What’s a celebration in our state without plenty of tasty food, a festive serving of homegrown musical talent, fun for kids of all ages, and laughter and inspiration for all?
Louisiana’s biggest summertime sports showcase unfolds in Natchitoches next weekend, and it’s all that and more.
Kickoff is Thursday, June 23, celebrating the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, a dozen men and women whose accomplishments have indelibly altered the state’s sports landscape – and in the case of the nine athletes and coaches being inducted, they have made waves on the national and even in some cases, world sports circles.
WORLD? Dr. Eddie Flynn, from Loyola University in New Orleans, won an Olympic gold medal in boxing. Opelousas native Steve Duhon stopped playing football, quite well, at LSU to start a career that landed him in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
On the national stage, the Class of 2022 has a pair of NFL stars who both played in six Pro Bowls — New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans, a key in the Black and Gold’s Super Bowl triumph, and Ruston native and resident Kyle Williams, who was part of LSU’s 2003 national championship team, later an All-American for the Tigers, and one of the most impactful players in Buffalo Bills history. Another former Tiger great, the late Eric Andolsek, was emerging as one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen before his untimely loss.
In the 50th anniversary year of Title IX, the LSHOF celebrates two of LSU’s best female student-athletes: three-time NCAA gymnastics champion and SEC women’s Athlete of the Year Susan Jackson, and two-time All-America softball pitcher Britni Sneed Newman.
There’s fabulous coaches, too. Only one coach in the history of high school sports in America has won more state championships than Claney Duplechin’s 65 titles in cross country and track at Episcopal High in Baton Rouge. The late Tony Robichaux is the only college baseball coach in the country to be the all-time winningest coach at two different programs (McNeese, UL Lafayette) in the same state.
Sports journalists Teddy Allen and Garland Forman are still producing spellbinding stories, and administrator Jay Cicero continues to stage world-class sports events in New Orleans. He started with the 1992 USA Olympic Trials and has been a guiding force behind the scenes in Super Bowls, Final Fours and national championship games.
It’s a dynamic dozen comprising the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, and their Induction Celebration is open to everyone in and around our community.
The Class of 2022 will enter the Hall officially Saturday, June 25, at a ceremony in the Natchitoches Events Center to culminate the weekend. It will mark the 50th anniversary of the first LSHOF induction in Natchitoches, when Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle was enshrined in a ceremony at halftime of a Northwestern State basketball game, after a celebratory dinner at the home of NSU President Dr. Arnold Kilpatrick.
There’s a lot more to the festivities now, and there’s no cost to attend several of the events, beginning Thursday evening with the La Capitol Welcome Reception from 5-7 at the downtown museum.
The 2022 Induction Celebration will kick off with that Thursday evening reception at the $23 million, nine-year-old LSHOF Museum.
The three-day festivities include two receptions, a free youth clinic, a bowling party, and a free Friday night riverbank concert in Natchitoches with fireworks and hot music.
Opening the show at 6 will be rising country and rock musician M.J. DarDar of Lafayette, followed by headliner Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Playboys, who lit up the Rue Beauport stage at the 2019 River Fest and have played the White House, Wheel of Fortune and with musicians as diverse as James Brown, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and Britney Spears.