Longtime sportswriter made mark during Hall of Fame career

Lori Lyons at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Lyons was inducted into the Hall Saturday, voters recognizing her contributions to sports journalism over her 30 year career.

Over 30 years of covering River Parishes athletics, Lori Lyons showcased her special knack for highlighting deserving prep ballplayers.

“If I’m talking to you after a game, then you did something special,” Lyons said. “And you deserved to have the spotlight shined on you that day.”

On Saturday, it was Lyons’ turn.

The longtime journalist was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame this week in Natchitoches on Saturday. The Louisiana Sports Writers Association honored Lyons with the 2022 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.

A longtime member of the LSWA who has regularly attended these induction ceremonies over the years, Lyons said prior to the event that it had not truly registered that she would be among those honored this time around. The significance of it is in no way lost on her, however.

“They called me and I cried,” Lyons said. “I didn’t know how to react … really, I had no words because I was just overwhelmed. It’s an extraordinary moment … I‘ve been going to this event for 30 years. I’ve been a spectator and I’ve watched others, 80, 90 years old, go up and try to express what this means to them. And now it’s me. It’s so surreal to me. I have so much gratitude for my peers who thought enough of me to select me.”

Today, Lyons teaches the next generation of journalists at Riverside Academy in Reserve. She’s a voice with great credibility for those students. For more than 20 years, Lyons covered the prep sports beat in the River Parishes – a true hotbed of athletic competition – for the Times Picayune, the first full-time female sportswriter in the newspaper’s history. Following her time with the Picayune, she’s covered sports and news alike for a variety of publications including the New Orleans Advocate, Sportsnola.com, the L’Observateur and the St. Charles Herald-Guide. 

The Houma native and Terrebonne High School alum is a two-time LSWA Sportswriter of the Year and was the second woman to ever serve as President of the LSWA.

In total, it’s been a 30-year ride for the talented writer, and longer still if considering some of her earliest clippings.

“A friend of mine from elementary school recently sent me a copy of our old school newsletter, where I was a reporter for that all the way back in the fifth grade,” Lyons said. “I’ve always enjoyed writing. I’ve kept a journal all my life … it’s just something that’s come natural.”

And while these days, she – and her family, but more on that later – is synonymous with sports, early on that was not quite the case. Lyons wasn’t a sports fan before high school, but that changed with a little bit of special motivation.

“I had a crush on the quarterback,” Lyons said. “And he didn’t know I was alive, so I asked one of his friends on how to get him to talk to me.”

The friend’s advice: talk to him about football – he lives it and loves it. But aside from Saints games on Sundays, Lyons didn’t follow the game.

“So, I bought a book, The Great American Sports Book.’ I read it cover to cover. By the time I was done, I wanted to be one of those girls who talks about sports,” she said.

She was a quick study and soon would be off to Loyola University, where she studied journalism. Still, becoming a sportswriter wasn’t necessarily her goal – Lyons simply knew she wanted to write.

“I didn’t grow up saying I want to be a sports writer … you didn’t have the sideline reporters or the female anchors on ESPN. I didn’t have those role models growing up,” she said.

But when her friend and soon-to-be colleague Les East gave her a heads up that a position with the Times Picayune’s sports desk was open, things began to click. Lyons interviewed and was hired as an agate clerk to start, transcribing box scores and results. She worked her way up to become a writer, and the rest was history.

Over the years, she’s covered some of the greatest athletes in the region’s history – from LaRon and Dawan Landry of Hahnville to Ed Reed and Kirk Merritt of Destrehan, Lyons telling their stories and countless others.

There were also high profile visitors: Peyton and Eli Manning were district foes of Riverside when the two prepped at Newman.

“I said I’d go over and interview the Mannings because I can,” Lyons said with a laugh.

She also recalled being in the bleachers and watching the younger Manning play basketball – along with his number one fan.

“Archie would let the refs have it,” Lyons quipped. “It wasn’t a side of him you’d often see!”

Then there were the unforgettable games – some of them true unicorns. Lyons watched Hahnville and East St. John go toe-to-toe for six overtimes in 2007, a 43-42 East St. John victory.

She also witnessed a classic baseball game that yielded a double no-hitter between Riverside and Loranger, a game that saw its only run scored via error.

Lyons is perhaps the best source of anyone if one is looking for a historian of the always heated Destrehan/Hahnville rivalry. She’s seen plenty of St. Charles Catholic v. Riverside; ditto Lutcher/St. James.

“Lutcher/St. James … I remember a guy who worked for the funeral home (near St. James). He drove a tractor with a little coffin behind it – and a bulldog in it,” Lyons recalled. “Just some crazy stuff over the years.

“So many great, great athletes, kids I’ve covered, coaches who were just crazy characters … and some of the most incredible games ever.”

Lyons covered games with a commitment to lifting players up, rather than focusing on mistakes or low moments.

“I tried to soften (mistakes) when I could,” Lyons said. “I never wanted to dwell on that.”

At Riverside, Lyons has shifted her goals to teaching young potential journalists. She finds herself guiding some of the sons and daughters of former prep athletes she’s covered, while she also works alongside some others who have grown up to join the RA faculty.

Though she’s moved on to teaching, Lyons won’t stray too far from the sports world – that would be impossible, given her family. Husband Marty Luquet, former longtime head baseball coach at Destrehan, is now leading the Riverside Academy baseball program. Stepson Daniel is the current head coach of the Hahnville Tigers football squad. Stepdaughter Courtney works as the Associate Director of Football Player Engagement and On-Campus Recruiting with Tulane football.

Her daughter Lora is the lone member of the family who doesn’t take much interest in sports, but she’s much like her mother nonetheless – she has just started her career as a journalist, following in her mother’s footsteps.

 

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