Helping their teams win games as players and coaches was important, but it’s perhaps the lives they touched and the way they represent themselves and their communities in a positive manner that best illustrates the class of 2019 inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Pete Kelley and Warren Reynolds made names for themselves on the basketball court as players and later as mentors while coaching.
Courtney Upshaw and Dennis Smith were standout football players who continued to make an impact in their communities once stepping away from the playing field.
Curt Barnes and Olivia Saliba were both fine athletes and coaches who influenced many others through their roles in education.
They came together Saturday night at the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center in front of family and friends for a ceremony while being ushered in as the 27th class of inductees into the WSHOF.
The following are bios on each inductee:
Curt Barnes: A graduate of Abbeville High School in 1969, Barnes played football, basketball and baseball. As a senior football player, he was named to the Wiregrass Athletic Conference team and received honorable mention All-State. After graduating from Troy State in 1973, Barnes began a long coaching career in the Wiregrass with his first stop being at his alma mater of Abbeville, where he was head baseball coach. He then coached one year as an assistant at Headland before moving on to Slocomb for three years, where he served as head baseball and basketball coach during his tenure. He next landed at Houston Academy as head football and basketball coach from 1981-1983. Barnes then coached at Ashford (1983-1985), where he led the girls basketball team to a runner-up finish in the state tournament. Barnes was the head football, baseball and girls basketball coach at Wicksburg from 1985-1987 before moving to Rehobeth, where he led the football and baseball programs until 1994. He became assistant principal at Rehobeth in 1995 and retired from education in 2003. Barnes also spent 18 years as the softball supervisor for the City of Dothan.
Pete Kelley: A star basketball player at Straughn during his high school days, Kelley was selected to play in the North/South All-Star Game as a senior. He became the first to sign a basketball scholarship with Enterprise State, playing on the first team there and making all-conference both seasons. After a stint in the U.S. Army, where he received two bronze stars, Kelley earned a degree from Troy University and took his first coaching job at Samson as an assistant football and basketball coach from 1973-1975. Kelley was then hired at Kinston as a head basketball coach and assistant football coach. He led the Kinston basketball team to three state tournament appearances, which included winning a state championship in 1981. The team won five straight Southeast Alabama Conference championships and several area and region titles. At one point, Kinston won 30 games in a row under Kelley’s leadership. Kelley was named the Class 1A Coach of the Year in 1979 and 1981 and conference Coach of the Year five times. After getting out of coaching, Kelley served as principal at Andalusia and later superintendent of Andalusia City Schools.
Warren Reynolds: Reynolds graduated from Carver High School in Dothan in 1958 and was a member of the “Ten Tall Men” basketball team, which represented the state in the National Black High School Championship tournament. He earned a scholarship to Tuskegee University, where he played basketball, baseball and football. He excelled in basketball and was inducted into the Tuskegee Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, but it was as a basketball coach that Reynolds would perhaps gain the most notoriety. He developed a powerhouse program at Ballard-Hudson High School in Macon, Ga., which was ranked the top team in the county in 1968. He would next become an assistant coach at North Carolina A&T University and was named head coach there in 1969. For the next 17 years, North Carolina A&T became one of the most respected programs in the nation. North Carolina A&T became the second black college team to participate in the National Invitational Tournament in New York. Reynolds retired from coaching in 1986 and eventually moved back to Dothan, where he served several years as an assistant at Northview High School.
Olivia Saliba: A graduate of Dothan High School in 1969 and the University of Alabama in 1973, Saliba became the first softball coach at Dothan High in 1990 and led the team to the area tournament and to the eight-team Class 6A state tournament that first year. Saliba also coached tennis for two years and volleyball for one year along with her duties as a math teacher at her alma mater. Saliba played in the city women’s softball league for 26 years, which included being a member of two state championship teams and one national champion in the 35-and-older division in 1996. Saliba was also a softball umpire in Dothan’s adult leagues, which included umpiring three national tournaments. She also spent time as a coach, umpire and a director in the city’s softball leagues. Saliba now resides in Wichita, Kansas.
Dennis Smith: A standout running back at Elba High School from 1968-1971, Smith led the Southeast Alabama Conference in rushing with almost 1,000 yards as a senior. He also lettered on the Elba track and baseball teams. Smith was offered a full football scholarship to Clemson University and led the Atlantic Coast Conference in interceptions as a junior, picking off six in nine games played after becoming a starter at safety. Two of the interceptions came during a 39-21 win over rival South Carolina – his second of the game being returned 39 yards for a touchdown. As a senior during an upset 21-17 win over Georgia Tech, he made a touchdown-saving tackle and an interception. After graduation, Smith went to work for the City of Opp as the recreational director. In 1981, Smith became recreational director for the City of Elba and worked there until the early 1990s.
Courtney Upshaw: A star linebacker at Eufaula High School, Upshaw was named the state’s 5A Lineman of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association and was an all-state performer as a senior in 2007. Upshaw was an inaugural member of the ESPN All-American team and signed a scholarship with the University of Alabama. Upshaw played in every game his freshman and sophomore years for the Crimson Tide and started every game his junior and senior seasons. A consensus All-American as a senior, Upshaw helped lead Alabama to a national championship and was named the Defensive MVP of the title game. Upshaw was a second-round selection of Baltimore in the 2012 NFL Draft and played every game his rookie season as the Ravens won the Super Bowl. After four seasons, Upshaw was traded to the Atlanta Falcons and helped that team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2016.