MULE': Estay, Martin fixtures in LSU lore

NATCHITOCHES, La. - Those two memorable sacks are going to be relived. So will some of those patented catches over the middle. Ronnie Estay, a defensive lineman par excellence in LSU's Charlie Mac era, and Eric Martin, a Tiger/Saints receiver in the early ‘80s, have been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the highest honor accorded any state athlete outside pro hall of fames.

In this, the idyllic garden spot of Louisiana, rests the repository of Pelican State athletics, where some bigger-than-life athletes – and some who simply overcame deficiencies to excel – are enshrined, where the stories of their feats are preserved. Estay's is one that will be repeated over and over again, not just this weekend but through the years. Among the notches on his football resume' is one accomplishment that will be hard to duplicate:

 

In successive seasons Estay sacked two serious Heisman Trophy contenders. In 1970 he nailed Ole Miss' Archie Manning in the end zone, and a year later he got Auburn's Pat Sullivan, who did get the award.

 

That's one of those rare When Circumatances Meet Opportunity feats.

 

The Sports Hall of Fame has always seemed a barometer of just how much LSU sports means to Louisiana. It's not easy getting in. A candidate has to be nominated, get past a screening committee double-checking the credentials, whose name is then placed on a list of more than a hundred other candidates – which swells each year as more people become eligible and nominated. Then the candidate has to get 75 percent of the votes by a 27-man committee of sportswriters – a group which could find fault with David despite his victory over Goliath. Maybe something about the giant being slow and overrated.

 

Yet LSU athletes almost dominate the Hall. Some of it, of course, has to do with longevity as a major power, but some also has to do with serious accomplishment. Of the 236 people inducted since 1959, 51, almost a third, are associated with LSU. The number rises, of course, with Estay and Martin. The next closest program is Tulane with 18.

 

The Tiger flavor began at the start when Gaynell "Gus'' Tinsley was inducted in the Hall's first class, in 1959. For decades Tinsley, an end, was considered the greatest Tiger football player of them all. Bernie Moore, who coached LSU in the 30s when Tinsley starred, and was later the commissioner of the SEC, said Tinsley was simply "

The greatest lineman I ever saw.'' The sports editor of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, a man not easily impressed, concurred, adding that for that era Tinsley was also the strongest. "Once I saw him stand flatfooted in front of (tackle) Paul Miller on the practice field,'' Montet is quoted as saying, "and raise Miller straight off the ground with one hand. I still don't believe it. Miller must have weighed about 230.''

 

Of course, it would be virtually impossible for any complete team to be inducted en masse, but there is one. LSU's famed five-man track team that won the 1933 NCAA track championship are all in, voted in individually in different years. The last to make it was pole vaulter Matt Gordy who was inducted in 1985. Yet Gordy was the epitome of an athlete rising to the occasion. The championship came down to him.

 

Think of the drama: Glenn "Slates'' Hardin had won the 440-yard dash with a meet record 47.1 seconds and set a world record in the 220-yard low hurdles in 22.9 seconds; Jack Torrance set a world record in the shot put with 52-10 and also placed third in the discus. Al Moreau placed in both hurdle events and Buddy Blair was fourth in the javelin, giving LSU a 49-47 lead over Southern Cal.

 

With a vault of 14 feet 4 ¼, USC's Bill Graber was the world record holder – a foot higher than Gordy's personal best. Graber momentarily set the meet record with a vault of 13 feet, 11 1/16 inches, more than five inches better than Gordy's previous performance and 18 inches higher than Gordy's bamboo pole.

 

But on his last attempt, Gordy jack-knifed over the crossbar to share first place with Graber, and give LSU the winning points.

 

Stories like that one, and Estay's, always have an audience.

 

The crowds will be gathering to hear them shortly.

 

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Marty Mule' is a veteran journalist and a former Times-Picayune sports writer based in Mandeville. Mule' will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Writer's Association Hall of Fame next month. Reach him at MJM981@bellsouth.net.

                     


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