Benny Cenac, Business Entrepreneur, likes to give back to the community in many ways. On a recent Friday night, music was playing, and spectators and athletes mingled side-by-side to cheer on local champions. But this time, the sweaty jerseys were replaced with suits for this year’s banquet.
The Bayou Region Athletic Hall of Fame was created by Terrebonne General Medical Center to allow for the legacies and achievements of local athletes to live on and inspire Southeastern Louisiana communities for generations, just like they once inspired Benny Cenac, local businessman.
Benny Cenac, business leader in Houma, was proud to be the Home Run sponsor for the third-annual Bayou Region Athletic Hall of Fame banquet, recently held on June 20, 2019 at the Cypress Columns in Gray, LA. Each year, the Foundation for Terrebonne General Medical Center and the TGMC Community Sports Institute honor some of the top athletes from Terrebonne, Lafourche or Assumption parishes with a spot of prominence on the Bayou Region Athletic Wall of Fame, located in the TGMC Community Sports Institute.
Proceeds from the banquet support The Foundation for TGMC’s fundraising efforts to purchase and operate a mobile medical clinic/blood mobile.
This year’s renowned inductees include former National Football League (NFL) players, Clarence Verdin, Johnny Meads, Melvin Johnson (posthumously) and Jay Pennison, McNeese State University Softball player Margaret Haydel-Johnson and Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) athlete, Avery Leblanc.
Vandebilt Catholic and McNeese State University-educated Margaret Haydel-Johnson was 112-1 overall as a catcher for four years at Vandebilt Catholic, won four state titles as a player and was also a standout softball and volleyball player at McNeese State University. As a softball coach at Vandebilt, she coached for 24 seasons, made 13 state-title game appearances and won seven state championships.
Melvin Johnson was a star football player and track and field athlete at South Terrebonne before playing football at Colorado University. Johnson made the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Kansas City Chiefs. He died tragically at age 25 in 1980 after slipping into a coma during wrist surgery before he ever officially played in the NFL.
Avery LeBlanc graduated from Terrebonne High School 1962 and began his professional bowling career in 1971. Since, he has won two PBA regional titles, bowled 76 300 games, was the leading money winner on the senior tour from 1993-99, is in four bowling halls of fames, and has carried a 200 average for 50 straight years.
Johnny Meads attended Assumption before Nicholls State University and was later drafted in the third round of the 1984 USFL draft by the New Orleans Breakers. Meads played in 117 NFL games with the Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins from 1984-93 and had 23.5 sacks overall.
After graduating from South Terrebonne in 1979, Jay Pennison played for Nicholls State University until he was drafted in the 13th round of the USFL by the Jacksonville Bulls. He played in 100 professional games with the Houston Oilers and appeared in five playoff games. Mr. Pennison was the center on an offensive line that featured Bruce Matthews, Dean Steinkuhler, Mike Munchak and Bruce Davis.
Clarence Verdin was on the team for South Terrebonne, then University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and later (played in the USFL for the Houston Gamblers from 1984-85 and caught passes from Jim Kelly and was named a USFL all-star. Verdin was later taken in the third round of the 1986 supplemental draft by the Washington Redskins and won Super Bowl XXII, as well as play for the Colts and Falcons and make the Pro Bowl twice as a kick returner. He enjoyed 237 kick returns for 4,930 yards and two scores, 178 punt returns for 1,650 yards and four scores and caught 82 passes for 1,329 yards and seven scores throughout his football career.
Benny Cenac: Business Leader and Philanthropist in Louisiana
Benny Cenac Jr. often sponsors events around the community and regularly donates to schools and organizations within Southeastern Louisiana. Like two of the aforementioned six athletes honored at the banquet, Mr. Cenac is a proud alum of Nicholls State University. Benny Cenac Jr. is most fond of his involvement with the Nicholls State University College of Business Advisory Board, Nicholls State University Foundation, the Bridge to Independence Program, and the Nicholls State University Culinary School.
Over the years, Mr. Cenac has contributed to organizations within his parish, the state of Louisiana, and dozens of other national and international causes. These include organization such as the Houma-Terrebonne NAACP, O.N.E./C.H.A.N.G.E., Terrebonne Association for Retarded Citizens, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Arlen Benny Cenac Jr. is already excited for next year’s Bayou Region Athletic Hall of Fame banquet! Mr. Cenac is proud to see the athletic contributions of his community members receive the continued admiration and acknowledgement they deserve at a beautiful event such as this one. He hopes to inspire future regional athletes and cannot wait to watch more and more of them play for impressive and notable high school, college, and professional teams in the years to come.