Spotlight on Former Athlete: Girouard, Delhomme join La. Legends
Girouard, Delhomme join La. Legends
By Bruce Brown
A pioneer is someone who achieves something, or goes somewhere no one has gone before.
Yvette Girouard and Jake Delhomme fit that description.
Girouard built the softball program literally from the ground up at then-USL, starting in 1981, and created an elite presence at her alma mater that reached the Women’s College World Series three times in the 1990’s.
By the time her coaching career was complete, adding 11 seasons at LSU to her 20 years at UL, Girouard had amassed a 1,285-421-1 record.
Delhomme, UL’s career passing leader in football, joined the Carolina Panthers in 2003 after languishing on the bench as a backup quarterback for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
The Panthers had never reached the Super Bowl before his arrival, but Delhomme lit a fire under his teammates that carried them all the way to a Super Bowl date with New England, a thrilling 32-29 loss in which Delhomme threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns.
The two pioneers from the Cajun heartland were honored in June with induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches, joining a class that included football’s Kevin Faulk and Leonard Smith, horse racing’s Frank Brothers, coaches Otis Washington and Pat Collins and basketball’s Avery Johnson.
They joined a growing list of Hall of Fame members with UL connections.
Previously inducted were softball pitcher Kyla Hall Holas, who introduced Girouard at the ceremonies, track and field’s Harold Porter, Hollis Conway and Johnny Morriss, basketball’s Andrew Toney, Bo Lamar, Kim Perrot, Beryl Shipley and J.C. Dutch Reinhardt, football’s Brian Mitchell, Chris Cagle and Alvin Dark, and Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry and Mel Didier in baseball.
Playing against the boys
When Girouard was growing up in Broussard, athletic opportunities were limited for young girls. If she was going to compete, she had to play with the boys.
And, as the only female inductee in this year’s HOF class, that remains true.
“I’m tickled to death,” Girouard said. “I’m so happy to be in this class with two Acadiana boys (Delhomme and Carencro product Faulk). I’m still playing with all the guys.
“Growing up, my dad gave me my love of sports. My mom was a self-made woman, a Rosie the riveter type who gave you guts. And my brother Carl gave me my toughness.
“Other girls played with dolls. I had a football uniform. I’m not honored tonight for my Barbie collection. I have grand nieces playing softball now. When I was growing up, girls couldn’t play anything.”
Actually, Girouard played volleyball at USL from 1972-75. But she played slow pitch softball until age 18, so it was an adventure to establish a collegiate fast pitch program when called from the high school coaching ranks in 1981.
“We played at five different city parks that first year,” Girouard said.
There was a 7-15 initial season, and growing pains, but wins soon came for the Cajuns. Three-time All-American Hall Holas helped USL reach the World Series for the first time in 1993, and the school returned in 1995 and 1996.
“What defines Coach Girouard is her ability to mold strong, confident women,” said Hall Holas, currently coaching at Houston. “She made sure we said the Lord’s Prayer, and out-of-state players had to learn how to peel crawfish.
“She taught us to be part of something bigger than yourself.”
“The players deserve most of the credit,” Girouard said. “Great players make great coaches.”
Girouard, a 2005 inductee into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame, was 759-250 at USL and 526-171-1 at LSU with nine 50-win seasons and five CWS berths.
“I was a lucky girl,” she said. “I got to coach at two fabulous institutions. The third time LSU called, it was time to cross the Atchafalaya Basin. And, it made me grow.”
She grew with each challenge, but the drive was instilled at an early age. The Hall of Fame was a fitting finish.
“It’s been said that in life it’s not the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away,” Girouard said. “This moment takes my breath away.”
Leadership at an early age
Delhomme grew up in Breaux Bridge with a fierce desire to excel, even if that meant competing against those older than himself.
That desire, paired with patience, carried him to great heights, and eventually to the Hall of Fame.
“It takes an exceptional person to reach the Hall of Fame,” said Delhomme’s uncle Jack Dale Delhomme, a former coach who used to include the aspiring young athlete in workouts with older hopefuls.
“Jake always had a dream – to be an athlete. He always wanted to be the quarterback. We all daydream, but Jake made his dream come true.”
Delhomme was a starting high school quarterback at Teurlings Catholic at age 14 and helped turn the Rebels’ program around.
Expected to redshirt his first year at then-USL, he was thrust into action in the second half of his first college game and promptly led the Cajuns to three winning seasons, a perfect mark against in-state foes, a momentous 29-22 upset of Texas A&M in 1996 at Cajun Field and a 25-18 record at the helm.
“It all started with the home team,” said Delhomme, who got structure from his parents and fed his competitive nature trying to keep up with older brother Jeff. “I had a solid foundation. My root system was deep in the ground from the start.
“I wanted to belong with the big boys. That made me strive to be tough. My quarterback progression started in the 8th grade at Teurlings with (coach) Sonny Charpentier. That added to my root system.
“At UL, I was lucky that (coach) Nelson Stokley trusted a freshman quarterback. It was easy because my root system was already in place. That helped me deal with the personalities.”
Despite throwing for a school-record 9,216 yards and 64 touchdowns in his Cajun career from 1993-96, Delhomme was undrafted by NFL teams.
Undaunted, he signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints. Aside from a victory over the Dallas Cowboys late in the 1999 season, the ex-Cajun was largely ignored by the New Orleans coaching staff.
While Girouard crossed the Atchafalaya Basin to complete her career arc, Delhomme crossed the Atlantic Ocean and got seasoning (and a title) in NFL Europe while he waited for his chance to shine.
When that chance came with the Panthers in 2003, Delhomme was ready. He threw for 3,219 yards and 19 touchdowns and propelled Carolina to a Super Bowl berth.
Delhomme passed for 29 and 24 scores the next two seasons, reached the NFC Championship Game again in 2005 and passed for 120 touchdowns in seven seasons with the Panthers.
“Going to the Panthers, with the family atmosphere created by (owner) Jerry Richardson, was absolutely a perfect fit for me and my family,” Delhomme said.
Injuries marred the 2010 season in Cleveland, then Delhomme joined the Houston Texans as a veteran presence in 2011. His last NFL pass was a touchdown.
Through it all, his root system held strong, a system that continues to flourish with wife Keri (who he met at TCHS) and daughters Lauren and Lindsey.
“I’ve been on a championship team from the day I met my wife,” Delhomme said. “I’ve always felt her love, support and belief in me.”
“Jake Delhomme is a gamer,” Jack Dale Delhomme said. “And, he never forgot where he came from.”
“I want you all to know how truly happy I am to receive this honor,” Delhomme said.
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Click here for Yvette’s Athletic Network Profile.
Click here for Jake’s Athletic Network Profile.
Click here for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame website.
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