Herman Lang to be Inducted Into LSU HOF
Communications Sr. Associate
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of features profiling the eight members of the 2015 LSU Athletic Hall of Fame induction class. The inductees are gymnast April Burkholder, track hurdler Kim Carson, athletic trainer Mike Chambers, javelin thrower Laverne Eve, women’s basketball player Sylvia Fowles, athletic trainer Herman Lang, swimmer Todd Torres and football player Ebert Van Buren. They will be formally inducted during the Hall of Fame ceremony at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4 in the L’Auberge Baton Rouge Events Center.
Legendary names come to mind when chronicling the glorious history of LSU football in the period stretching from the 1930s through the early ‘70s. Bernie Moore … Gaynell Tinsley … Paul Dietzel … Billy Cannon … Charles McClendon … Jerry Stovall … Tommy Casanova. Each of them, with many other players and coaches, helped LSU football flourish and become embedded into the culture of Louisiana.
Behind the scenes, there was another individual who played a vital role in the growth of the program: Herman Lang.
Lang, a native of New Roads, La., was LSU’s first assistant athletic trainer, and he provided treatment for Fighting Tiger student-athletes from 1932-71. He began working on the LSU campus in 1928 as a laborer for 25 cents an hour, and he moved to the athletic department four years later.
Lang worked with LSU Hall of Fame trainer Martin “Doc” Broussard, and he enjoyed an exemplary career that culminated with his induction into the Louisiana Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame. He also received the Charles E. Dunbar Award from the Louisiana Civil Service League in recognition of his achievements.
Lang, an African-American who worked at LSU for decades prior to the Civil Rights Movement and the desegregation of the student population, was one of the most respected individuals within the athletic department. He was not only an accomplished trainer, but a valued mentor to the players as well.
“As players, we felt that Herman was one of us, said Stovall, the 1962 LSU All-American halfback who would later serve as head coach of the Tigers from 1980-83. “Everybody knew Herman, everybody loved him, and everybody knew that whatever you told him, he would keep in absolute confidence.
“He was the pulse of our football team and football program. He was the one for the coaching staff that kept his hand on the pulse of the team. Not matter what you did, no matter how insignificant it seemed to you, if it was noteworthy, Herman knew it and he congratulated you on it.”
“Herman was an integral part of the football staff,” said Bud Johnson, a former LSU sports information director and now director of the Andonie Sports Museum adjacent to the LSU Alumni Center. “He wrapped every ankle of every player, so he had direct contact with them. The coaches would use him as a sounding board; they would ask him how the players were feeling, and if Herman said the players were being overworked, the coaches would scale back the practice sessions.
“He was a pretty good amateur psychologist; he got to know the players, he listened to them and he would always find common ground. ‘Your Daddy played here, your uncle played here, your cousin played here, and they were real good players, so I know you have it in you.’ A kid from a small school could get lost here, and he loved them and he demonstrated that he cared about him.”
Lang’s compassion for his players was matched only by his dedication to his job.
“His work ethic was unbelievable, as he was in that training room before dawn and stayed late until night,” said George Bevan, a 1969 LSU All-American linebacker. “Herman knew all of his athletes by name and treated us all with respect. He loved LSU and was so loyal to the university.”
“He would sleep on the floor of the training room, if necessary, “ Stovall said, “to make sure an athlete would get his medicine on time the next morning. “
Lang received as much respect and admiration from the LSU coaches as he did from the players.
“We all loved him,” the late Paul Dietzel, LSU’s head coach from 1955-61, said shortly after Lang’s death in 1971. “It never occurred to us that he was anything but a loyal and a devoted colleague and friend. We had many happy times with him and some anxious moments in times of deep distress. Herman was always there with his ready smile and chuckle, which marked his good humor. He had thousands of close friends because he was a friend to thousands.”
“Herman Lang left an everlasting impact on anyone he came in contact with,” said the late Charles McClendon, LSU’s head coach from 1962-79. “He was loved and respected by everyone that ever put on a Tiger uniform. He had as much to do with the success of LSU athletics as anyone who’s ever been here. He will long be remembered by every coach and player that he’s ever worked with.”
So strong was their devotion for Lang, the LSU players and coaches during the 1960s raised money through the “L” Club and purchased Herman and his wife, Naomi, a new home near the campus.
“He’s one of those guys that you’ll never forget, that made an impression on you that is beyond anything you can tell others about,” Stovall said. “You hold that individual in such high regard, and I’m thankful every day that the good Lord allowed Herman Lang to walk across the stage of my life.”
Stovall and Bevan, members of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame themselves, are thrilled that Lang is being inducted into the Hall posthumously. Lang died on May 18, 1971, at the age of 59 after a long illness. The LSU players and coaches had thrown him a birthday party just over a week before he passed away.
“I believe that upon his induction to the LSU Hall of Fame,” Bevan said, “the LSU nation is returning to Herman that loyalty and love he earned during the five decades he gave to the university. It’s also fitting that he will be reunited with Dr. Marty Broussard in the Hall of Fame as they were inseparable at LSU and were such a great team.”
“When the former players get together and talk about the past, it always comes back to Herman Lang,” Stovall said. “We all have personal experiences to share about what he meant to us.
“We knew who he was, what he was and what he stood for, and we acknowledged that with a friendship. I’m privileged to have known him, and I’m privileged to be able to count him among my friends. I am as excited about Herman Lang entering the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame as I am about Jerry Stovall being in it.”