NATCHITOCHES - Brandon Stokley and Jerry Simmons, the all-time leading receiver in Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football history and the winningest coach in Ragin' Cajuns men's tennis, are among a class of eight chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
High school championship coach Lewis Cook, a former assistant for the Ragin' Cajuns football team, six-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, 18-year Major League Baseball pitcher Russ Springer and NBA champion and two-time Grambling All-American Larry Wright are among the 2018 class that includes 1975 Bassmaster Classic champion Jack Hains and the late Paul Candies, a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2018 will be enshrined Saturday, June 30, in Natchitoches to culminate the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 28-30.
A record-setting star for the Ragin' Cajuns, .Stokley played wide receiver for five NFL teams over a 15-year career, appearing in 152 games, and had 397 catches for 5,339 yards (13.4 yards per catch) and 39 TDs. His best season was in 2004 with the Colts, when he teamed with Manning for 68 receptions, 1,077 yards and 10 TDs. Stokley added 46 receptions for 647 yards and seven TDs in 15 postseason games, helping the Baltimore Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. That night, he caught seven passes for 91 yards in a 34-7 rout of the New York Giants, scoring the first points of the game on a 38-yard TD grab from Trent Dilfer in the first quarter.
Stokley entered the NCAA football record book while playing for the Ragin' Cajuns from 1995-98, becoming the first Division I player to average 100 receiving yards a game in three different seasons (101.9 in 1995, 105.5 in 1996 and 106.6 in 1998). As a freshman, his 1,121 receiving yards was an all-division NCAA freshman record -- even though he didn't start a game that year because his father, head coach Nelson Stokley, didn't want to show favoritism.
With the Ragin' Cajuns, he had 241 catches for 3,702 yards and 25 TDs despite playing in only four games as a junior because of a torn ACL. At the end of his career, he ranked ninth all-time in Division I-A in career yardage (3,702) and 10th in catches (241). At Comeaux High in Lafayette, Stokley was a basketball and baseball standout who only played football in his senior season, but made the Class 5A all-state team after leading the state with 80 receptions for 946 yards.
The winningest tennis coach in LSU, UL Lafayette and Louisiana history (career record of 492-197-2 in 26 years), Simmons is the second winningest coach in Southeastern Conference history behind only the legendary Dan Magill of Georgia. He is one of the top 10 winningest NCAA Division I coaches of all-time.
Simmons led LSU to 13 NCAA appearances, all of which were at least to the Round of 16, in 15 years. He was named National, Regional, SEC and Louisiana Coach of the Year in 1988, when he led LSU to a school-record 27 wins (only 2 losses) and to the National Championship match. LSU was ranked No. 1 in the nation for four weeks in 1988, a first in school history.
He coached Donni Leaycraft to the 1989 NCAA Singles title, the first Grand Slam victory in school history. Simmons coached Johan Kjellesten to the 1989 Clay Court Singles title, the second Grand Slam victory at LSU. Tiger players earned 24 All-America honors and 34 All-SEC honors in 15 years under Simmons, and he had players earn 23 Academic All-SEC honors. His teams won 138 SEC dual matches in career, second in league history to Magill.
In 1998, Simmons was the youngest coach ever inducted into the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, and is also in the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame. He was the first person to introduce corporate sponsorship to collegiate tennis with the USL Rolex Tennis Classic in 1977. He organized ESPN's first televised college tennis match in 1979, served as tournament director of the Nokia Sugar Bowl tennis event from 1994-98 and is tour director of 2013 LSHOF inductee Chanda Rubin's American ITF. During his time with the Ragin' Cajuns as head coach from 1973-82, Simmons guided Louisiana to six Southland Conference titles.
His record at LSU was 278-105, and at UL Lafayette he was 214-92-2 in 11 years. Along with the 1988 NCAA title match, his LSU teams advanced to the NCAA Final Eight in 1987-89-91-92, the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1984-85-86-90-93-95-96-97 and made NCAA appearances in 1984-85-86-87-88-89-90-91-92-93-95-96-97.
Cook, who spent eight years on the offensive staff for the Ragin' Cajuns (1981-84, 1992-95), has led three different high schools to 30 state playoff appearances in 32 years as a head coach with 23 district and four state titles, three at Notre Dame of Crowley. At the outset of the 2017 season, Cook had a 333-81 career record, ranking him third in Louisiana history among active coaches and fifth all-time in the state with each of the coaches ahead of him already inducted into the LSHOF (J.T. Curtis, Jim Hightower, Red Franklin and Don Shows). During his time with the Ragin' Cajuns, he coached six eventual NFL players, including Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member Jake Delhomme and Stokley.
His .804 winning percentage, which is fourth-best in state history, includes a playoff record of 73-26 with four state titles, 11 trips to the state championship game and 17 semifinal berths. His 1989 Crowley team won the 3A state title, and he followed with state crowns at Notre Dame in 2000 and 2009 in 3A and 2015 in 2A. Cook has won 23 district titles -- including 10 in a row -- and has been the state coach of the year six times in three different classes. He also was the head coach at Rayne High, his alma mater, from 1977-80.
Hains is only the second outdoorsman elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, preceded by Grits Gresham (1988). Candies is the second motorsports great ever chosen for enshrinement, along with three-time world motorcycle racing champion Freddie Spencer (2009).
Cook and Hains will become only the third set of inductees from the same Louisiana high school to enter the Hall of Fame in the same year. They were classmates and baseball teammates at Rayne High School.
Wayne and Stokley were NFL teammates from 2003-06 with the Indianapolis Colts, catching passes thrown by likely 2019 LSHOF inductee Peyton Manning. They helped the Colts win Super Bowl XLI.
The 2018 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
A 35-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2018 inductees. The panel considered a record 134 nominees from 28 different sport categories on a 30-page ballot, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
The eight new competitive ballot inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 342 competitors honored since the first induction class -- baseball's Mel Ott, world champion boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley -- were enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.
Also to be enshrined next summer will be three other Hall of Fame inductees, the winner of the 2018 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those contributor ballot inductees will be announced later this year.
The complete 11-person Class of 2018 will bring the membership in the Hall of Fame to 422 men and women, including 18 Dixon Award winners and 62 sports journalists.