then-85-year-old was working on his massive ranch on the outskirts of Leesville. Porter was simply trying to move some dirt around on his property when the bulldozer jumped in reverse and threw him off.
The bulldozer ran over him, breaking his right arm above and below his elbow, breaking his right collarbone and shoulder blade, damaging the muscle between his shoulder and elbow, and pulling his right shoulder out of place.
Yet, Porter still managed to dust himself off and get into his five-speed pickup truck and drive to where his son was pressure-washing a building.
“I heard daddy pull up and he was honking the horn and then he honked it again,” T. Berry’s son, David, remembered. “I finally walked over to see what the commotion was all about. He rolled down his window and said ‘Son, I injured my arm pretty bad, they may have to take it. Do you think you could take me to the hospital?’”
Porter never lost consciousness and was coherent until surgery — when doctors were forced to take his right arm. A few weeks later, Porter was back on his farm checking on his cows, bailing hay, mending fences, and doing other daily chores.
The man Shreveport JournalSports Editor Jimmy Bullock called “the Pelican State’s Mr. Rodeo” brings that toughness to Natchitoches as the 2019 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame class is inducted Saturday, June 8. The ceremony, live on Cox Sports Television from the sold-out Natchitoches Events Center, culminates a three-day Induction Celebration June 6-8. Visit LaSportsHall.com for details.
Fittingly, Louisiana’s first pro rodeo cowboy is the first from his sport elected to the Hall.
“I am honored,” T. Berry said. “It is a very humbling honor. Not many people can be the very first anything nowadays. I always thought that somebody else was better than me or more deserving than me.
- Berry was born March 9, 1927, in Pineville. Porter’s parents, J.A. and Elsie Alton Porter, would move the family, in a truck without a cab, to Leesville in 1929. Porter’s father moved to run a Texaco filling station at the fork of U.S. Highway 171 North and Kurthwood Road. The elder Porter also traded horses and mules, put on the area’s first rodeo behind the old railroad depot in 1933, and even helped furnish the horses, as well as served as guide, for General Dwight Eisenhower to survey the wooded land that would become Fort Polk.
The family lived in the back of the filling station. On site was a small roping pen. It was there that Porter would perfect his skills that would one day lead him to become a world champion.
“I don’t remember when I started roping, I just always did it,” T. Berry said. “But there are still folks at the Lion’s Club here that call me the ‘goat roper.’ ”
The first victory of his storied career came when he was three years old, at the Vernon Parish Fair when he won the goat roping competition.
“I never knew how good I was,” T. Berry said. “I was always just lucky enough to win enough to keep on rodeoing.”
Porter would keep it going through middle school and then high school, where he attended Leesville High and played center on the football team for head coach Bill Turner. At the age of 14, he took part in a competition against older teenagers and young adults, and that was the first time Porter knew that he could ride with the best of them.
“I thought I could beat them,” T. Berry said. “(Being) a cowboy is little bit different than athlete. You know you’re not going to win all of them, and you have to be a little lucky. I always felt that I could ride as good as they could.”
At the age of 15, Porter joined his first official rodeo organization, the Cowboy Turtles Association (CTA), at an event in Beaumont, because they would not allow him to rope without having dues paid. Porter would remain a member with CTA until it was rebranded the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) and finally the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
Porter would graduate from LHS and tried his hand at college but realized that institutions of higher learning weren’t for him.
“I went for a quarter at LSU and I was too smart so I quit,” he laughed. “Then I went to McNeese for a year but that was it.”
Porter already knew what he was supposed to do with his life — rodeo.
Porter would cross the state and take part in competitions from Shreveport to Baton Rouge to Lafayette, all the while practicing his craft every day in between on his ranch.
“If you are not practicing, then somebody else is,” T. Berry said.
In 1949, all of that hard work would pay off as Porter would claim his sport’s highest honor — the World Champion Calf Roper title.
The 22-year-old rookie drove to New York City in his 1948 Pontiac, pulling his homemade horse trailer behind him for a competition that lasted nearly an entire month. Porter would take part in 42 performances in 28 days at Madison Square Garden.
“It took a lot longer in those days,” Tea Berry said. “My horses stayed underneath the Garden itself and I stayed for the month at the old Capitol Hotel on Broadway across from the Garden.”
He received his championship saddle from the singing cowboy himself, Gene Autry. Then, Porter rode his horse down Broadway.
“I was never one to really highlight things like that,” T. Berry said of all the pageantry that came with that title. “I just try to tend to my business. I rode a horse down Broadway and all that, but it was just another day. The next day I loaded up my horses and went on to Boston for another rodeo.”
Porter would go on to dominate the season in 1949, winning the calf roping title at the World Rodeo at the Boston Garden, then a trio of titles at Fort Smith, Arkansas. In the decades that followed, Porter would pick up titles, or place, from coast to coast at events like the Cheyenne Frontier Days, Calgary Stampede, and big rodeos in Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, and of course across Louisiana, in which he was awarded the Crawfish Belt Buckle for Best Louisiana Cowboy.
In his lengthy career, Porter won or placed at all the major PRCA events — Dallas, Denver, Salinas, and Fort Smith). He was a member of the Wrangler Rodeo Team in the 1950s. For some time, his image adorned the sales pouch on the back pocket of each pair of Wrangler jeans.
Porter was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 2015.
“I did the best I could,” he said. “I was just hoping that I could win. As a rodeo cowboy you always got to feel like you are going to win.”
Despite getting his picture taken with a celebrity and riding his horse down Broadway, Porter never stopped working. In addition to working the circuit, Porter ran the family filling station, hauled garbage, drove a school bus for three decades, ran a sporting goods/western store, moved houses, and ran his own massive ranch.
Porter also made rodeo a family affair as all four of his children — daughters Judy, Cathy, Lindy, and son David — became high school and amateur rodeo champions. That was passed down to his grandchildren as well.
“We learned work ethic in our household,” daughter Judy Porter Weisgerber said. “We were taught to compete fairly and honestly. You learn to win and learn to lose graciously.
“We never thought we were different,” she said. “We just worked hard and competed and competed to win.”
Humility was more important in the Porter household than the hundreds of belt buckles and trophies Porter brought home from his years on the rodeo circuit.
“If you were good, then you didn’t need to tell people that you were good,” T. Berry said. “Your actions speak louder than your words.”
“It was just how I was raised,” he said. “What hurts me is when I see these professional cowboys turn people down—you know, turn the fans away. There was the one time when Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker) from Bonanza was at a rodeo with me. There was this lady there in the stands with a little boy and she said ‘Hoss, I went to school with you.’ She had the old yearbook, and he said, ‘I don’t have time.’ That never sat well with me.”
Porter didn’t just make time for regular folks, but he also made time for the younger generation of rodeo cowboys. He worked for free as a barrier judge at the National High School Rodeo Finals from 1966 to ’75.
The family ranch also became known as a welcoming place for traveling rodeo cowboys, as well as younger ones searching for guidance from Louisiana’s first professional rodeo cowboy.
“I never turned down a kid,” Tea Berry said. “I always tried to make time to talk to them.”
“He never turned away anyone to share his knowledge,” Judy said. “That is just the cowboy way. That is the type of camaraderie that cowboys or rodeo athletes in general have. That is something other sports don’t have. Cowboys will help you out, and my father always did.”
In the 1960s, Porter began slowing down as a rodeo cowboy after his first wife, Dorothy Wampler, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She would be confined to a wheelchair for 15 years before passing away in 1982. His wife’s illness slowed his career, but it didn’t stop it — and it didn’t prevent the Porter household from keeping mama involved.
“That was never up for discussion,” Judy said. “She was right there with us. We practiced every day and every night and she was right there.”
“We just put her and her wheelchair into the truck and went to the rodeo,” David said. “That is what we did. Family first.”
Porter also never shied away from being proud of being not only from the state of Louisiana, but also from Vernon Parish.
“I never shunned Leesville, Louisiana,” said Porter, the first man to carry the state flag at the 1959 National Finals Rodeo in Dallas. “I was always proud that I was from here.”