Early Tuesday morning was no different than any other – I woke in the early morning hours, as I do every night, and I always check my phone. But this morning’s routine was broken by a text alert from WWL that the beloved Hokie Gajan had passed away peacefully during the night.
I did not know Hokie well, but what I knew of him made me wish I had known him better. I will leave the accolades of Hokie’s professional career with the Saints to the sports guys who knew him and worked closely with him, but I will share memories of Hokie Gajan.
I remember the first time Hokie told me that he used to listen to “Scoot in the Morning” when he was playing with the Saints. I was always touched when players would tell me they were listeners of my show.
During the offseason, I rarely saw Hokie, but during the Saints seasons I would often see Hokie in the halls or in the studio at WWL. My brief encounters with Hokie were always meaningful. Hokie was smart and insightful, but often those qualities were hidden behind his down-home demeanor and a slight Cajun accent. And Hokie had an amazing sense of humor. The commercials he did for various clients were not always scripts handed to him – he wrote some of the most creative lines I’ve heard on radio!
One Hokie original will always stand out in my mind as an example of Hokie’s great wit. In describing how fast a player was, Hokie, said, “He’s so fast he could go rabbit hunting with a hammer!” That was Hokie! He didn’t pick up lines from others – he was original and innately funny.
One night when I was doing the show from 8:00 pm to midnight on WWL, Hokie had just finished doing Sports Talk and we were talking during the newsbreak at 8:00 pm and I asked Hokie if he would like to join me for the Top 8 at 8. Every night I opened the show with the top 8 things you needed to know as we started the show. The night Hokie interacted with me on the Top 8 at 8 was the night I realized how smart and quick-witted Hokie was!
Hokie was as sensitive as he was tough. He loved and cared about his family. I always admired how he never allowed the fame and recognition that he deserved to distract him from all that was really important in life. I have known so many people in this business that allowed their fame to define them – but not Hokie. Hokie seemed to consider his celebrity status unnecessary and it certainly never changed anything about him.
Radio has a way of instilling in individuals a false sense of importance in society and I will always admire the way Hokie Gajan was true to his personality and his convictions, in spite of the notoriety that temps so many to change.
Many were shocked when greeted with the news that the legendary Hokie Gajan had passed away. Hokie did not attract attention to his weakness and never wanted anyone to worry about him. That’s the kind of person he was and that’s the kind of person he will forever be to me.
A few at WWL knew how dire Hokie’s situation was and yesterday before going on the air I ask how Hokie was doing and the answer I got was, “It’s not good. It’s going to be sooner rather than later.” Sadly, it was indeed sooner.
Hokie touched the lives of so many in the WHO DAT Nation. First as a player, then as a scout for the Saints and then as the color analyst with Jim Henderson on WWL.
Hokie’s unpolished style endeared him to fans everywhere and his character stood out with a voice and style that, in some ways, defied radio standards. And Hokie’s voice was honest beyond his love for the Saints.
I remember, in particular, when fans were hyped up at the beginning of last season - Hokie was one of the voices that held an honest assessment of the Saints – he insisted they were not that good. And Hokie, once again, was right.
I admired Hokie’s ability to be objective. He never allowed his love for the Saints to alter his honest assessment of the team. That’s not and easy thing to do in radio or in life.
What I learned from my encounters with Hokie Gajan make me a better person.
Hokie doesn’t remind me of anyone else. Hokie Gajan was an original.