VALDOSTA — Last Thursday, 13 accomplished former Valdosta High athletes saw their names added to the school’s sports Hall of Fame.
William Charles Adams, Jerry Don Baker, Dexter Daniels, Chris Hart, Dr. Ben Hogan, Berke Holtzclaw, Tracy Blanton Jackson, Dr. David Parker, Sam Register, Sonny Shroyer, Troy Thomas, Ted West and Ron Wetherington are the Valdosta Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2008. They were inducted at the Hall of Fame banquet at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center.
Each member was on hand to be honored, some coming from as far away as California.
All 13 expressed how honored they were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and each one stated how proud they were to have been Wildcats.
“God has truly blessed me,” Baker said. “I am honored to have been a small part of the Wildcat tradition.”
Most of them also credited the lessons and values they learned at Valdosta with helping them become the people they have become in their adult lives.
Not only were all of the Hall of Famers great athletes, they also played on great teams. All 13 saw at least one Valdosta team win a state championship during their time there.
Adams was a four-year letterman on the Valdosta golf team from 1953-56. He won two individual state championships and was a member of three state title teams with the Wildcats. He later played golf at the University of Georgia and in the U.S. Air Force.
Adams recalled how the golf team was given varsity letters his freshman year, and asked athletic director Wright Bazemore if they could get letterman sweaters the next year. Bazemore said they might get them if they won state.
“So we won state that year, and then we won it again the next two years,” recalled Adams.
Baker was a defensive end on the 1968 state championship and 1969 national championship Valdosta teams.
In 1974, he returned to his alma mater, where he coached until 2004. With him as an assistant coach, Valdosta won eight state championships and two national championships.
Baker also coached track, girls basketball and golf. He was twice named the state Coach of the Year after leading the girls track team to state championships in 1980 and 1981.
Baker says he’s been very lucky.
“I was fortunate enough to play for one of the greatest coaches to ever coach high school football, Wright Bazemore. He was a true genius of the game,” Baker said. “...I had the opportunity to play for one of the greatest defensive coaches ever, Jack Rudolph, and later got to coach on the same coaching staff with him.... I was hired as an assistant coach by Nick Hyder, who was a great friend, a great man and a great coach.... I worked with an unbelievable coaching staff, and some of the finest young men.”
Daniels was a prep All-American linebacker for Valdosta and a member of state championship teams in 1989 and 1990. During his senior year, he was chosen the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year.
Daniels went on to play for the University of Florida. During his time there, the Gators won three Southeastern Conference titles and played for the national championship in 1996. He went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens.
Hart was a three-sport star for the Wildcats from 1987-89. He was captain of the football, basketball and track teams his senior year, and played in the Georgia-Florida All-Star game in 1990. He was a member of the 1989 state champions.
Hart went on to play four years at the Naval Academy, was an all-conference player, and was later named to the academy’s Walk of Fame for his academic, military and athletic success.
Hart said one of the things he will remember most from his time at Valdosta is the brotherhood.
“When (teammate) Kenny Rose passed away, you could see the brotherhood of that team. I took that brotherhood on to the Naval Academy... then on to the Marines,” he said.
Hogan was the quarterback and captain for the Wildcats in 1988, and led the team to a 10-0 regular season.
He went on to be a four-year letterman at South Carolina, where he played quarterback, wingback, linebacker and special teams, and was one of the captains his senior year.
Hogan also played baseball and wrestled for Valdosta High.
Hogan’s finest success, though, came away from the gridiron. He was an honor student at Valdosta, an academic All-Southeastern Conference selection at South Carolina and South Carolina’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year in 1993. He went to medical school, became a doctor, and now runs a family medicine practice in Valdosta. He is the Wildcats’ team doctor, and also one of the physicians for Valdosta State.
“It’s amazing when people get to do what they set out to do,” he said.
Holtzclaw was a four-year letterman at Valdosta, and the quarterback of the 1984 team, which went 15-0 and was crowned both state and national champions. That year, he was the team’s offensive most valuable player. In Holtzclaw’s final three varsity seasons, the Wildcats lost only one game and earned two state championships.
Holtzclaw also played receiver on the football team before taking over at quarterback, and ran both track and cross country. He was one of 17 seniors on the 1984 team to get a college scholarship, and went on to play quarterback for East Carolina. Now, he’s a Valdosta Hall of Famer.
“To be standing here today is like a dream,” Holtzclaw said.
Holtzclaw’s father Billy and brother Todd also earned national championship rings at Valdosta. Wildcat football flows deep in the Holtzclaws’ blood.
“0-10 or 15-0, I will be a Wildcat until the day I die,” Holtzclaw said.
Blanton Jackson was a big part of dominant Valdosta girls basketball teams in the 1950s. She was a two-time All-State player for the Lady Wildcats.
In her senior season, she averaged 30 points a game and led Valdosta to the state championship. One night, she scored 40 points in a game. One of her most memorable performances, though, came when she shut down a seven-foot tall center from Jeff Davis in a Valdosta win.
While she has lived in Monticello, Fla. for over 40 years, Blanton Jackson told the audience that Valdosta remains dear to her heart.
“You don’t know how much Valdosta means to me,” she said. “To live in another community and be able to say I played sports at Valdosta is great... Thank you Valdosta. I love you.”
Parker was a four-sport letterman for Valdosta, playing football, baseball, golf and wrestling. He was an All-State baseball player and a region champion in wrestling.
Parker is probably best known, though, for quarterbacking the Valdosta football team in 1980 and 1981. During that time, Valdosta went 22-3 and Parker was All-Region twice. The Wildcats won the state championship his freshman year. He went on to play for Princeton University and was a two-time All-Ivy League quarterback.
But like Hogan, a fellow quarterback, Parker’s best exploits came in the classroom and the medical field. Parker was Valdosta’s valedictorian in 1982, and graduated with honors from Princeton. He graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1990, and served as a doctor in the Air Force for nine years, leaving as a major. He is now a surgeon in Valdosta.
Like all of the inductees, Parker considers it a great honor to be chosen for the Hall of Fame.
“I look at the list of athletes (in the Hall of Fame), and it’s amazing,” he said.
Register was an All-State lineman for Valdosta in the late 1940s, and a member of the 1947 state champions, Bazemore’s first state title as Valdosta’s head coach. In 1948, Register was chosen the top lineman in the state of Georgia. He played in the state high school All-Star game his senior year.
Register went on to play football for Georgia Tech, then graduated from Mercer. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army, becoming a first lieutenant, then returned to his hometown.
Nearly 60 years after he last took his Valdosta uniform off, Register still has a lot of memories of his days as a Wildcat.
“Thank you for this honor, and more importantly, thank you for all the years of memories I have,” Register said.
Shroyer played four years of varsity football for Valdosta from 1949-52, and was a member of state championship teams in 1951 and 1952, as well as the Peanut Bowl champions his senior year.
He went on to play football for Florida State, then graduated from the University of Georgia.
But Shroyer is best known as an actor, particularly for his role as Deputy Enos Strate on “The Dukes of Hazzard.” He also played a football player in “The Longest Yard” and legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant in “Forrest Gump.” The actor who has played many Southerners in front of the camera sounded like a true Southerner when expressing his joy at induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I’m in tall cotton right now,” Shroyer said.
Thomas was one of the finest cornerbacks in Valdosta history. He was a four-year letterman for the Wildcats, and a shutdown corner. He was the state Defensive Player of the Year his senior year in 1979, and played on the 1978 state championship team.
“Troy Thomas is a name that brings a smile to every Wildcat’s face,” fellow Hall of Famer Jack Rudolph said while introducing him.
“This honor would not have been achieved without some great teammates,” Thomas said.
Thomas went on to play for South Carolina as a defensive back and a return man, and led the Gamecocks to three bowl appearances. After that, he played in the Canadian Football League.
Thomas’ wife, Lisa Jones Thomas, and his father-in-law, Edward Jones, are also members of the Valdosta Sports Hall of Fame.
West was another standout quarterback for Valdosta. In two years starting under center for the Wildcats, the team went 26-1 and won the state championship in 1982. He holds the school record for most consecutive wins as a quarterback (26), and quarterbacked the first Valdosta team to go 15-0.
West was also a great baseball and basketball player. He played four years for the Valdosta baseball team. He went 29-4 as a pitcher and batted .383 with 20 home runs. He was a three-time All-Region and All-State player. He was also the starting point guard on the basketball team his freshman year.
“The players who came before me inspired me to love the black-and-gold,” West said.
West went on to pitch for Valdosta State, coached by fellow Valdosta Sports Hall of Famer Tommy Thomas. He set two school records and helped the Blazers reach the Division II College World Series in 1985.
With the inductions of Parker, West, Holtzclaw and Hogan, nine of Hyder’s first 10 quarterbacks are now enshrined in the Valdosta Sports Hall of Fame.
Wetherington played football for Valdosta from 1950-54 and was a member of three state championship teams and two Peanut Bowl-winning teams.
Wetherington was All-State and All-Region in 1953 as an end, as well as honorable mention All-Southern. He also played in the North-South All-Star Game. He went on to play for Florida State.
He also played basketball and ran track for the Wildcats. He has been a Valdosta season ticket holder and avid fan since 1958, and has a lot of fond memories of his days as a Wildcat.
“I remember the excitement in the dressing room before the game,” Wetherington recalled. “Coach Bazemore used to call out the starting lineups before the game, and if that didn’t send a chill up your spine, I don’t know what does.”
Each inductee was given a plaque commemorating their honor. A duplicate plaque for each person has been hung up in the Wildcat Museum, located at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
The Valdosta Sports Hall of Fame inductees were chosen by a 14-member selection committee.
VHS Hall inducts 13 former greats as new members
VALDOSTA — Last Thursday, 13 accomplished former Valdosta High athletes saw their names added to the school’s sports Hall of Fame.
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