There's always some great wisdom passed along at an event such as the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony Saturday at the Natchitoches Event Center in Natchitoches.
The best words of wisdom on this night came from Ferriday native Max Fugler.
And that's in a class with such legends as Peyton Manning, Les Miles (and it was Les being Les), Roger Cador, Charles Smith, Matt Dunigan and Danielle Scott. But it was Fugler who may have borrowed one line and used another that says a lot about the man who shies away from the spotlight and always credits others for his success.
While answering questions onstage, Fugler pointed to his table that included LSU teammates Johnny Robinson, Warren Rabb, Lynn LeBlanc and Dave McCarty.
"We weren't a team, we were friends," Fugler said. "And we were protective of one another. That's what made us different. We were looking after one another."
And Fugler echoed one of his favorite sayings.
"Success only comes before work in the dictionary," Fugler said.
Fugler also talked about the 54 straight games without a loss record he was part of at Ferriday High in the 1950s.
"When I was in the eighth grade I started playing on the varsity team in 1952," said Fugler, the only high school All-American in Ferriday High's rich history. "We lost the first five games of that season. Then we won the next five. The next game that I played in where I was on the losing team was against Rice in 1957."
While disappointed with the loss, Fugler handled it with class.
Which led to another great quote.
“You can’t win every time, and the losses hurt me bad,” Fugler said. “You have to learn how to be a good loser or you’ll never be a good winner.
Fugler was a part of the LSU 1958 championship football team. He is best-known for making all four tackles on a goal line stand against Ole Miss on Nov. 1, 1958 in a 14-0 Tiger win. It was five tackles if you count the fact Fugler tackled quarterback Bobby Franklin on one play when he pitched the ball to Charlie Flowers.
Fugler was named “Look Magazine” All-American and All-SEC.
Fugler played more minutes on the 1958 championship team than any other Tiger, taking pride in his work on the offensive and defensive lines as well as at linebacker.
Max was a hit throughout the three-day induction event.
I had several sports writers and LSHOF officials talk about how impressed they were with Fugler during his interviews and meet and greet activities.
"Man, you're guy hit it out of the ballpark," one told me, adding that Max broke down during a couple of interviews.
On Saturday night during his induction Max never missed a beat, appearing calm and cool and answering each question from Cox Sports Television broadcaster Lyn Rollins.
Max started off his interview in front of close to 1,000 people saying he wasn't much of a speaker. Rollins quickly corrected him, noting his interviews the previous couple of days.
Actually, only one recipient got choked up on the night, and that was a bit surprising to me.
Longtime Peabody High basketball coach Charles Smith had to stop and re-group a couple of times when talking about the teachers and administration officials he has worked with through the years.
Smith fought back tears when he spoke of his “church-house school teacher mother and World War II veteran father.”
Smith has led Peabody's boys to seven state championships.
A large throng of Smith's family and friends cheered the stoic coach, with four or five waving their Peabody green pom-poms.
At 1,039 wins, Smith is 32 away from surpassing former Southern Lab and Lake Providence coach Joel Hawkins, who has the Louisiana record for wins with 1,071. Having won 30 or more games every year since 2000, it’s almost certain Smith can reach that mark late in the 2019-20 season or early in 2020-21.
The sold-out crowd highly anticipated Miles and Manning taking the stage.
But it was former Louisiana Tech quarterback Matt Dunigan decked out in a blue tuxedo who had the large crowd entertained with several funny stories from his days at Tech.
The then 5-foot-9 quarterback from Dallas didn’t hesitate when asked why he chose Louisiana Tech with interest from Texas among others.
“(Louisiana Tech assistant coach E.J. Lewis) came for a home visit, and he didn’t spit for the entire six hours when he chewed tobacco,” Dunigan said. “That was an easy sell.”
Dunigan, who broke several of Terry Bradshaw's records, moved with his family from Ohio to Texas when he was younger.
“I credit my family moving down to Texas from Ohio – the Dallas competition was sink or swim. I fought to get on a football field every day, and sometimes I got in two or three fights a day. Well we would get detentions but couldn’t serve them because of football practice. I had to burn off those detentions, and I would come to practice with my ass bleeding (from spankings).”
As for not playing in the NFL?
"I was vertically challenged," Dunigan said of his height.
Dunigan even brought the Grey Cup to the Natchitoches Event Center. The CFL Hall of Famer won two Grey Cups.
One of the delightful inductees was the 6-foot-2 Danielle Scott, who earned All-America honors and was selected as the National Player of the Year in 1993 after leading Long Beach State to an NCAA title.
A year later, Scott joined the USA Volleyball national team and remained on the top U.S. team for 20 years. She played in the Olympics from 1996 to 2012. She helped lead the USA to its first volleyball medals since 1992 in 2008 and 2012, while, in between, becoming a mother.
"If it was up to my dad, I would be trying out again this year," Scott said with a laugh.
But it was a more serious moment when Scott, who regularly speaks against domestic violence.
Last November, Scott’s sister Stefanie died as the result of a domestic attack by her estranged husband. Scott herself was hospitalized for stab wounds suffered while defending her sister.
USA Volleyball created a Courage Award and presented it to Scott at its Hall of Fame induction held May 22 in Columbus, Ohio.
After months of physical therapy, Scott returned to the court as a player-coach in the USA Volleyball Open Division championship.
“My mom built a strong Christian foundation as a woman of God and integrity,” Scott said. “Knowing who I am in Christ and knowing what the word says and His promises for me helped me in my career and to deal with circumstances that seem unfathomable.
“I lost my sister in an attack that landed me in the hospital. When I was unable to pray for myself, there were so many who were praying for me, and I had an overwhelming sense of comfort and peace.”
But leave it to my close friend Teddy Allen, the moderator on the night, to lighten the mood when Scott walked off the stage.
"Hey Danielle, our church volleyball team just lost our spiker if you are looking for a church home," Allen said. "Think about and it pray about it and then let me know."
Allen, who has his own website, Designated Writers, works alongside Tech broadcasting great Dave Nitz, who was inducted Saturday night, and has written countless columns for state newspapers.
Allen wrote one of the funniest columns I have ever read years ago about his night in the Waterproof High press box covering a game, talking about the P.A. announcer chugging on a bottle of Jack Daniels during the game and relieving himself in the corner of the press box.
Allen kept the flow going Saturday night, although it was tough at times with a live broadcast, and was spot on with his remarks and jokes.
But, as I said, the sold out crowd had a lot to do with inductees Miles and Manning.
Miles took the stage to a thunderous applause and delivered. Yes, there were Les moments.
He seemed lost in his stories a couple of times.
Miles, who was “forced” to lead a clapping tutorial in which one’s “hands don’t sustain injury,” asked if former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer "was out there," and jokingly said "I'm coming after you” in reference to Tennessee’s Monday night win in Tiger Stadium after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
Peyton enjoyed the playful quips.
After a loss to Tennessee, Miles said his daughter, Kathryn "Smacker" Miles had a classmate walk up to her and tell her his dad said he could call plays better than her dad.
"Smacker said tell your dad that I can shake you like a rag doll," Miles said.
I glanced over at the Miles table and Smacker was laughing and holding her face down in her hands.
Surely she has to be used to that.
Rollins then asked Miles to show the crowd his famous clap so they could send him off in that way.
Miles looked up and pointed at Peyton who was doing the clap.
"Stop," Miles to Rollins as he could not contain his laughter. It was practically a silent laugh (only Miles) and he looked like he couldn't breathe and certainly could not continue talking.
When Miles took his seat Allen commented that the former LSU coach is a "Carol Burnett skit all in one."
Peyton talked about the popular documentary "The Book of Manning,"about his family that showed Peyton crying several times while playing ball outside with Cooper and his friends.
“It was a good documentary on my dad and how he was a wonderful father,” Peyton said. “I think they showed a few too many crying videos.
Peyton looked at his dad in the audience and said, “You think at what point do you stop filming your 3-year old son getting kicked in the head by his older brother? Maybe you should go and help the kid. They never mentioned that here’s 3-year-old Peyton playing against a bunch of 8-year-olds.”
Manning said throwing passes to his brother Cooper as a high school sophomore topped the list.
“We would play on the Superdome turf while Dad was doing interviews as kids, and that season in high school was the best,” Manning said. “I had 120 completions that year, and 90 were to Cooper. Some of our teammates didn't like that, but Cooper was the was the best player."
But this night was all about Max Fugler.
For the first time since 2010 I will not be writing a column about Fugler being snubbed by the state Hall of Fame.
But LSHOF officials made up for that in a big way Saturday night.
Max Fugler is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Congrats, my friend.