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, attended in person by nearly 600 and seen live over Cox Sports Television in 18 states.
The 11-person induction group 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 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.”
The members of the long-awaited Class of 2020 dreamed big and delivered even bigger for the Sportsman’s Paradise.
Inducted into the Hall as an outdoorsman, Phil Robertson started hunting at 11 years old and eventually converted his passion into the world-renowned Duck Commander brand that launched the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty.” The Robertson roots are a threadbare existence in north Caddo Parish at Vivian.
“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.”
Joan Cronan, who was named the recipient of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award., grew up in Opelousas and graduated from LSU before coaching three sports at Northwestern State for one year. Over 30 years as women’s athletics director at the University of Tennseee, she helped coach Patt Head Summit turn the Lady Vols into the best-recognized program in women’s sports before eventually taking the reins of the entire UT athletic department.
“It’s so much fun (to be in Natchitoches),” said Cronan, a self-described Cajun with orange blood. “Over 50 years ago, my husband came here to Natchitoches to get his master’s degree, and I became the volleyball coach, the basketball coach and the tennis coach. It’s a very special place, and we’ve always loved it.”