By T. Scott Boatright
After a three-year wait, the Grambling Legends Hall of Fame held their first induction banquet since 2019 as 11 names were added to the organization’s prestigious list of legends.
The Legends Hall of Fame Class of 2022 consists of Clemente Gordon, Andrew Jackson, Robert Taylor and Rodney Tureaud representing the sport of football; Shiakeia Carter, Joseph Jones and Joseph Simpson representing basketball; Dr. James Hammond and Juan Watkins representing baseball; and Yolande Small representing track and field.
Former Director of the Grambling State University World Famed Marching Band Conrad Hutchinson, Jr., was posthumously in the contributor category along with the Grambling State University Marching Band.
Hammond, a three-year letterman, was the first honoree and remembered Grambling President/Head Baseball Coach Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones.
“Prez used to tell us at times of great challenge on the diamond — he’ll yell out of the dugout, ‘Son, do you love Grambling?’ — The answer then and now is yes, I love Grambling, the place where everybody is somebody – Grambling State University.”
Watkins, a four-year starter who pitched while also playing centerfield and left field, came up next.
“As a young boy, I came to Grambling State University and left as a man,” Watkins said. To everyone at this university that has played a role — a part — in my life, I say thank you. Now I know why they say Grambling State University is a place where everybody is somebody.”
The third to be inducted was Carter, who led the Lady Tigers to three Southwestern Athletic Conference women’s basketball championships.
“Grambling made me see something in me where I knew I could exist outside of Cleveland (Texas),” Carter said. “My community and Grambling taught me the value of true relationships. I’m a better coach today because I understand true relationships based on love, support, kindness and loyalty are essential. Therefore, my path in life has centered around building up others.”
Jones could not attend events during the Legends induction but he was represented by his daughter Jayla, who delivered a message from him.
“As a student athlete, I was able to be part of the basketball program from 1972-75,” Jones said via his daughter. “It was a great honor to form lifelong friendships with my teammates. We may not communicate daily, but we can call on each other in any situation, good or bad.
“To the coaching staff at GSU, thank you for guiding me and supporting me both on and off the court. I earned some great lessons and was afforded a great life along the way.”
Simpson, who transferred to GSU from Cal-Berkley, was philosophical in his speech.
“We think about what could have been, what should have been, what would have been. Then we come to the realization that it is what is,” Simpson said. “What’s been done is done. But sometimes you get an opportunity after that happens. I would like to take this opportunity to thank so many people. So many people that supported me. …
“Treat people right. Love one another. Treat people like you want to be treated, and if you do that, everything just falls into place.”
Small thanked the late Ed Stephens, GSU’s track coach who recruited her, and her teammates during her induction speech.
“I was very young when I graduated high school,” Small said. “And coming from the islands, I was unsure of what to expect. So I went where I had friends which happened to be at Grambling. It was the greatest decision of my life.”
Gordon expressed his appreciation for the GSU quarterback who came before him.
“I’d like to thank the guys who were there before me,”” Gordon said before rattling off a list of GSU quarterbacking greats. “(James) ‘ Shack’ Harris, Doug Williams, Matthew Reed, Hollis Brent and all the quarterbacks that put in the work and paved the way for me to be the player that I was.”
Gordon surprised many in attendance concerning his age when he first fell in love with football.
“A lot of y’all don’t know I didn’t step onto a football field until the 11th grade,” Gordon said. “Before that I played basketball and baseball. That was it.’
Jackson thanked his family, co-workers and GSU coaches and staff members for making hiim the man is.
“There are so many people I can thank for where I am in my life today,” Jackson said. “Be it my professional life, my family, so many people in life. Because I didn’t get here by myself. I promise you I didn’t.”
Taylor, who was a two-time Southwestern Athletic Conference first teamer and helped lead the Tigers to back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference titles in 2000 and ’21, was a man of few words giving his speech.
“Through the sport of football I learned to be a leader,” Taylor said. “I learned to take care of myself and be a nurturer.”
Turead joked about Robinson “misleading” him while recruiting the running back who became a SWAC Running Back of the Year and an All-American that came to Grambling and found himself as a freshman playing in a fully-loaded GSU rushing corps.
“I was led astray,” Tureau snickered as laughter broke out in the audience. “Bamboozled, etc., etc. — I won’t use the rest of them.”
And Hutchinson’s wife Jeanette closed things out by praising her late husband’s genius at everything he did.