The big deal in Grambling Saturday night was the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame banquet.
Hosted by former four-time all pro NFL cornerback and GSU legend Everson Walls, the star studded gala honored the 2013 Hall of Fame class: Hillary Bossier (baseball), Jamie Caleb (football), Frank Cornish (football), Bruce Eugene (football), Wilbert Frazier (basketball), Mike Howell (football), Paula Mayo (basketball), John Mendenhall (football), Woodrow Peoples (football), Robert Piper (basketball), Rex Tippit (basketball) and Richard Harris (football).
After a round of social hour before the banquet started at 6 p.m., it was back to the Hall of Fame gathering, featuring food, drinks, combination of NFL Hall of Famers, coaches, government officials, top administrators of GSU, parents, children, community spirit, and live music by Ellen Smiley and Ronald Pennington. Hall of Famers and their families mingled on the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center’s main floor to enjoy the festive atmosphere.
There were so many sports legends in one place; Willie Brown, Delles Howell, Pat Bibbs, Frank Lewis and Aaron James among many others.
“A lot of the great athletes come back for this event,” said Willie Brown, who brought NFL memorabilia from his famous football friends for his silent auction that he does annually.
The Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame was founded by former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, former NFL Pro Bowl MVP James “Shack” Harris and a host of former Grambling greats who say they want to help ensure their alma mater’s most storied athletic accomplishments are remembered into posterity.
“It’s not about individuals, it’s about Grambling,” Williams said.
Minutes before the induction ceremony, Grambling Legends member Howard Davis gave a special recognition to author Samuel Freeman for writing a unforgettable new book called Breaking The Line, detailing Grambling’s 1967 season that transformed football and changed the course of Civil Rights.
During a period in college football history when black players were not allowed to play for major college programs, Coach Eddie G. Robinson built Grambling State into a “small” college football powerhouse.
“All the players exemplified the whole history of sports and commitment to civil rights and racial equality. I felt honored to tell some of that story,” Freedman said.
Freedman attends the Legends banquet not because of the legends athletic careers, but the lives they went on to live past football.
“It says so much about the type of school Grambling is. It produced not just terrific athletes but terrific men and women.” Freedman’s new book, Breaking The Line will be in stores Aug 14.
Bruce Eugene, GSU’s all time leading passer, talked about ups and downs that he experienced before attending school, as well as what it was like to play quarterback from 2002-2005. Still shocked on being selected, Eugene says being inducted made the occasion more special. “This was a huge event and a great honor for me to be chosen,” said Eugene. “I will always represent Grambling to the fullest.”
Edward Jones, Mayor of Grambling, had the distinct pleasure of giving all the inductees keys to the city during his welcome to Grambling segment of the program. Jones told an audience of over 200, that he wanted everybody to know how appreciative the city of Grambling was for them doing outstanding things for the university. In a joking manner, Jones also told all the new inductees they get “free ticket passes.”
“First, we’ll let you have three speeding tickets, no charge, two U-turn tickets, no charge, and no seatbelt violation, no charge,” says Jones as the audience laughed.
Frank Lewis, 2011 Hall of Fame inductee, said the banquet is one of the finest events any one can attend and “seeing all the Hall of Fame guys is a thrill for me personally.”
In the midst of the writing down Lewis’s quote, Willie Brown walked over and confirmed his best friends quote. Brown added, “Hands down this is one of the best events I attend every year.”
“When you hit this campus man, all the adrenaline starts running through your veins and you get to think about what Eddie Robinson did while he was here and what every sport at Grambling has done.”
After two hours of remembering legendary sports figures, special recognitions to contributing people, and “good ole times,” Pat Bibbs, current women’s head basketball coach simply said it best.
“This event is awesome.”