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Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame: Acadiana faves enter Sports Hall of Fame

Dan McDonald, The Advertiser, June 27, 2015

Delhomme, Faulk, Girouard among inductees

NATCHITOCHES – This weekend already has the biggest Acadiana influence in Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame history.


It may also be the most connected class in the history of the state’s sports shrine, which will welcome its newest members Saturday at the annual Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet.


“There’s a reason why we’re all here,” said former Carencro High standout Kevin Faulk, who went on to football greatness at LSU and with the NFL’s New England Patriots. “Everyone in here was able to do some spectacular things, but this weekend is all about the people we were around and the people that pushed you in this direction.


“God brought a lot of people into my life, and I’m still learning from a lot of people, including the people here today.”


Faulk was referencing Thursday’s opening activities of Hall of Fame Celebration Weekend, where he’ll join former UL standout and NFL quarterback standout Jake Delhomme and ex-Ragin’ Cajun and LSU softball coach Yvette Girouard as the honored inductees.


Those three spoke at the opening press conference along with state coaching legends Pat Collins and Otis Washington, former McNeese and NFL football standout Leonard Smith and record-setting thoroughbred trainer Frank Brothers. And while they spoke, the ties between the group members became more apparent.


“I watched Leonard play at McNeese,” said Delhomme. “I was in the stadium at ULM watching my brother play for McNeese when Coach Collins was there. I wasn’t the local folk hero that Kevin was … what he did when he was at Carencro was just legendary.”


Delhomme also used to lean on the chain-link fence next to the Cajun football practice field and watch Girouard coach the then-USL softball team. Lady Cajun Park, where Girouard won many of her 1,285 career wins, shared a fence with the football facility, and it wasn’t unusual for a lot of the football team and staff to watch the softball action.


But Delhomme’s biggest and most recent connection may have been with Brothers, who saddled winners in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes among his 2,359 career winners. Delhomme’s family has long been involved with thoroughbred racing.


“Frank’s one of the country’s most respected guys for blood lines,” he said. “There’s so many of us that are connected.”


Girouard also felt that connection, and not with just her Acadiana group.


“I can appreciate the things Coach Washington talked about,” Girouard said. “As coaches, we all share that bond, those allegiances. Coach Collins said it was all about the kids, and he’s exactly right. I couldn’t be more proud of who I’m going in here with.”


The Hall of Fame has existed in one form or another since 1958, and has grown steadily since that time – never as much as in the last two years since the $23 million Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame building was opened on Natchitoches’ Front Street. But in the nearly six decades since its inaugural class, the Lafayette and Acadiana area has never been so heavily represented with Delhomme, Faulk, Girouard and long-time area writer Glenn Quebedeaux (the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism winner) all to be formally honored at Saturday’s 6 p.m. induction ceremony at the Natchitoches Events Center.


A capacity crowd of nearly 800 will be on hand for that wrapup of a busy three days. The inductees and former Hall of Fame honorees were honored at a reception Thursday across the street from the museum, and many will take part in the Hall of Fame golf tournament at 10 a.m. today at Oak Wing in Alexandria. The Hall of Fame Foundation will also host a “tailgating” party Friday night on Natchitoches’ historic Front Street.


Faulk was a two-time Class 5A offensive MVP at Carencro and set the SEC record for all-purpose yardage while at LSU, but it was his 13-year stint with the Patriots that defines his athletic career – even though he rarely wears any of the three Super Bowl rings he earned during that time.


“I can’t imagine what it would have been like without those 13 years,” Faulk said Thursday. “I thought I knew something about football until Coach (Bill) Belichick came there. What he taught us was things that I never even thought about.”


Now he’s trying to apply that knowledge as a high school coach at his alma mater.


“Coaching was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I love kids … I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they’re successful. Every one of them had a story, and that just melts your heart as a coach because I had a story, too.”


Girouard’s story was one of perseverance. The self-proclaimed “little girl from Broussard” never had the opportunity to play college softball in the pre-Title IX days. Now, she stands as the fourth-winningest softball coach in NCAA history and took five teams to the College World Series while coaching 41 All-Americans and 16 Academic All-Americans.


“All I ever wanted to do was play,” she said. “I didn’t get that chance, but God gave me another avenue. To walk into this building, this Hall of Fame, this is beyond expectations. For all the ones that wanted to play and couldn’t, and for those who had to beg, borrow or steal in order to play, I accept this for all those people.”


Girouard also talked about her work ethic – one she says was mostly installed by her late mother – while Delhomme talked about how much success drove him..


“I didn’t play for accolades. I played to win,” he said. “There’s winning, and there’s misery. There’s nothing else.”


Delhomme found a lot of that winning at Teurlings Catholic, UL and with the Panthers, who he quarterbacked to the 2003 Super Bowl. The Breaux Bridge native helped lead the Rebels from back-to-back 1-9 seasons his first two years to a 10-4 mark as a senior, and later became Louisiana’s all-time passing leader by the time he finished his Cajun career with 9,216 yards and 64 touchdowns.


Even though he spent his early pro years on the New Orleans Saints practice squad and in NFL Europe (“I do have a ring from the World Bowl over there,” he joked), he still threw for a franchise record 19,258 yards for the Panthers in seven seasons that included three playoff berths. That helped him become part of the long line of successful NFL quarterbacks from the state.


“Football is king in Louisiana, we all know that,” he said. “I remember walking into the Superdome when I was eight or nine and watching St. Martinville play, and saying to myself I was going to play here. In high school in this state, you dream about playing in the Superdome for the state championship.


“I believe that truly separates us here. The kids here have that drive from an early age.”

Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas.

Click here for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame website.