Twelve figures from Grambling State University’s athletic lore — including four-time NFL Pro Bowler Albert Lewis, NBA first-round selection Aaron James, and former baseball coach and athletic administrator Wilbert Ellis — will be part of the fourth-annual Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame induction class this summer.
“The Legends Hall of Fame provides the recognition and notoriety that should have come to those individuals who made great contributions to the university a long time ago,” said Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Davis, an inaugural Grambling Legends inductee. “There’s nothing in life more gratifying than being recognized and honored for those things they did on the field.”
The complete list of honorees includes: Clyde Parquet, baseball; Jake Reed, football; Albert Lewis, football; Alphonse Dotson, football; Trumaine Johnson, football; Wilbert Ellis, contributor; Howard Willis, basketball; Bertram Lovell, track and field; LaChandra Leday Fenceroy, women’s basketball; Preston Powell, football; Aaron James, basketball; and Essex Johnson, football.
Lewis, before embarking on a legendary 225-game NFL career, was first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference at cornerback for Grambling in 1981-82, leading the team in interceptions in ’81 with seven. A stellar performance earned him a starting position by popular vote in 2002 on the 50th anniversary All-Time Senior Bowl Team. Inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, Lewis recorded a staggering 42 interceptions and 123 passes defensed while playing for the NFL’s Chiefs and Raiders. He was selected to the Pro Bowl over four consecutive seasons beginning in 1987.
Twice named All-America, James was a three-time all-SWAC selection and earned freshman of the year honors from the league in 1971. He would lead the NCAA in scoring during the 1973-74 season with an astounding 32.1 points per game. In all, James scored 2,251 career points for the Tigers before becoming a first-round draft pick for his hometown team, the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Jazz in 1974. He averaged 10.8 points per game for the Jazz over five seasons. Later this year, James will also become the 20th Grambling product to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Reed was a first-team All-SWAC honoree in 1990, and second team in 1989, leading all Grambling receivers as a senior with 954 yards and a 20-year average per catch. He was invited to the Senior Bowl in 1990, one of just 17 from Grambling to receive that honor, then played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Vikings and Saints — helping New Orleans to its first-ever playoff win. He had four 1,000-yard pro seasons, with a career-high 85 catches in 1994 receptions at Minnesota.
Ellis, a prime force behind the opening of the Eddie G. Robinson Museum on campus, served for 43 seasons as an assistant and then head baseball coach at Grambling before retiring in 2003. He also served a lengthy stint as an athletic administrator at GSU. In 2006, the same year he joined the museum effort, Ellis was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame — an honor recognizing 737 victories at Grambling. Ellis had also served for 17 seasons as an assistant to inaugural Grambling Legends inductee Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, the program’s first baseball coach and its second school president. Jones retired with more than 800 wins, as well, many of them with Ellis beside him on the bench.
Dotson was Grambling’s first All-America first team, earning the honor from the Consensus All American-Newspaper Enterprise Association. He was a first-team All-SWAC tackle in 1964, and honorable mention in 1963, before becoming a second-round pick by the Green Bay Packers. He played for the Chiefs, Dolphins and Raiders in a career that spanned 1965-1970.
Lovell just led the Grambling State men’s track team to its sixth title in the last seven tears, claiming the 2011 SWAC outdoor championship at Tad Gormley Stadium. He came into the season having already collected a staggering 27 titles at Grambling, and now has been named SWAC track coach of the year 28 times.
Johnson was the 1980 and ’82 SWAC offensive player of the year, when he had 1,000 yards while averaging 14 years a catch. Johnson was also first-team All-SWAC in 1981. Grambling won the conference championship in 1980, as Johnson entered the school record books with 16 touchdown receptions.
Powell, a 1961 draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, helped Grambling to its first-ever SWAC football championship in 1960 as a running back. Leday Fenceroy won Division I women’s scoring honors with a 30.4 average as a senior at Grambling. Willis was the 76th overall pick by the New York Knicks in the 1960 NBA Draft, after helping Grambling to a pair of SWAC titles beginning in 1958 under inaugural Grambling Legends inductee Fredrick C. Hobdy. Essex Johnson, a defensive back at Grambling, played eight pro seasons as a running back for the Bengals and Buccaneers, leaving Cincinnati as the club’s career rushing leader. Clyde Parquet ranked first in the country with a 0.66 ERA in 1961, as Grambling began a series of four runs to the national NAIA baseball tournament through 1967.
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.