John Fourcade – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Shaw High School/Ole Miss/New Orleans Saints
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.
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.
Story submitted by Bill Bumgarner of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee.