Hanson, Hickman, Charles and Clark make up Class of 2011
There could not have been a better cross-section of success than that which made up the Wildcat Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame class for 2011.
Not only was there diversity in sports played – football, baseball and softball – but also in the years in which the four athletes competed. From 1947 to 2006, Louisiana College sports was well-represented as part of the festivities of the 2011 Homecoming Celebration Banquet held Oct. 22 at LC's Granberry Conference Center.
Louis Hanson (Class of 1947), Jesse Hickman (Class of 1962), Justin Charles (Class of 2005) and Sandi Clark (Class of 2006) all made marks on LC sports in their own, personal ways.
But it was Charles who perhaps best summed up the way LC made its mark upon his life, especially through the coaches who worked with him during his athletic career.
“Those coaches made me who I am today,” Charles said. “They taught me how to be a man. They taught me what a real man is.
“In the society that we live in today, a lot of kids don't understand that. A real man knows how to respect women. A real man knows how to take care of his family. He knows how to treat his wife with respect and to be a good son to his mother and father.”
Charles, a native of Houston, came to Louisiana College in 2000 as part of the first recruiting class after the rebirth of football. He started for four years and was a multiple-time all-conference performer. He was named American Southwest Conference Special Teams Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003. He was twice named to the All-Louisiana Team and was named an NCCAA All-American in 2001 and 2002. In his career, he recorded 227 total tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 9 interceptions and three interceptions returned for a touchdown. He also produced 1,416 kick return yards and five kick return touchdowns, the career record for all colleges and universities in the state of Louisiana.
From Marty Secord, the coach who brought back football to LC in 2000, to Dennis Dunn, LC's current head coach, Charles, who currently serves an assistant coach on Dunn's staff, has taken the lessons every coach taught him and said he is using them each day as a coach, a father and a husband.
I'm still being coached by those days today,” Charles said. “I see them day-in and day-out.”
In Sandi Clark, LC had its most dominant pitcher on the softball diamond. Following a highly-successful career at Oak Hill High School in Hineston, La., Clark was a four-year starter at LC where she struck out 556 batters and compiled a 67-17 record as a starter. Her strikeouts and wins totals stood as conference records until 2011. She also finished with a career ERA of 1.09 with 35 shutouts. “The single most important reason I'm here today is because I serve an amazing God who chose to bless me with a desire and love for softball and a talent to pitch,” Clark said. “The mound can get really lonely sometimes. But, I always had confidence and it wasn't really confidence in myself. It was knowing God was with me and He can do anything.”
Clark admitted she knew little about LC despite having grown up less than 30 miles from the campus. She credited former coaches Tim Whitman and Rawlen Scully for both recruiting her and coaching her to be the player she became.
And she also credited her parents and younger brother for their unwavering support.
“I've never played in a single sporting event when my parents were not there – even if it meant traveling all the way to California to travel to regionals,” she said. “They did. They packed up seven of them in the car. And they drove straight through so they would be there for the first game.”
After graduating from LC, Clark went on to earn her doctorate in the field of Pharmacology from Louisiana-Monroe and began a career as a pharmacist in the Pineville area where she lives with her husband, former Louisiana College football player Justin Webb.
The difference in athletic eras could be seen in the career of Louis Hanson. First a freshman out of Bath, N. Y. in 1939, Hanson finished his run as a member of the LC football, baseball and basketball teams in 1947. His service to his country in the Air Force from 1942-45 during World War II extended his time in Pineville. After completing his degree, Hanson moved to Basile, La., to serve as a coach and teacher at that community's high school. He began the first six-man football program in Basile then moved briefly to Colorado, where he earned his master's degree and lettered in football at Colorado State College. He returned to Basile in 1948 and remained a teacher and coach at the school until 1961. During his time at Basile, Hanson started programs in football, baseball and wrestling. His football teams captured Six-Man state titles in 1950 and 1953. From 1954-60, with Basile fielding an 11-man team, Coach Hanson's squads amassed a combined record of 62-18 and won five district titles. His overall record at Basile was 111-36.
“I found my wife here, and I found the Lord here,” Hanson said of his time at LC. “And my life has never been the same.”
Finally, in Hickman, LC found a true baseball player. Raised in nearby LeCompte, La., Hickman came to LC on a baseball scholarship in 1957. He pitched three years for the Wildcats, boasting a 92-mile-per-hour fastball and 90-miles-per-hour slider and helping Louisiana College defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks for its first home win in 1958.
Hickman was one of many players impacted by legendary coach and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member, Billy Allgood.
“In all my years of sports, I never met a coach or manager who was his equal,” Hickman said. “I believe with all my heart, when God created Coach Allgood, he threw away the pattern.” Hickman made history after his junior year when he was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies and became the first LC player to be drafted into Major League Baseball.
His rookie debut in 1965 included an encounter with Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins. Hickman recounted the story in which the first time he faced Killebrew, he worked a two-ball, two-strike count and then delivered what he thought was a perfect pitch.
“It was a knee-high slider on the outside corner,” he said. “Most of the time, it would have been an outstanding pitch. But this time, it wasn't so great.
“When that man hit that ball, I dropped my head in shame and said, 'Lord, there goes another one.' I glanced up toward the left field fence. Most of the time, when the ball goes out of the park, it's coming down. This one was just taking off. Last I saw it, it was up in the light towers. I never got over that home run yet.
Hickman's career would last two more years and finally ended in 1967. But his love for baseball and LC were matched when Jesse and his father, Elbert Hickman, helped Coach Billy Allgood build the baseball field still in use at LC today.
All to show that in Louisiana College athletics, what others built in the past is serving to bring great student-athletes still today.
Perhaps, Clark summed it up the best.
“I loved being a student-athlete here,” she said. “It was four of the greatest years of my life. I will always be a Lady Wildcat at heart.