LSHOF induction about more than football for Wayne, Stokley, Cook
NATCHITOCHES – Saturday night’s Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony was capped off with three football inductees – wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley and coach Lewis Cook.
While their on-field achievements on the gridiron landed them in the Natchitoches Events Center on this night, the evening, and the message, was about so much more than football.
Wayne – the former John Ehret, University of Miami and Indianapolis Colts standout – provided many thanks in his on-stage conversation, but to two people in particular.
“My mom (Denise) … never missed a game,” said Wayne, who noted that Denise Wayne was there throughout his Pop Warner, high school, college and pro career. “She was always there. I could always look in the stands and see her there.”
He also thanked his wife, calling her “the real hall of famer in my family.”
Wayne said he does not miss the game “at all. My body feels great, finally. I felt like I did it the right way since Day 1.”
In the video preceding Wayne’s presentation, his high school coach, Billy North, said he next time he does an interview for Wayne being inducted into a hall of fame, “I expect it to be the one in Canton, Ohio.”
Wayne will become eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
Stokley, the Lafayette native who was Wayne’s teammate in Indianapolis for four seasons, talked about the clan of family and friends who would be at all of his games and rolled into visiting cities “like a tornado.”
Cook coached Stokley during his stint as UL Lafayette’s offensive coordinator that sandwiched two stints as a prep head coach totaling 33 years. He thanked many friends and colleagues for being an influence on his career, including former East St. John head coach Larry Dauterive, who Cook said “adopted me when I came out of college.”
Cook is the fifth-winningest coach in Louisiana high school football history, but his message was never about the scoreboard.
“The one thing we talk the least about is winning,” he said. “If we do the right things and work hard, winning will take care of itself. The scoreboard in life never goes off.”
The other football-connected inductee was Steve Gleason, who received this year’s Dave Dixon Leadership Award for his work as an activist for ALS. Gleason provided a video acceptance while his father-in-law, Paul Varisco, accepted the award on his behalf.
The other inductees included former LSU and major league relief pitcher Russ Springer, former Grambling and NBA standout Larry Wright, college tennis coach Jerry Simmons, fisherman Jack Hains and champion NHRA car owner Paul Candies, who was inducted posthumously.
Presented the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism were broadcaster Lyn Rollins and Lake Charles American Press sports editor Scooter Hobbs, who may have provided the night’s biggest laugh.
“They wanted me to go to a kids’ clinic today,” said Hobbs, who has won dozens of awards for his writing. “What was I going to tell them? Don’t dangle participles?”
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in 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;…