There is no doubt that this has taken more than it's fair share of time, but it finally happened. Former Saint Stanislaus College multi-sport star, as well as, Bay High and Gulfport High head coach and Mississippi State University strength and conditioning coach J.E. Loiacano has been named as an inductee in the Gulfport Sports Hall of Fame this June.
Loiacano has been an athletic fixture in Hancock County since he was in grade school and playing in the Fleas vs Flies games back at St. Stanislaus.
Loiacano commented on his selection, "It is very humbling to be selected. We are excited about seeing many of the former players from Gulfport East and Gulfport at the induction ceremony this summer. We had so many good players on those teams in Gulfport. I was blessed to have them as players and equally blessed to have the support of the administration especially athletic director Lindy Callahan and Superintendent Dr. Miller. Their attitude surrounding the development of the program was 'How can we help?' That made success that much more attainable."
Early on in his playing career, Loiacano took to making himself bigger, stronger and faster because he knew if he had that edge it was enough to win the battle in a game of combat.
In high school, he and some friends would deliver seafood to businesses in New Orleans. While waiting to have the delivery transferred, he would lift at the New Orleans Athletic Club where one of the friend's family had close friends. Loiacano would later say that that thanks to that introduction by those talented lifters in New Orleans at an early age, he had more knowledge about lifting than most coaches he came across.
The lifting certainly helped Loiacano who became a bruising run ing back and jarring linebacker at St. Stanislaus from 1957-59.
At SSC, Loiacano earned varsity letters in football, basketball and track and field. He loved the bruising competition on the gridiron that displayed his athletic nature, bruising style and knowledge of the game. On the court, Loiacano enjoyed to outhustle opponents for a loose ball and quickly get the shot back up. On the track, Loiacano's brute strength lent itself well to the shot put which he would volunteer to coach at SSC in his later years.
Loiacano graduated from SSC in 1960 and signed a football scholarship with Pearl River Junior College.
At PRJC, Loiacano played for legendary Wildcats coach Dobie Holden. He continued to play both running back and linebacker as football had no transitioned to a free substitution rule line today's game. If a player started, they played both sides of the ball.
During his freshman season in 1960, he helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-1 record, a share of the state championship and win over San Angelo, Texas, in the Hospitality Bowl.
In his sophomore season, Loiacano and the Wildcats struck gold as they went a perfect 10-0, won the state championship outright and the national championship. It was a team that scored a then-record 446 points during the season.
Loiacano was named first team All-State and All-American at running back and linebacker and played in the Junior College All-Star game where he served as captain.
Following his time at PRJC, Loiacano signed a scholarship with Mississippi State University.
While suiting up in the Maroon and White, Loiacano played more linebacker than running back. He was the team's leading tackler both seasons and earned All-SEC honors his senior year while also playing fullback for the Bulldogs. He ended his career in the Maroon and White in the Liberty Bowl following his senior season.
After his MSU days in Starkville, Loiacano was drafted into the United Football League. He played two seasons for Canton and Philadelphia earning All-UFL status both seasons. Loiacano retired from professional football after his second season following a knee injury.
He returned home to Bay St. Louis where he and his wife, the former Courtney Cowand, began their post-playing days.
Taking jobs when they came up, Loiacano finally got on with Lance Lumpkin as an assistant coach at Bay High. He served two seasons before he was named head coach in 1970.
Loiacano would stay at Bay High for four years before taking the head job at Gulfport East. While at Bay High, he began to introduce weights and lifting as part of the strength training and conditioning for his teams. Soon, players and fans began to take notice of players who were bigger, faster, and stronger.
He instilled the same type of training at Gulfport East and the difference was glaringly obvious.
Prior to his fourth season in Gulfport, both Gulfport High School and Gulfport East merged to form one high school in the city that was going through difficult times sustaining two high schools.
After going 9-1 and just missing out on a trip to the Big 8 championship game during his third year at Gulfport East, Loiacano and the Admirals struck gold winning the Big 8 and state championship with a 11-1 record. That title remains Gulfport's only state title in football. However, he would not remain long in Gulfport after that achievement. He left high school coaching with a 69-24-1 record, two Shrimp Bowl titles, a Big 8 championship and state title to his credit.
Loiacano and his young family packed their bags and headed back to Starkville where he was recently named the Strength and Conditioning coach for the Bulldogs. While almost each sport at schools today have their own strength coach, Loiacano was one of three strength coaches in the country in 1977.
He would stay on for four years and train athletes under Bob Tyler and Emory Ballard. When he decided that it was time for a change, he had an opportunity to train at another school in the midwest but he really wanted back on the field to coach. Ultimately, he and the family decided to return home to Bay St. Louis in 1980. It was that decision that changed the course of Hancock County athletics.
Loiacano returned to his hometown and promptly opened Loiacano's Health Club on Main Street. It was there that his 'bigger, faster, stronger' mentality combined with his 'Push and Pull' training regimen changed young athletes for the better.
Loiacano added, "We came back home and opened the health club. It was great venture and we made many great memories with the patrons who came to utilize the equipment. It helped springboard lifting for the young athlete to keep them strong and injury free."
Loiacano kept the health club open from 1980 until 2005 when Hurrican Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region. The building remains but not as a gathering place for people looking to get bigger, stronger, and faster. The memories of those times flourish with all who remain today.
This summer Loiacano will be one of 13 individuals being inducted in the sixth class of the hall. One of those going in is former Gulfport High quarterback Joseph Adams who played for Loiacano. He stated at a press release for the new class, "I was fortunate to play for J.E. Loiacano. He brought a brand new outlook. If there is one thing, it was this man. He brought in accountability, and gradually you could see that we were bigger, stronger and faster. His fingerprints were all over Gulfport football."
He is also a member of the PRCC Athletic Hall.of Fame, the MACJC Athletic Hall of Fame, the All-American Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the Great Wall of Rocks for Athletics.
Loiacano has been a standout athlete at the high school level and parlayed his belief and regimen into a national championship caliber of play. He played professionally and trained professional athletes of all sport. He has traveled as a guest lecturer on strength training, was an AAU weightlifting champion and is an author on the topic. He was also a small business owner who developed a large and faithful following. Now, he is being recognized at home. Congratulations, Coach Loiacano! You have lifted us for so long, now your enshrinement into this prestigious group here at home is the least we can do to lift you.