Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee
NEW ORLEANS – At just eight years old and then again as a 13-year-old high school freshman, John Fourcade learned about the execution of an about-face. On his first day of practice on the West Bank playgrounds his coach pegged him as a defensive lineman but by the end of that first workout Fourcade had been switched to quarterback. That switch to quarterback proved to be effective – he went on to an exceptional career at the high school, college and professional levels.
Fourcade will be one of four standout local sports figures to be inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 4 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Each year’s Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of award-winners, including the Hall of Fame, the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month each month.
A total of 23 individuals, including this year’s Hall of Fame class, and three teams will be honored at this year’s banquet.
Entering Shaw High School, coach Joe Zimmerman designated Fourcade as his starting quarterback, a role he would secure for the next four seasons. “Here I was, just 13 and playing against men,” Fourcade recalled. “I had never seen players with beards.”
The suffering for the 1974 Eagles’ roster began immediately and did not abate. Shaw endured an 0-10 finish, but the influx of talent promised better days. Two seasons later, Shaw finished 9-1 and advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals to face Covington High School. The Eagles were down 7-6 when Fourcade went down with an injury. He would return to the game for one play as the holder on a field-goal attempt but it was not enough as the kick sailed wide.
As a senior, Fourcade engineered an 8-2 season and a subsequent berth in the state semifinals on the road against the South Lafourche Tarpons and its quarterback, Bobby Hebert. Late in the game, Fourcade completed a scoring pass that was nullified by a penalty for crossing the line of scrimmage. The Tarpons prevailed 27-23 and were named state champions one week later.
Fourcade closed his prep career by being recognized as the All-Metro co-MVP and the Class 4A All-State MVP. And he became the subject of a national recruiting manhunt.
“At first, I really wanted to go to Alabama and play for (Coach) Bear Bryant,” Fourcade recalled. “But on my official visit there assistant coach Mal Moore told me that I would not start until I was a junior. Coach Bryant was angry but that kind of soured me on Alabama. My next choice was LSU. So, I told assistant coach Barry Wilson that I didn’t want to hear that I had to wait for two years. But Coach (Charlie) McClendon told me I would be behind Steve Ensminger and David Woodley until I was a junior.”
“My third choice was Ole Miss,” Fourcade continued. “Coach (Steve) Sloan was young and a fresh face in coaching with an offense that was identical to the one at Shaw. College was so different from Shaw because there were 85 players on the roster from all over and you had to fend for yourself. All I wanted to do was play. My brother Keith was there but the losing made things worse.”
Despite the lack of overall team success, Fourcade made a long-standing mark on the Ole Miss record books. In four years in Oxford, he accounted for 6,713 career yards, surpassing Archie Manning in that category – a record which stood until Eli Manning’s days with the Rebels. Although Ole Miss finished 5-6, 4-7, 3-9 and 4-6 while Fourcade was a Rebel, he was a two-time All-SEC selection and the MVP in the Senior Bowl.
“John had a linebacker mentality,” Coach Sloan told Rebel Nation Magazine. “We were always good offensively, but we weren’t quite as good defensively to match it up. I consider it an honor to have coached him.”
After his standout collegiate career, he would play in Canada and the USFL, before getting an NFL opportunity with his hometown New Orleans Saints in 1987. In four seasons with the Saints, including during the NFL strike, he played in 24 games and threw for 14 touchdowns.
Even with his success at the collegiate and professional levels, Fourcade’s career thoughts rarely drift far from his days at Shaw. “Those were great times when all of us were buddies. We all played football and other sports together and went out together, never on your own. And we all lived on the ‘Best Bank’.”
For his accomplishments at every level of football as well as coaching and playing throughout the United States and Canada, Fourcade has been elected to the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
“I am thrilled and excited,” he said. “I thought about this at times and I wondered if I would ever get in. I’m just glad to be alive.”
Now 57, Fourcade works on Saints radio broadcasts for ESPN.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 62nd year in 2018. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 49 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 84-year history. The 85th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2019. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org.