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Hall of Fame inductees honored

Achievements, character focus of 2007 Induction Ceremonies

NATCHITOCHES – Eight of the top athletes and sports figures in Louisiana history were honored here Saturday night, and became a part of a special family as members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

And many of those new inductees made sure that families got the credit while accepting the state’s top sports honor

"I only had two goals in my whole life," said former UL and NFL standout Brian Mitchell. "The first was to make my mother happy, and the second was to make my dad proud of me."

Mitchell accomplished both, and along the way accomplished more than enough to be a part of the 2007 induction class for the Hall of Fame that was honored Saturday at the Natchitoches Events Center.

Mitchell joined football stars Stan Humphries and Pat Swilling, former Ragin’ Cajun women’s basketball standout Kim Perrot, track and field Olympic gold medalist Esther Jones, Tulane basketball star Warren Perkins, record-setting prep basketball coach Joel Hawkins and Negro League baseball icon Willard Brown as honorees in the annual ceremonies.

Mitchell’s parents weren’t the only family members on hand as part of the record 650 in attendance Saturday, and they weren’t the only ones getting the credit for the success of their sons and daughters.

"My mother and father gave me everything I ever needed," said Humphries, who quarterbacked Northeast Louisiana to a Division I-AA national title before an NFL career. "My dad hung a tire between some trees in the back yard for me to throw footballs, he built a pitchers’ mound in the back and put up a basketball hoop in the front. I had every chance."

"I’m here today because of my family," said Swilling, one of the leaders of the New Orleans Saints’ famed "Dome Patrol" linebacker corps. "I’m here because I always believed I could do anything that Pat Swilling wanted to do, and I never had anybody tell me I couldn’t, especially my family."

The proudest family in attendance, though, might have been the Perrot clan. Their sister and daughter Kim, the leading scorer in UL women’s basketball history and a two-time WNBA champion with the Houston Comets, was honored posthumously with her 1999 death after a fight with cancer.

"There’s a lot I can say about Kim because she’s my sister," said older sister Loretta Perrot. "But there’s a lot more I can say about who she was and for what kind of person she was.

"It took the calling of basketball for people to realize who she was, and to see her courage and spirit, and that’s something that’s still with us."

"You don’t go into a Hall of Fame just because you’re a great player," said then-Comets coach Van Chancellor. "You go in because you’re a great person. … Most of us have the opportunity to influence one or two people in our lives. She influenced thousands."

"Kim was a good friend of mine," said Mitchell, whose career paralleled Perrot’s at then-USL. "Her family should be proud of her

Saturday’s Hall of Fame ceremony showed that greatness knows no era. Two of the honorees, Perkins and Brown, completed their athletic careers over a half-century ago. Perkins was a participant in the NBA’s first-ever game after a stellar career at Tulane, while Brown was a Negro League standout for nearly two decades.

Some of those eras came before the amenities that is now an integral part of the Hall of Fame, whose planned facility will be a beacon of cutting-edge technology.

"They called and asked for color pictures when I was inducted," Perkins said, "and I told them they didn’t make color in those days. They asked for film of me, and I told them I was in some silent movies."

Hawkins’ record-setting coaching career straddled those eras, and it was a career he planned out early after being the 12th of 12 children.

"When I was nine years old a teacher asked me what I wanted to be, and the other kids were saying they wanted to be firemen, doctors or policemen," Hawkins said. "I said I wanted to be a basketball coach. She asked me how I knew that at age nine, and I said it was because I knew it at age six."

It was hard for Hawkins to condense 43 years of coaching into three minutes, the time allotted for each presenter and inductee. The challenge, just as it had been for the 245 previous inductees, was tough for all of Saturday’s class.

"It’s appropriate," said Mitchell’s presenter, long-time friend Gill Walker. "I remember what Brian could do in such a short period of time, how many games he won in less time than that. I’m proud of him as a native son of Louisiana."

"These people here tonight played and coached because they loved it," Mitchell said, "and our state is better because of them. "I’ve got this Super Bowl ring on, but this (his Louisiana plaque) means more to be because it’s from the people here."

Melenda Martinez/(Alexandria) Town Talk

Loretta Perrot, sister of the late Houston Comets basketball player Kim Perrot, attends the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration on Saturday in Natchitoches.