The Louisiana Sports Writers Association

The LSWA

Steve Gleason joins LSHOF 2018 induction class as Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award recipient

February 22, 2018 News

NATCHITOCHES – Steve Gleason, whose place in New Orleans Saints history is now secondary to the impact he is making on ALS research and in the lives of thousands of victims of the disease, is the 2018 winner of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award presented by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Gleason, whose pro football career ended in 2007, turns 41 on Thursday. The announcement of his honor is timed to coincide with an evening event in New Orleans celebrating his birthday. On June 30 during the Hall of Fame’s 2018 Induction Dinner and Ceremony in Natchitoches, he will become the 18th recipient of the Dixon Award since its inception in 2005.

He earned a permanent place in Saints lore on Sept. 26, 2006, when he blocked a punt early in the first game back in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina. The play resulted in a Saints touchdown that triggered an emotional victory over their heated rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, on Monday Night Football. The Saints later commissioned a statue of Gleason’s play that stands outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Two years after retiring from the Saints, Gleason, then 34, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Gleason, along with his friends and family, started Team Gleason which is designed to generate public awareness for ALS, raise funds to help those fighting the disease, and ultimately to find a cure. His continuing efforts and his indomitable lifestyle have made national and global impact.

The Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award has been presented annually by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s 35-member Hall of Fame selection committee to an individual who has played a decisive role as a sports leader or administrator benefiting Louisiana and/or bringing credit to Louisiana on the national and international level.

Dixon Award winners are enshrined as Hall of Fame members and are featured in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum in Natchitoches.

Gleason will be among the 2018 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 30, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Dinner and Ceremonies are the highlight of the 2018 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 28, with a press conference at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.

Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, 18-year Major League Baseball pitcher Russ Springer,  NBA champion and two-time Grambling All-American Larry Wright, and 15-year NFL receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion Brandon Stokley are among the eight 2018 competitive ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

The class also includes championship coaches Lewis Cook (high school football, still active at Notre Dame of Crowley) and Jerry Simmons (LSU, UL Lafayette tennis), along with 1975 Bassmasters Classic champion Jack Hains and the late Paul Candies, a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Also honored with enshrinement in the Class of 2018 will be Pineville broadcaster Lyn Rollins and Lake Charles sportswriter Scooter Hobbs, the winners of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.

The 2018 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking $23 million, two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.

The selection of Gleason was jointly announced by Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland and LSWA president Paul Letlow. Last year’s Dixon Award recipient was NCAA women’s basketball administrator Sue Donohoe, a Pineville native and Louisiana Tech graduate.

Gleason, a Washington state native who now is a longtime New Orleans resident, came to the Saints as a practice squad player in 2000. He played in 83 games on special teams and in the secondary at safety. When the team won Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season, even though he was retired, he was awarded a Super Bowl ring by the team, and at the same ceremony, a key to the city of New Orleans by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The statue “Rebirth” was dedicated in July 2012, when a local news report said the play that inspired it “etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans’ resilience in the face of disaster.” It also was reflective of Gleason’s approach to his life.

In 2013, Team Gleason held the first Team Gleason Summit for a Cure in New Orleans where scientists and people living with ALS, their loved ones, advocates, and other came together to establish a roadmap for new treatments.

A year later, Team Gleason received donations from over 18,000 people and raised more than $1 million during the Ice Bucket Challenge. The foundation has continued to raise money in the years since with the challenge.

Also in 2014, the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living was created. The Gleason House is a residential facility, located at St. Margaret’s Skilled Nursing Residence in New Orleans, that is designed to help people with ALS live more independently. It has seven single occupancy rooms, one double occupancy room, and all rooms are equipped with PEAC technology, and other amenities.

In 2015, Gleason was selected for the George Halas Award from the Pro Football Writers Association, which is given to a player, coach or staffer who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.

Also that year came the release of the critically acclaimed documentary “Gleason” that showcased Gleason’s fight against ALS. The film received top honors from the National Board of Review and selection for the Sundance Film Festival.

In 2016, President Obama signed into law the Steve Gleason Act which allows speech generating devices, like the one Gleason uses, more accessible for patients with ALS and other neurological disorders.

Seventeen people have previously been presented the Dixon Award since its inception in 2005.

The first winner in 2005 was Randy Gregson, a New Orleans native/resident and former president of the United States Tennis Association. In 2006 the winner was Emmanuel “Boozy” Bourgeois, president of Louisiana Special Olympics since 1972.

The 2007 recipients were Don Landry, a longtime collegiate administrator and basketball coach, and Doug Thornton, the executive director of the Superdome.

In 2008, the Dixon Award went to world-renowned orthopedic Dr. James Andrews, a Homer native, LSU graduate and SEC champion pole vaulter.

The 2009 recipients were George Dement, a Bossier City boxing and youth sports activist; and “Mr. Softball” Benny Turcan, a New Orleans native and long-time state ASA softball commissioner.

In 2010 the Dixon Award winner was Gerald Boudreaux, the longtime City of Lafayette recreation director best known as one of the country’s top college basketball referees in the last three decades.

A year later, the committee honored Elmo Adolph, an Olympic and professional boxing official, and Billy Montgomery, who as a highly-regarded state legislator championed sports causes including construction of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum.

In 2012, the Dixon Award went to Marksville physician Dr. L.J. Mayeux, the former national president and chairman of the board for Ducks Unlimited renowned for his efforts to restore duck habitat across the nation.

The 2013 recipient was New Orleans businessman and sports benefactor Milt Retif, whose influence has been especially significant for American Legion baseball and Tulane baseball in his hometown.

In 2014 there were two recipients: Tynes Hildebrand, a coach and later athletics director at Northwestern State who served a decade as one of the NCAA’s top basketball officiating administrators, and Wright Waters, the longtime Sun Belt Conference commissioner.

Paul Hoolahan, the executive director and chief executive officer of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic since 1996, was presented the 2015 Dixon Award.

The 2016 winner was world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes, a Natchitoches native and LSU graduate who has become a leading figure in the field of sports-related concussion research and treatment. Donohoe was last year’s recipient.

The 2018 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 28 with the press conference and an evening reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, a bowling party and a Sunday, July 1 golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, and golf entries, along with sponsorship packages, are available through the LaSportsHall.com website.

Adding the 334 sports competitors currently enshrined, 17 previous winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 60 prior recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 411 members of the Hall of Fame prior to this summer’s ceremonies.

The 2018 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the LSWA and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame.  The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide board of directors.  For information on participation and sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com.  Standard and customized sponsorships are available.



LSWA Announces 2018 Hall of Fame Class

NATCHITOCHES –  Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, 18-year Major League Baseball pitcher Russ Springer,  NBA champion and two-time Grambling All-American Larry Wright, and 15-year NFL receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion Brandon Stokley are among eight 2018 competitive ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

The class also includes championship coaches Lewis Cook (high school football, still active at Notre Dame of Crowley) and Jerry Simmons (LSU, UL Lafayette tennis), along with 1975 Bassmasters Classic champion Jack Hains and the late Paul Candies, a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Hains is only the second outdoorsman elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, preceded by Grits Gresham (1988). Candies is the second motorsports great ever chosen for enshrinement, along with three-time world motorcycle racing champion Freddie Spencer (2009).

Cook and Hains will become only the third set of inductees from the same Louisiana high school to enter the Hall of Fame in the same year. They were classmates and baseball teammates at Rayne High School.

Wayne and Stokley were NFL teammates from 2003-06 with the Indianapolis Colts, catching passes thrown by likely 2019 LSHOF inductee Peyton Manning. They helped the Colts win Super Bowl XLI.

The Class of 2018 will be enshrined Saturday, June 30, in Natchitoches to culminate the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 28-30.

The 2018 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.

A 35-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2018 inductees. The panel considered a record 134 nominees from 28 different sport categories on a 30-page ballot, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.

The eight new competitive ballot inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 342 competitors honored since the first induction class --  baseball’s Mel Ott, world champion boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley -- were enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.

Also to be enshrined next summer will be three other Hall of Fame inductees, the winner of the 2018 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those contributor ballot inductees will be announced later this year.

The complete 11-person Class of 2018 will bring the membership in the Hall of Fame to 422 men and women, including 18 Dixon Award winners and 62 sports journalists.

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame already includes 18 Pro Football Hall of Fame members, 18 Olympic medalists including 11 gold medal winners, 10 members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, seven of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, six Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, 37 College Football Hall of Fame members, nine National High School Hall of Fame enshrinees, jockeys with a combined 16 Triple Crown victories, six world boxing champions, seven Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinees, seven College Baseball Hall of Fame inductees,  10 College Basketball Hall of Fame members, four NBA Finals MVPs, four winners of major professional golf championships, four National Museum of (Thoroughbred) Racing and Hall of Fame inductees and two Super Bowl MVPs.

Wayne, a New Orleans native and John Ehret High School product, teamed with another New Orleans native, Manning, to become one of the NFL’s most productive wide receivers, especially when it came to finding the end zone. The 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Colts, Wayne had 82 touchdown catches in his career, 69 of them from Manning from 2001-10.

Wayne was a six-time Pro Bowl pick (making it five years in a row from 2006-10) and an AP first-team All-Pro selection. For his 14-year pro career, all with Indianapolis, he caught 1,070 passes for 14,345 yards (13.4 average) and 82 TDs despite sharing the ball for his first eight seasons with Pro Football Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison. Going into the 2017 season, Wayne ranked 10th in NFL history in receptions and receiving yards after ranking seventh in catches and eighth in yards when he retired after the 2014 season.

Wayne, who played in two Super Bowls (winning against the Chicago Bears and losing to the Saints in 2009), started 197 of 211 regular-season games. He caught at least 75 passes nine seasons in a row (2004-12) and had at least 100 receptions four times (104 in 2007, 100 in ’09, a career-high 111 in ’10 and 106 in ’12 at the age of 34). Wayne had at least 1,000 receiving yards in eight of 14 years in the league with career-high 1,510 in 2007 and topped the 1,300-yard mark four times.

He had a career-best 12 TD catches in 2004 and recorded 10 in 2007 and 2009. Wayne added 93 catches for 1,254 yards and nine TDs in 21 career playoff games, catching a 53-yarder for the Colts first score in a 29-17 win over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI in Miami, where he attended college. He caught 173 passes for 2,510 yards and 20 TDs in four seasons with the Hurricanes, where he was college teammates with 2017 LSHOF inductee Ed Reed.

A right-hander from Grant Parish, Springer was a standout pitcher at LSU who played 18 major league seasons – from 1992-2010 (minus 2002) with 10 different teams. Only 73 pitchers in MLB history have more appearances than Springer (740), who also set an SEC strikeout-per-nine-innings record (14.5) as a freshman at LSU.

Springer played on three teams that went to the World Series – the 1999 Atlanta Braves, 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and 2005 Houston Astros. He was the winning pitcher for Atlanta Game 6 of the 1999 NLDS against the Mets, which clinched the National League pennant.

The Grant Parish native played for LSU from 1987-89, compiling a 19-10 career record with a 3.39 ERA and 313 career strikeouts in 252 innings pitched for the Tigers. A seventh-round pick of the New York Yankees in 1989, he made his big-league debut in 1992 with the Yankees. He logged 755 strikeouts in the big leagues in a shade over 856 innings. Springer, mostly a reliever through his career, was 36-45 overall with a 4.52 ERA, but his best two seasons were late in his career – 2007 and 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he went 10-2 with an average ERA of 2.25 and registered 111 strikeouts. In 2007 (8-1, 2.18 ERA) he was given the Darryl Kile Good Guy Award, presented annually to the Cardinals (and Astros) player who best exemplifies Kile’s traits of “a good teammate, a great friend, a fine father and a humble man.”

Of all the baseball players in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, only three -- Baseball Hall of Famers Mel Ott (22 years), Ted Lyons (21 years) and Lou Brock (19 years) -- played for more seasons in the major leagues.

A record-setting UL Lafayette star, Stokley played wide receiver for five NFL teams over a 15-year career, appearing in 152 games, and had 397 catches for 5,339 yards (13.4 yards per catch) and 39 TDs. His best season was in 2004 with the Colts, when he teamed with Manning for 68 receptions, 1,077 yards and 10 TDs. Stokley added 46 receptions for 647 yards and seven TDs in 15 postseason games, helping the Baltimore Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. That night, he caught seven passes for 91 yards in a 34-7 rout of the New York Giants, scoring the first points of the game on a 38-yard TD grab from Trent Dilfer in the first quarter.

Stokley entered the NCAA football record book while playing for the Ragin’ Cajuns from 1995-98, becoming the first Division I player to average 100 receiving yards a game in three different seasons (101.9 in 1995, 105.5 in 1996 and 106.6 in 1998).  As a freshman, his 1,121 receiving yards was an all-division NCAA freshman record -- even though he didn’t start a game that year because his father, head coach Nelson Stokley, didn’t want to show favoritism.

With the Ragin’ Cajuns, he had 241 catches for 3,702 yards and 25 TDs despite playing in only four games as a junior because of a torn ACL.  At the end of his career, he ranked ninth all-time in Division I-A in career yardage (3,702) and 10th in catches (241). At Comeaux High in Lafayette, Stokley was a basketball and baseball standout who only played football in his senior season, but made the Class 5A all-state team after leading the state with 80 receptions for 946 yards.

Wright, who teamed with 1988 LSHOF inductee Elvin Hayes on the Washington Bullets’ 1978 NBA Champion squad, was a prep and college standout in Louisiana who played six NBA seasons, and later served as the head coach at Grambling State, his alma mater.  A sharp-shooting 6-1 guard, he was a prep All-American at two schools, Richwood of Monroe and Western High School in the Washington, D.C. metro area, then was a two-time NCAA Small College All-American (1975-76) at Grambling.

After being the SWAC Player of the Year as a junior with a 25.4 scoring average for the Tigers’ only SWAC Tournament championship team, he declared for the NBA Draft and was a first-round NBA Draft pick of Washington. In four seasons with the Bullets, he scored 2,489 regular-season points in 297 games (8.4 points a game), averaging between 9.3 and 7.3 points a game each season.

After playing a season for Detroit (7.4 ppg), Wright went on to play in Europe, leading Banco DiRoma to the Italian championship in 1982-83, winning Italian Player of the Year honors in 1983. One publication named him the European Player of the Year in 1983-84 when he led the team to the European title.

In 1972, he led Richwood to the state Class 3A championship, averaging 28.9 ppg. A year later at Western HS, he led the team to the Inner City championship and the Knights of Columbus championship, earning a spot on the Parade Magazine Super 13 All-American team in 1973.

Cook has led three different high schools to 30 state playoff appearances in 32 years as a head coach with 23 district and four state titles, three at Notre Dame of Crowley. At the outset of the 2017 season, Cook had a 333-81 career record, ranking him third in Louisiana history among active coaches and fifth all-time in the state with each of the coaches ahead of him already inducted into the LSHOF (J.T. Curtis, Jim Hightower, Red Franklin and Don Shows).

His .804 winning percentage, which is fourth-best in state history, includes a playoff record of 73-26 with four state titles, 11 trips to the state championship game and 17 semifinal berths.  His 1989 Crowley team won the 3A state title, and he followed with state crowns at Notre Dame in 2000 and 2009 in 3A and 2015 in 2A.  Cook has won 23 district titles -- including 10 in a row -- and has been the state coach of the year six times in three different classes.

He also was the head coach at Rayne High, his alma mater, from 1977-80. Cook spent eight seasons on the offensive staff at UL Lafayette (1981-84, 1992-95) and coached six eventual NFL players -- including Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member Jake Delhomme, and Stokley.

The winningest tennis coach in LSU, UL Lafayette and Louisiana history (career record of 492-197-2 in 26 years), Simmons is the second winningest coach in Southeastern Conference history behind only the legendary Dan Magill of Georgia.  He is one of the top 10 winningest NCAA Division I coaches of all-time.

Simmons led LSU to 13 NCAA appearances, all of which were at least to the Round of 16, in 15 years. He was named National, Regional, SEC and Louisiana Coach of the Year in 1988, when he led LSU to a school-record 27 wins (only 2 losses) and to the National Championship match. LSU was ranked No. 1 in the nation for four weeks in 1988, a first in school history.

He coached Donni Leaycraft to the 1989 NCAA Singles title, the first Grand Slam victory in school history. Simmons coached Johan Kjellesten to the 1989 Clay Court Singles title, the second Grand Slam victory at LSU. Tiger players earned 24 All-America honors and 34 All-SEC honors in 15 years under Simmons, and he had players earn 23 Academic All-SEC honors. His teams won 138 SEC dual matches in career, second in league history to Magill.

In 1998, Simmons was the youngest coach ever inducted into the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, and is also in the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame. He was the first person to introduce corporate sponsorship to collegiate tennis with the USL Rolex Tennis Classic in 1977.  He organized ESPN’s first televised college tennis match in 1979, served as tournament director of the Nokia Sugar Bowl tennis event from 1994-98 and is tour director of 2013 LSHOF inductee Chanda Rubin’s American ITF.

His record at LSU was 278-105, and at UL Lafayette he was 214-92-2 in 11 years.  Along with the 1988 NCAA title match, his LSU teams advanced to the NCAA Final Eight in 1987-89-91-92, the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1984-85-86-90-93-95-96-97 and made NCAA appearances in 1984-85-86-87-88-89-90-91-92-93-95-96-97.

A crop-duster from Rayne, Hains was one of the early champions of competitive bass fishing. In 1975, he captured the fifth annual Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of fishing tournaments, in Currituck Sound, North Carolina. Hains, a rookie angler on the circuit, caught 18 bass weighing 45 pounds, 4 ounces and collected a check for $15,950. He went on to qualify for seven Bassmaster Classic tournaments.

Hains, who competed in the late 1990s on the Walmart Fishing League Worldwide Tour, piled up earnings of $318,061 in 152 career tournaments. Hains finished in the Top 10 a total of 24 times and also had 35 top-20 showings.

Candies, a des Allemands resident and Southeastern Louisiana alumnus who died in 2013, won five International Hot Rod Association championships, two National Hot Rod Association titles, and had nine top-five seasons. Away from racing, he was longtime chairman of the long-running Grand Isle International Tarpon Rodeo, the world’s biggest fishing tournament, and became known as the “Granddaddy of the Tarpon Rodeo.”

He was one-half of the formidable drag racing partnership of Candies & Hughes, which began in 1964 when Leonard Hughes, who’d been racing Chevrolet stockers, wanted to go faster. The man to help him achieve that goal was Candies, his longtime friend. By 1968, they were part of the fledgling Funny Car class in the National Hot Rod Association and set the national record of 7.87 seconds in LaPlace.

The next year, they had low e.t. and top speed at the U.S. Nationals with a national speed record and also won at the Winternationals. The Candies & Hughes team won 45 major events -- including 28 NHRA titles in the Funny Car (18) and Top Fuel (10) classes between 1970 and 1994. The first two of those breakthrough wins came with Hughes at the wheel in the 1970 Gatornationals and 1971 Summernationals in the Funny Car class. They later became the first team to win NHRA and IHRA Winston championships in the same year and were enshrined in the IHRA Hall of Fame in 1999.

Biographical information on all 411 current Hall of Fame members is available at the LaSportsHall.com website, with a steady stream of info available at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Facebook page and the @LaSportsHall twitter account.

The 2018 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 28 with a press conference and reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, and a Friday, June 29 golf scramble at OakWing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremony, and golf entries, along with congratulatory advertising and sponsorship opportunities, will be available through the LaSportsHall.com website.

Anyone can receive quarterly e-mails about the 2018 Induction Celebration and other Hall of Fame news by signing up on the LaSportsHall.com website.

Adding to the 334 sports competitors currently enshrined, 17 winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 60 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism,  there are 411 current members of the Hall of Fame before next summer’s inductions.

The 2018 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame.  The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide 25-member board of directors.  For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com.  Standard and customized sponsorships are available.