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Athletics: Sports Hall of Fame to have distinct Cajun flavor

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, October 15, 2014



2015 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (Photo: Gannett)



It’s not like Acadiana has never been represented in a big way during a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction weekend in Natchitoches.

From golfers Jay and Lionel Hebert to tennis star Chanda Rubin to women’s basketball standout Kim Perrot to a host of world-famous jockeys to such special UL stars such as Brian Mitchell and Andrew Toney, this area’s hardly been ignored by the selection committee over the years.

No June induction ceremony, however, has ever had more of a Cajun Country flavor as the one that will take place June 27, 2015.

Arguably the area’s two most popular homegrown stars in former UL quarterback Jake Delhomme and former LSU running back Kevin Faulk, along with perhaps the area’s most accomplished and controversial female sports figure in college softball coaching legend Yvette Girouard will

headline a group of eight 2015 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

The rest of the class includes NBA star Avery Johnson, horse trainer Frank Brothers, former Northeast Louisiana University coach Pat Collins, NFL cornerback Leonard Smith and St. Augustine High and Southern University coach Otis Washington.

For Acadiana, there’s just no topping a class like this.

WATCH: Kevin Faulk talks about being named to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame

"I think it’s awesome," Girouard said this week. "Truthfully, it was one of the first things that I thought of when I got the call. This is the class from Cajun Country. I just thought, ‘How cool is that?’ I’m just thrilled to be included with Jake and Kevin. To all be going in together, you can’t ask for better than that."

Girouard was in her glory years as UL’s softball coach during the time Delhomme was setting new school and state passing records with the Ragin’ Cajuns. She arrived in Baton Rouge as LSU’s softball coach two years after Faulk left the Tigers for NFL stardom.

In her mind, however, it’s not their personal relationships that will make it such a special induction ceremony next summer.

"In the end, it’s just about a boy from Breaux Bridge, a boy from Carencro and a girl from Broussard," Girouard said. "Three (kids) from small towns in Cajun Country who had dreams and worked hard to achieve them.

"I can’t wait to spend that weekend with those two guys. It’s going to be a great honor, and a lot of fun."

All three left Acadiana at different stages of their careers, but their hearts never departed.

Faulk, for instance, came almost immediately back to his roots at Carencro High once his 13-year NFL career with the New England Patriots concluded. He’s currently serving as the Golden Bears’ offensive coordinator.

"This is my role in life as a football player," Faulk said. "To come back and try to help these kids to show them that some of the decisions they make aren’t right and try to guide them in the right direction."


Photo Gallery HERE

Delhomme can be found nearly every Friday night in the stands watching the Teurlings Catholic Rebels play, or in a gym somewhere coaching his daughter’s youth basketball games.

"This is a very special honor," Delhomme said. "It’s real humbling. I’ve never played for any kind of awards or accolades. I mean that, but I’m extremely honored by this.

"To be in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame where I’m from, where I played high school and college ball, it’s beyond what I ever dreamed of as a kid."

Each Friday night as Delhomme walks up the ramp and into the stands at a high school football field somewhere in the area, he sees himself in the little kids running around playing an impromptu game of pick-up football behind the stands.

Long before the average football fan knew Jake Delhomme as the star quarterback, he was just a kid who spent his time playing football with cups or whatever he could find to use as a ball instead of actually watching the high school game his family was attending.

"That was high school football to me," Delhomme laughed. "Every time I see those stinky, dirty kids running around at the games, I just chuckle, because that was me."

Ironically, Delhomme’s public football life began without any fanfare at all. He played on 1-9 Rebels’ teams in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

By his junior year, Delhomme’s competitive nature was evident. The Rebels had a winning season at 6-5. By his senior season, Teurlings was 10-4 and made it all the way to the state semifinals.

I can still hear former Vermilion Catholic head coach Ossie Blaize telling me over and over, "Got to get to Del-Home!, Got to get to Del-Home!"

I can still see the faces of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State committee members when I told them Delhomme should be the first-team All-State quarterback over Evangel’s Josh Booty.

(They didn’t agree, but fortunately Delhomme had enough of a blue-collar approach that he intercepted nine passes that year as a part-time defensive player. He, ironically, made it as a first-team defensive back.)

As a true freshman at UL, it took him all of about one half of football before taking over as the starter and his career with the Ragin’ Cajuns ended four seasons later as the state’s all-time leading collegiate passer with 9,216 yards and 64 touchdowns.

In pro ball, he helped win a World Bowl title in 1999 with the Frankfurt Galaxy.

And after several different stints as a backup with the New Orleans Saints, he got his big break with the Carolina Panthers in 2003 and made the most of it.

Like at UL, it took one half in the season opener for coach John Fox to look Delhomme’s way, and he delivered with a record eight game-winning drives that season and led the Panthers all the way to the Super Bowl.

While at the Super Bowl in Houston, he completed the longest TD pass in Super Bowl history – an 85-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad. He finished his NFL career with 20,975 yards, 126 touchdown passes and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2005.

And a ton of respect from coaches, players and fans.

In that Super Bowl appearance, Delhomme lost to none other than Faulk and the Patriots.


Photo Gallery HERE

Like Delhomme, Faulk exited his NFL career with tons of respect from teammates, coaches, fans and foes. Faulk won three Super Bowls and played in five.

He’s a part of the Patriots’ all-decade team and the franchise’s 50-year anniversary team.

Like Delhomme, Faulk never desired the attention that stardom brought, but handled it gracefully.

Always so humble and soft-spoken throughout his career, Faulk is now able to enjoy the fruits of his incredible athletic exodus.

"Since I’ve retired, I’ve had an opportunity to sit back and reflect upon my career for the first time," Faulk said. "It’s kind of fun.

"It was a great honor when I got the call (from La. Sports Hall of Fame committee). It’s a great tribute to be a part of that group, especially the Hall of Fame in the state that you come from.

"And to be able to go in with someone you know like Jake, that always makes it more fun."

Unlike Delhomme, Faulk exploded onto the Acadiana area sports scene. As a freshman, he led the Carencro Golden Bears with five interceptions as a free safety.

As a sophomore, he was the quarterback on a team with two first-team All-State caliber backs and won the state title game MVP award when Carencro beat Neville 28-27 in overtime to win Lafayette Parish’s first football season crown in the Superdome.

For so long, I had heard high school football fans herald New Iberia’s Johnny Hector as the area’s best homegrown football talent, and perhaps some haven’t changed their views.

Many, though, did once they saw Faulk play. He was a two-time state MVP and then a USA Today All-American.

Just as high school recruiting was about to become the second biggest sport in the South, Faulk gave the Acadiana football fans an early glimpse of that process.

He could have gone anywhere he wanted and yet, from Pete’s sports bar, he told the nation he was staying in the state and going to LSU.

In those days, LSU wasn’t a national powerhouse. Far from it. Faulk set the stage for the Tigers and primed fans to begin thinking big once again.

He finished his career at LSU as the SEC’s second all-time leading rusher with 4,557 yards, trailing only Herschel Walker.

Faulk also finished his college career with 6,833 all-purpose yards, which ranked him first in SEC history and fifth in NCAA history.

Throughout his career, however, Faulk has always been more about the impact than the numbers.

"To receive an honor like this isn’t something you ever even think about when you’re a 15, 16 or 17-year old kid," Faulk said.


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Meanwhile, Girouard blazed more than a few trails herself, and the impact of her career can be seen every time Ragin’ Cajun softball fans file into Lamson Park on Cajundome Boulevard.

Being a college softball Hall of Fame coach was the farthest thing from Girouard’s mind after graduating from Comeaux High in 1976.

She coached softball for three years at Lafayette High and then they made her mad.

Some rezoning issues arose and the Lions had to trim their department’s staff by one coach.

It was Girouard.

She returned to Comeaux High for one season, but she still wasn’t happy about what had transpired.

"I loved coaching," she said. "I worked hard at it. I didn’t think it should have been me. I was very disenchanted after that."

So when UL women’s athletic director Sherry LeBas approached Girouard about the Cajuns starting a softball program in 1981, she left her days of working at the family restaurant, Ton’s, in Broussard.

"Had that not happened, I might not have ever coached college softball," Girouard mused.

Instead, she entered into a brave new world of college softball and began a journey that has landed her in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Billy Cannon, Shaquille O’Neal, Pete Maravich, Ron Guidry, Bo Lamar and Andrew Toney.

"It (softball) was just a passion for me," Girouard said.

"An honor like this isn’t something I ever dreamed of back then. Back then, I was dreaming about what our next uniform was going to look like."

In those early days, the Lady Cajuns played on makeshift fields in the Cajun Field parking lot. Within a decade, though, Girouard had the program hosting NCAA Regionals and going to the Women’s College World Series.

"When we hosted that first regional (in 1990), it was so exciting," she said. "It was like the Super Bowl to us."

By the time she left UL’s program for LSU in 2001, Girouard had led the Cajuns to three WCWS appearances, highlighted by a third-place finish in 1993.

While at LSU, she went to two more world series and finished third both times.

Her career record is 1,285-421-1.

But like her male counterparts in this year’s Hall of Fame class, Girouard’s impact can be seen in more than records and statistics.

When she began UL’s program in 1981, many LSWA Hall of Fame committee members would have laughed at the notion that one day a college softball coach would be inducted into the same Louisiana Hall of Fame as Eddie Robinson or Paul Dietzel.

That little girl from Broussard made sure she proved them all wrong.