Former Baker High, LSU coaches remember strength, leadership of Hokie Gajan

Former Baker High, LSU coaches remember strength, leadership of Hokie Gajan
Hokie Gajan in a Baker High yearbook (Source: WAFB)
Hokie Gajan in a Baker High yearbook (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Local coaches shared fond memories of Hokie Gajan, a Baker High School football standout who went on to do big things in the world of football. The former New Orleans Saints running back died of cancer Monday at the age of 56.

It's said that when Hokie was a kid, he fell and busted his head open trying to dance to the popular song "The Hokey Pokey." That is what gave him the name that many will remember for some time.

Even before Hokie powered down the field for the Saints, he had already left his mark on the field at Baker High.

"I look back at Hokie, how tough he was to play football and he was a tough minded individual. If anybody could withstand something like that he could," said Larry Thomas, an assistant coach at Baker High during the mid-70s.

Thomas said Gajan was a strong leader and a tough person. Thomas still has a yearbook in which Hokie was named Mr. Baker High School.

"He was a good disciple for Baker High School. He represented us well and we were proud of him - a proud son," Thomas said.

"He didn't have a lot to come from, but what he did have, he worked for. His mom and dad worked hard and taught him how to work hard," said former LSU head football Coach Jerry Stovall.

Stovall recruited Gajan and said his character is what stood out.

"He practiced Monday through Friday as hard as he played on Saturday or he played on Saturday as hard as he practiced Monday through Friday you couldn't tell the difference. It was that intense," Stovall said.

Stovall said while Hokie wasn't the fastest player on the field, he was the one who worked the hardest.

"He adopted at a pretty young age a competitive spirit. There was no way you were going to slow Hokie down you're going to have to stop him," Stovall said.

"He was such a great athlete and I knew he was tough but you overcome something like that is terrific," Thomas said.

"See everywhere he went and played at LSU, Baker was with him," Stovall said. "Those that helped him, those who taught him, those who coached him, those who would talk to him in Sunday school and preach to them from the pulpit, that entire population base went with him, that's the kind of leader he was."

No word yet on when the funeral will be as his family still works on arrangements.

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