by Doug Ireland
They’re a dynamic dozen Demons.
Certainly not a dirty dozen, unless you were on a team trying to beat them.
While Northwestern State commemorates Homecoming on Oct. 22-23 in Natchitoches, NSU Athletics and the N-Club association of former athletic letterwinners will spotlight 12 focal figures in the university’s sports history.
You can enjoy quite a show, for free, on Saturday morning, Oct. 23, in the Magale Recital Hall in the Alice Dear Creative and Performing Arts Center in the middle of the Northwestern campus.
The terrific 12 will be officially inducted in the N-Club Hall of Fame during the ceremony. They’ll be introduced that afternoon before the Demons’ 3 p.m. football game in Turpin Stadium against Southeastern – you do need to buy tickets to watch that.
The ceremony is one of those pandemic-delayed events. This is actually the N-Club HOF’s Class of 2020, finally getting honored in late 2021. The folks in N-Club leadership decided to skip selecting a 2021 class, leaving the roster of very worthy candidates waiting for another year, but that ill-advised decision doesn’t detract from the Class of 2020’s luster.
For Cenla, we start with Pineville High product Tony Taylor – or should we say, Dr. Tony Taylor. After his record-shattering three seasons as a Demon running back carried him to the NFL and stints with Dallas and 2003 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, Taylor landed in teaching and coaching and earned a doctoral degree.
After a sensational career for coach Herbie Smith’s Pineville Rebels, Taylor arrived at NSU in time to help the 1998 Demon football team make a serious run at a national championship as a true freshman. Then he really got going as NSU’s feature back, shattering the school career rushing mark set by stalwarts Charlie Tolar, then forward to Sidney Thornton, Joe Delaney and John Stephens – all successful pros.
Taylor’s 3,997 yards on the ground included 20 100-yard games. Nearly 3,000 yards came in his final two seasons and he averaged 113 yards for his career. If they tracked on yards after contact, nobody could ever top that stat. He left NSU for pro ball while working on his master’s degree, to support his family.
It’s intriguing to consider just how good the 2001 Demons would have been with him at tailback and Alexandria’s Craig Nall at quarterback – as it was, that team was very close to winning in the playoffs at eventual national champion Montana.
Two other future NFL players, defensive back and kick returner, Terrence McGee and defensive end, Robert Daniel, join Taylor among the N-Club inductees.
McGee is one of the most sensational and productive punt returners in school, state, and FCS history, with a 17.3 career average, and he was a sticky cover cornerback who played nine NFL seasons as a starter in Buffalo, where he was an All-Pro returner in 2004 and became the first NFL player ever to return a kickoff and interception for touchdowns in the same game (2005 at Cincinnati).
Daniel was a Demon All-American for that fearsome 1998 team, overcoming reconstructive knee surgery after an injury in the last preseason scrimmage denied him a role on the 1997 playoff squad.That’s just the football players.
There are four fantastic women inductees, including Natchitoches’ Stephanie Sowell – a four-time All-America long and triple jumper at NSU from 2001-04, now a nurse in her hometown. She won eight Southland Conference jump titles and is the first female 4x All-American in Southland history.
On the basketball court at the same time, the Lady Demons had the amazing Cooda Dobin, the only player – man or woman – to ever lead NCAA Division I in assists for three straight seasons. She was the cornerstone of the 2004-05 Lady Demons, who won the Southland and went to the NCAA Tournament.
The other two women were javelin throwers: Regina Roe, the first Lady Demon to compete in multiple NCAA championships in 1999 and 2000, and Linnette Stuart, inducted primarily in another sport. After being a four-year All-Southland outfielder in softball for three straight conference champion teams, she gave the javelin a try after Roe graduated and won a Southland championship. Her career batting average was a nifty .331 from 1997-2000.
There’s been no more talented NSU baseball player than outfielder Jordan Robinson, who went from an undrafted junior college signee to a two-year first-team All-Southland stud to the fast track to the big leagues in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They called him The Natural, a five-tool player who was a better teammate than a player. He was a rising star in Double A ball when he gave it up to marry his hometown sweetheart in Idaho. Jordan, Natalie and their four kids are coming way south to visit this month, checking out an LSU football game before making it up to Natchitoches.
Randy Moore was a distance running star at NSU from 1972-76, highlighted by a second-place national finish in the 3000 meter steeplechase – no walk in the park – in his senior year.
Receiving the N-Club’s Distinguished Service Award is the baseball father-son tandem of Terry Alario Sr. and Junior. Senior lettered as a pitcher from 1966-69 and Junior was a catcher in 1993-94, and both helped their teams to conference championships and have been ardent NSU supporters since.
The first N-Club Pioneer Award is going to Al Miller, a football assistant coach from 1975-78 who is one of the greats nationally in strength and conditioning training. He helped all sports at NSU while coaching the Demon linebackers, developing innovative weight training techniques. He worked for four NFL teams as a strength coach in four decades and received the NFL Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers after his 2014 retirement.
There’s also some unfinished business. Bob Kairis, a pitcher at NSU in 1987-88, was slated for induction in 2019 but couldn’t travel down from Illinois then. He’ll be enshrined a couple years after being elected
for setting school strikeout records both seasons he played, including 11 at LSU in 1987. He was the Cleveland Indians’ Minor League Player of the Year in 1989.
Now, that’s a deep lineup.
Read more News from the N-Club: https://nsudemons.com/sports/n-club