Bossier Parish was well-represented at the S.M. McNaughton Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Awards Dinner on Tuesday night at East Ridge Country Club.
It was the organization’s first awards dinner since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Haughton’s Jason Brotherton and Airline’s Bo Meeks shared Coach of the Year honors for the 2019 season.
Eight players from North Louisiana were honored as Scholar-Athletes of the Year, including former Haughton star linebacker Jake St. Andre, who was named the overall winner.
St. Andre had a four-year grade-point average of 4.0, ranking 29th in a class of 259.
He was a three-year first-team All-Parish selection, including co-Defensive MVP last season. He is Haughton’s all-time leading tackler.
St. Andre was unable to attend because he is preparing for his freshman season at Louisiana-Lafayette.
The other players honored were Captain Shreve’s Alex Auer, Cedar Creek’s Trace Barnett, Winfield’s Micah Griffin, Byrd’s Brayden Hermès, Oak Grove’s Kade Kline, West Monroe’s Lane Little and St. Mary’s Patrick Vienne.
The honor is based on a student-athlete’s academic accomplishments, athletic performance and community leadership.
The 2019 season was special for both Meeks and Brotherton.
After finishing 3-7 in 2018, Airline went 10-3 in 2019 and won a share of the District 1-5A championship with Captain Shreve. The Vikings reached the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
“I’m really appreciative of this honor, but this honor really goes to our coaches and players at Airline High School,” Meeks said in his acceptance speech. “I was out two-and-a-half months and the assistant coaches ran everything. The kids bought completely into what we were doing. They didn’t just keep the program going. They took it to another level while I was out.”
Meeks said he told the players in October that his cancer, which caused him to miss those months in the offseason beginning in December of 2018, had returned but to keep it quiet until the end of the season and they did.
“Those kids were there for me personally,” he said. “I will never forget what they’ve done for me and be forever grateful.”
Meeks got emotional when he thanked his parents, Ken and Zoe Meeks.
“I am who I am because of them,” he said. “They’ve always been there for me, especially during the last two-and-a-half years. Their love and strength were so important during challenging times.”
He also thanked his wife Robin.
“Through everything, the hospital stays, she never left my side,” he said. “And I’m so grateful for that.”
He talked about his late grandfather Joe Meeks, who coached him at Riverfield Academy before he transferred to Ruston.
“He was a high school football coach for 40 years,” he said. “He taught me to love and respect this great game. He was my first coach and the man I grew up wanting to be like. He was and is my hero.”
Early in his speech, Meeks talked about the support he received from the coaching fraternity during his battle with cancer. One of those coaches was Brotherton.
“I’m also excited to share this award with one of my best friends in the business, Mr. Jason Brotherton,” he said.
Brotherton had some high praise for Meeks.
“He’s an inspiration,” he said. “Our jobs can get heavy and they can weigh on you. There have been a lot of times when I’ve thought to myself, ‘Man, Bo Meeks is doing the same thing I’m doing and crushing cancer all at the same time.’ ”
Brotherton introduced his wife Kenda and daughter Kinsley.
“It means the world for them to be here,” he said.
Brotherton talked about the sacrifices families’ make, especially from the beginning of preseason practice to the end of the season more than four months later.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “That’s our family business.”
Brotherton’s father Bob was a longtime coach at Haughton and his brother Coy is the head coach at Parkway.
Haughton went into the 2019 season with high expectations and met them. The Bucs went 11-3 and reached the semifinals of the Class 5A playoffs for the first time.
Their two losses during the regular season to Airline and Captain Shreve were by a combined 10 points.
Like others, Brotherton said the awards dinner was about the players.
“Guys like Jake St. Andre and you other guys that are here tonight, y’all are the reason our jobs are great,” he said.
Brotherton recognized former Haughton principal and coach Gene Couvillion, who hired him as an assistant and head coach.
“That’s a guy that’s been with me all the high points of my life, some of my greatest memories,” he said. “Coach, I wouldn’t be here without you.”
He also spoke about his father.
“He fought cancer and did the coaching thing,” he said. “He showed me tons and tons and tons of leadership.”
Brotherton also mentioned Ronnie Coker, a former baseball coach at Parkway and Captain Shreve who recently retired after serving as athletic director at Airline.
Brotherton’s first coaching experience was with Coker in baseball in 1998.
“I saw a man that was truly passionate about what he does and that carried on for the rest of his career … and he showed me you have to have a belief in winning.”
He also cited former Haughton head coach Rodney Guin, whom he called his biggest coaching mentor.
He said he learned two major things from Guin. One is to always treat people right and the other is that you can succeed being nice and with people liking you.
West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge won the 2019 Contribution to Amateur Football Award.
“This award is given to an individual whose efforts and activities in support of the game of football and the Foundation have been local in nature. This individual works tirelessly out of the pure love for the game and a desire to help children play it well,” according to a press release.
LSU football and tennis star Johnny Robinson won the Distinguished American Award.
“This award is given to an outstanding person who has maintained a lifetime of interest and who, over a period of time, has exhibited enviable leadership qualities and made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football,” according to the press release.
Robinson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.
About 200 people attended the ceremony with Tag Rome serving as master of ceremonies.
Fox play-by-play announcer Tim Brando took the microphone to introduce the Scholar-Athlete winners. Four were unable to attend because of college responsibilities.
New ULM head coach Terry Bowden and Northwestern State head coach Brad Laird were in attendance along with some of their assistant coaches and support staff.
New Louisiana Tech Athletic Director Dr. Eric Wood was also at a table with some of his staff.