The State Farm Bayou Classic 33rd Annual Coaches’ Luncheon was held Saturday, Nov. 25 at the Marriott Hotel in New Orleans. This Luncheon was very special, because it was represented the return of the Bayou Classic in the city of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.
Sponsors of this year’s luncheon were State Farm Insurance, McDonald’s Inc., and United States Marine Corps.
The Bayou Classic has been a historic event since founded, for the Classic was the first competitive event to sellout the Superdome. The classic is also ranked number 4 in the top college football rivalries. The master of ceremonies was Major Michael Williams of The United States Marine Corps.
This year’s honorees were Albert Ray Lewis, a former Gramblinite and Avery Johnson, a former Southernite, who have shown that they deserved the Leadership Award bestowed upon them.
Lewis has been a leader since his high school days. Lewis attended Desoto High School in Mansfield where he was a two-year All-District defensive back.
Lewis, a first team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection in his final two years at Grambling, led the conference in interceptions as a junior with seven, and he intercepted four passes as senior team captain while playing under legendary coach Eddie Robinson.
Lewis played 15 seasons in the NFL before retiring after the 1998 season. Considered to be one of the premier cornerbacks to have ever played in the NFL, Lewis was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1983 draft by the Chiefs.
Albert is the Founder and owner of Greystone, Inc.., a family of companies, and a 320-horse ranch in Southern Mississippi. In 1999, he participated in the NFL Europe League Coaching Internship Program, which is designed to give former players a chance to see if coaching is something they would like to purse.
Lewis said that this award was very special to him, and he appreciated it greatly. He thanked the Bayou Classic committee. “The reason that the Bayou Classic is what it is today, is because of the resolve and the will of the human spirit.”
Avery Johnson, a graduate of Southern University, led the NCAA in assists in each of his two years at Southern. Johnson was named SWAC player of the year, and still owns several NCAA Division I records.
Johnson was named coach of the Dallas Mavericks on March 19, 2005 after retiring as a player on Oct. 28, 2005. Although Avery Johnson was unable to attend this event he sent his appreciation through active school president Ralph Slaughter.
This year’s speech from opposing coaches were very candid and short.
“I’m so glad to be a part of something special and historic,” said coach Melvin Spears. “I thank all of the former people who helped make this event what it is today.” The 2006 Excellence in Leadership Award Recipients were Grambling State’s Clyde Edwards, a junior marketing major, who has maintained a 4.0 g.p.a for six straight semesters, and Brian Washington of Southern University a senior, Mechanical Engineering maintained a 3.2 G.PA.