Delayed but not denied, the 2020 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction class finally took center stage Saturday night inside the Natchitoches Events Center.
And despite the two years between induction ceremonies, little changed during the 61st induction ceremony.
The 11-person induction class lived up to its billing of a diverse class, but the themes that permeated their presentations and induction speeches were generally similar.
From family members or coaches or teammates or co-workers – and of course, their Louisiana roots — the feelings of gratitude remained as consistent as they were ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, which twice delayed the group’s official induction into the state’s sports shrine.
Whether it was the self-professed “city boy” from New Orleans like Kerry Kittles or the sweet, smooth shooting small-town girl from Bienville Parish in Lady Techster basketball great Angela Turner Johnson, those Louisiana roots run deep.
“Growing up in Shady Grove, it was such a small community, but we had a sense of family,” Turner-Johnson said “If someone did something wrong, our parents knew before we got home because everybody cared about everybody. Mr. Edward Mason, our principal, instilled in us to be the best we can be. He wanted us to not let our humble beginnings get in the way of us dreaming big.”
She was among four Lincoln Parish inductees, joined by fellow Tech graduate (both have bachelors’ and master’s degrees) and world-renowned outdoorsman Phil Robertson, along with Grambling graduates Ronnie “The King’ Coleman, an eight-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilder who earned cum laude honors in accounting at GSU, and prep football coaching legend Mackie Freeze.
The members of the long-awaited Class of 2020 dreamed big and delivered even bigger for the Sportsman’s Paradise.
In high school and college, Robertson’s talents were on the gridiron, but football didn’t rivet him like hunting did.
Robertson discovered his passion for hunting at 11 years old and ultimately converted it into the world-renowned Duck Commander brand that launched the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty.”
“I told my Ma, ‘I’m not going to school today. I’m going duck hunting,’” Robertson recalled. “She said, ‘Go get us some.’ I walk to Little Lake, and I’m poaching. I see three green-winged teal and a pintailed hen flying together. They come right at me, and I empty my gun. Boom. Boom. Boom. I got two of them. I stripped naked, jumped in the water got my ducks, put my clothes back on and jogged home.
“I ran in the door and told my Pa, who was sitting by the header, ‘Paw, I’ve struck’ He said you got a teal and a pintail, tell your mom to cook them and we’ll eat. I’ve been chasing them ever since.”
Robertson, 75, was far from the oldest inductee spotlighted Saturday night.
After starting the Richwood High School football program with a $350 budget, Mackie Freeze captured four straight state championships from 1961-64, continuing the success he began as an undefeated pitcher for Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones’ Grambling baseball teams during his college career. He played in the first football game he ever saw, thanks to Grambling icon Eddie Robinson recognizing his ability.
At 94 years old, Freeze became the oldest living inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, doing so with his trademark positivity.
“To be invited to this beautiful presentation makes my day, and I wouldn’t want to be in any other place on the globe than right here, right now,” Freeze said.
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