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Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame: Saturday’s induction may never be matched

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, June 29, 2015

ANI Jake Delhomme Jake Delhomme played football at the University of Lafayette and in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers. Delhomme led the Panthers to the Super Bowl XXXVIII in his first season. He is one of the 2105 inductees in
Former Teurlings Catholic and UL quarterback Jake Delhomme waves to the crowd as he’s inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday in Natchitoches.(Photo: Melinda Martinez/The Town Talk)

I’ve been to quite a few Louisiana Sports Writers Convention events over the years.

Believe it or not, though, I had never been to a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony before Saturday night.

What a way to end that drought.

It was sort of like the first Super Bowl you ever saw being the one the New Orleans Saints won.

With three crown jewels being inducted as athletes and coach in Jake Delhomme, Kevin Faulk and Yvette Girouard, there obviously wasn’t a better time to be there than Saturday night’s event in Natchitoches.

I guess you can never really say never, but I seriously doubt there will ever be another Louisiana Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will impact more hearts and lives of the sports fans in Lafayette Parish than what many of us witnessed Saturday.

Just think about it.

In Jake, you’ve got a small-town, former Class 1A quarterback from Teurlings Catholic.

There’s that appeal of the small-school athlete who made it to the top with hard work, dedication and that never-say-die attitude. That’s such a big part of the Cajun mentality.

During his time with the Rebels, Jake took Teurlings from 1-9 to the state semifinals.

Then he went to UL and quenched a dry spot in Cajun football history after barely being recruited out of high school.

During Jake’s time at Cajun Field, he helped erase the sour memories of 2-8-1 and 2-9 with three straight winning seasons and then a fourth one that included the infamous upset win over Texas A&M during a 5-6 campaign against the toughest schedule in school history.

After not being drafted, he fought through several practice-squad years to eventually get a chance to start for the Carolina Panthers.

As the story goes, KPEL radio called the Panthers prior to the season to inquire about the possibility of joining the Panthers radio network. The inquiry shocked the Panthers’ official. After all, Jake was still a back-up quarterback to Rodney Peete at the time.

That guy, however, hadn’t quite learned yet what the fans around here already knew about Jake Delhomme.

And as if all of those traits didn’t touch enough people, Jake’s also heavily connected in the horse racing industry.

His appeal is so far-reaching.

And how about Kevin?

Before Kevin Faulk, no high school football program in Lafayette Parish had ever won a state football championship.

Not only did Faulk lead the Golden Bears to the 1992 state crown, but did so winning the gratitude of a small town like Carencro. As fellow Golden Bear and Saturday’s presenter Ed Cormier suggested, Faulk helped to put Carencro on the map.

And you’d have to be blind not to notice all the LSU Tigers’ football fans there are in Lafayette Parish and throughout the Acadiana area. Faulk is still one of the elite performers ever to play at LSU.

More than that, he “Brought Back the Magic” as the centerpiece figure in the turnaround of LSU football. Before Kevin Faulk, LSU had endured six consecutive losing seasons. Since Faulk arrived in Baton Rouge, the Tigers have only had two losing seasons in the next 20 years.

Two decades from now, I expect to still be saying that Kevin Faulk is the greatest athlete this parish has ever produced.

So many groups, so many cultures, so many classes of people have been touched by Kevin and Jake and we haven’t even gotten to Yvette yet.

Folks, it’s no secret. The UL softball program has been the best thing that’s happened to the Cajun athletic department in terms of national recognition over the past 25 years.

I realize that some UL diehards still haven’t gotten over her leaving for LSU 20 years into her coaching career, but there’s just no denying the impact Yvette’s had on the program Michael and Stefni Lotief still have flying as high as ever.

On Saturday, Yvette clearly illustrated how far she’s helped to take the opportunities for female athletes in Lafayette Parish since her unfulfilled playing days of the late 1970s.

That fact alone attracts a lot of hearts in her corner, not to mention all the Ragin’ Cajun fans who still relish her bringing the Vermilion-and-White to No. 3 in the country.

Indeed, Saturday night was a one-of-a-kind experience.

There’s just something about a group of familiar faces from the same area meeting at a statewide, out-of-town event.

It brings out so much pride. The impact of the careers of these three superstars made that so easy to do.

No, I really don’t think there will ever be another Saturday night in late June for this parish like the one we enjoyed this past weekend.

Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas.

Click here for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame website.