Playing for father, around other Louisiana greats special to Stokley
Family, friends and teammates were a common thread at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame press conference Thursday in Natchitoches.
For Brandon Stokley, he’s been surrounded by a high-quality group of family, friends and teammates for much of his life.
His father, Nelson, was a quarterback at LSU and the first-ever recipient of the Corbett Award, given to the top amateur athlete in Louisiana, and later coached him at UL Lafayette.
“I grew up around football,” Stokley said. “Playing football was natural to me.”
Ironically, though, Stokley did not play football his sophomore and junior years at Comeaux High before returning to the sport for his senior season, when he caught 80 passes, setting the stage for him to head across town and suit up for his father’s team.
Those five years in a Cajuns uniform, while they would set the stage for an NFL career that included two Super Bowl rings and a record setting touchdown catch from Peyton Manning, would have their own significant place in Stokley’s career.
“It was awesome. It was special,” said Stokley. “Anyone who’s been around a coach knows they put in a lot of hours. Being able to see my dad every single day for five years, I always look back on those times among the tops I’ve had in my life.
“It goes beyond wins and losses. Every day, to see how he interacted with his coaches and players was special.”
One of those coaches was Lewis Cook, who was the Cajuns’ offensive coordinator for two seasons and is also in the 2018 induction class for his 300-plus wins as a high school coach.
Stokley’s college and professional teammates included some of the greats in Louisiana history.
Jake Delhomme, Stokley’s quarterback in Lafayette, had his induction here three years ago. Stokley’s teammate with the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne, is also in this year’s class. And his quarterback for four of those NFL seasons, Peyton Manning, is a virtual lock to headline the 2019 induction class in Natchitoches, two years before he gets enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
“I thought receivers make the quarterbacks, right, Reggie?” Stokley joked in the direction of Wayne.
“If you’ve got a great quarterback, it helps you out so much. Accuracy and anticipation. Jake helped developed me, and spending four years with Peyton taught me so much.”
Stokley, Wayne, Cook and five other competitive ballot selections – 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 – will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night at the Natchitoches Events Center. Candies will be honored posthumously.
Also being honored on Saturday are the two recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, broadcaster Lyn Rollins and Lake Charles American Press sports editor Scooter Hobbs, and the 2018 Dave Dixon Leadership Award winner, former Saints special teams standout and ALS advocate Steve Gleason.
Saturday night’s induction will be televised live on CST beginning at 7 p.m.
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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;…