There have been a number of offensive players from Vernon Parish grace the sidelines for a number of NFL teams. However, Vernon Parish has also produced a number of solid players in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball.

There have been a number of offensive players from Vernon Parish grace the sidelines for a number of NFL teams. However, Vernon Parish has also produced a number of solid players in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball.

One standout defensive player recently picked up a Super Bowl ring. Another played six years in the league after a standout career at McNeese State University, while another was a dominant player for both the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos during his prime.

Pickering two-way phenom D’Anthony “Boo” Smith has played for two teams in the National Football League. After being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars out of Louisiana Tech, Smith eventually made his way to the Seattle Seahawks.

Though Smith was cut by the Seahawks, they re-signed him later that year. The Seahawks put together a memorable run to the Super Bowl, which ended with Seattle prevailing with ease over the Denver Broncos, allowing Smith to earn him a championship ring.

During his playing career at Pickering, Smith was more than just a huge defensive lineman. He proved to be a very valuable member of the offensive line, usually being the lead blocker in the vaunted Red Devil veer attack.

He also spent time as a tight end for the Red Devils and even handled kicking chores during his time at O’Banion Stadium.

Another Smith, Leesville athlete Keith Smith, was an NFL player from Vernon Parish, spending six standout years in the league.

His first four years were spent with the Detroit Lions, while he closed out his career in San Francisco, landing in California for two years.

During high school, Smith was a jack-of-all-trades for head coach Danny Smith. Smith’s unbelievable speed on the edges provided him an opportunity to stand out at wide receiver and as a kick returner, where he had several return touchdowns.

But when a running back went down with an injury, Smith stepped in and promptly rushed for over 100 yards in consecutive games.

Primarily, however, Smith was a stalwart on defense. He was often left to himself to guard the other team’s best receiver and was rarely thrown out.

Additionally, Smith was a state champion on the track and led the Wampus Cats to the brink of a state championship during his senior season. He was the state champion in the 400-meter dash that year as well.

Smith moved onto McNeese State University, where he was an all-American for the Cowboys and is best known for running down Miami standout Santana Moss on a kick return and tackling him just short of a touchdown.

Another Leesville standout, Kavika Pittman, had a stellar collegiate career with McNeese State University and took his talents to the National Football League, where he played for the Cowboys and the Broncos, providing both teams with a capable player up front.

Leesville also produced several more standout collegiate players on the defensive side of the ball, including linemen Robert “Sugar Bear” Jenkins and Joe Moses. Jenkins was an all-state performer for the Cats, eventually moving on to play at Grambling State University.

Moses was also an all-state performer.

At the linebacking position, Leesville is well-known in that department as well. But it’s perhaps Pickering’s Ricky Conn that people remember well.

Current Pickering head coach Johnny Cryer said he brings out tapes of Conn to show his current players how to get the job done.

“He was the best linebacker Pickering has ever had,” Cryer said. “Ricky Conn was a linebacker in every sense of the word. He was always around the ball.”

According to many stories, Conn made himself well-known to then Newman High School quarterback Payton Manning during the playoffs. Legend has it that Conn drilled Manning so hard, so many times, that Manning had no clue where he was as the Red Devils knocked Newman out of the playoffs.

Conn was an all-state performer and the Defensive Player of the Year for the state in Class 2A during his senior campaign.

The Leesville duo of Sedric Clemons and Greg Rone proved to be quite the tandem during the Wampus Cats run to the state championship game in 1995.

Clemons, who would go on to be a three-year starter for the Green Wave of Tulane, and Rone sparked a Wampus Cat defense that was nearly impossible to score against.

“With Sedric and Greg, our defense had six shutouts that season,” recalled former Leesville head coach Danny Smith.

Rounding out the linebacking corps was Leesville’s Steven Gunn. Remembered fondly for his effort on the field, Gunn, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident, was even more well-known for his actions off the field during his adult life. Many people said he was one of the greatest people you would ever meet and would do anything for someone in need.

Joining Keith Smith as the top defensive backs in the history of Vernon Parish football are Leesville standouts Oscar Joiner and Vincent Fuller. Both played at LSU during their collegiate careers and both were all-state performers as well.

Joiner was also well-known for his offensive prowess at running back and was said to be one of the greatest of all-time at that spot before a knee injury.

Rounding out the defensive backfield is Rosepine’s Klint White.

A jack-of-all-trades himself, White was a four-year starter on both sides of the ball for the Eagles. He could play quarterback, running back, linebacker, defensive back and kick returner for the Eagles. He could kick as well.

“Klint is the best football player I ever coached at Rosepine,” Cryer said. “He could do it all. You hear people say that someone is a football player. Well, Klint was a football player in every sense of the word.”

White accounted for over 6,000 yards of offense during his career and over 60 touchdowns. Defensively, he was an all-stater and district MVP at defensive back.

White was also quite efficient on the baseball diamond as he attended Faulkner State on a baseball scholarship.

Rounding out the greatest of all-time defensive squad were a pair of kick return specialists from Leesville — Jeff Steele and Justin Brown.

Steele, who attended Louisiana-Monroe after graduating from Leesville High School, was primarily a running back for the Wampus Cats and had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. Prior to his senior year, however, he was injured and missed the entire season. But that didn’t prevent UL-Monroe from signing him.

As a sophomore for UL-Monroe, Steele ranked in the top five in the nation in all-purpose yards.

Brown, who played defensive back at Northwestern State University, was a nightmare on special teams for other teams. His ability to take it to the house proved to be vital during one Wampus Cat playoff run.

He had a punt return for a touchdown and a long kickoff return during a first-round victory for the Wampus Cats over Walker. Brown added three touchdowns a week later in a rain-soaked victory over Woodlawn-Baton Rouge.