Humble group of Louisiana Sports Hall of Famers arrives in Natchitoches
NATCHITOCHES – Right where they belong?
Most of the 2019 induction class of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame would tell you otherwise.
“I didn’t think they’d ever put a cowboy in here,” said 92-year-old rodeo standout T. Berry Porter, the first of his kind ever selected to the Hall.
“It’s never something you work to,” said five-time volleyball Olympian Danielle Scott, “but it’s an honor.”
“I asked myself, ‘Should I be in this collection of great ones?’” said seven-time state championship boys basketball coach Charles Smith.
Even the two Distinguished Service Award winners in Sports Journalism followed the theme.
“This is the first time I came into this building,” said veteran prep and outdoors writer Phillip Timothy, “because I didn’t think it was for me.”
Added 44-year Louisiana Tech play-by-play voice Dave Nitz, recalling his reaction during a spring visit to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum with Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland: “And they put me in here with these people?”
Indeed, they all belong, and will be enshrined among the state’s greats here Saturday night.
The rest of the induction class includes New Orleans native and four-time NFL most valuable player Peyton Manning, LSU national championship winning football coach Les Miles, longtime Southern University baseball coach Roger Cador, 1958 LSU national champion Max Fugler, former Louisiana Tech and Canadian Football League quarterback Matt Dunigan and Dave Dixon Leadership Award winner and veteran tennis official Marie Gagnard.
Only Manning was not in attendance at the weekend-opening news conference. He arrives Friday afternoon.
An emotional Fugler talked among joining that fraternity of members of the national championship team in the Hall.
“My teammates are on that wall,” he said. “It’s an honor to be associated with them.
“We were not a team. We were a bunch of friends taking care of one another.”
Miles, getting set to begin his first season as coach at the University of Kansas, was honored Wednesday night in Baton Rouge.
“My wife (Kathy), she did all the work,” Miles said. That included a bit of trickery even “The Hat” could have been proud of – anyone he talked to in advance of the event told him they were unable to attend.
As it turned out, more than 700 were in attendance.
“Those men I coached came there,” he said, “and it touched me.”
Dunigan, who ended his career in Ruston more than 35 years ago and has been a broadcaster in Canada for 20 years since his retirement, still holds the school record for career interceptions.
“I’m proud of that one,” he said. “That’s the one that builds the most character.”
Cador put the honor in perspective.
“Think about it,” he said. “We have 4 million people in Louisiana. Only 400 have made it to the Hall of Fame.”
Every once in a while, a 10,000-to-1 shot comes true. And it’s truly right where they belong.
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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…