A few of them enjoyed some fellowship in the annual golf tournament on Friday afternoon, playing under the hot summer sun at Dothan National ahead of the banquet.
On Saturday night, they spent time mingling and getting to know each other better during a reception before taking their place at a head table.
The 26th class of inductees into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame was ushered in on Saturday night at the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center with family and friends in attendance.
The Class of 2018 – Debbie Barnes, Daniel Collier, Edward Fleming, Gwen Jackson, Jerrel Jernigan, Chris Padget, Cedric Smith and Steve Wade – is comprised of former players and coaches who made an impact in the Wiregrass and beyond.
Each had an opportunity to make a speech during the dinner banquet as they were awarded plaques and formally welcomed into the local hall of fame which honors past athletes, coaches and support personnel from the area.
The following are bios on member of the Class of 2018.
Debbie Barnes: A native of Fort Gaines, Ga., Barnes was a standout basketball and softball player at Abbeville Christian Academy. A 1980 graduate, she led the area in rebounding with an average of 15 per game and averaged 12.9 points per contest as a senior in being selected an Alabama Private Schools Association all-star.
Barnes earned a basketball scholarship to Wallace College and was named MVP during her freshman and sophomore years. She was named an AJCC all-star and was MVP of the all-star game in 1982. She transferred to Auburn University and continued her basketball career, lettering as a junior and senior.
In 1985, Barnes returned to Abbeville Christian as a teacher and coach – leading the girls basketball and softball teams from 1985-1988 and again from 1991-1992. She led the Generals’ softball team to a state title in 1988, the first state championship in any sport for the school.
In 1992 Barnes began working part-time at Wallace College as the women’s basketball coach, leading the program for three years. In 2017, she was inducted into the Alabama Independent Schools Association Hall of Fame. She continues to teach at ACA.
Daniel Collier: A star athlete at Carroll High School during his prep days, Collier excelled as a quarterback on the football field and was a standout on the baseball diamond for the Eagles in being named the school’s “Ideal Male Athlete” as a senior.
Collier continued his baseball career at Enterprise State Community College and would be selected in the seventh round of the 1991 Major League Baseball Draft by the Boston Red Sox, becoming the second player to ever be drafted out of ESCC.
Collier was traded to the Texas Rangers organization and would have his most successful seasons with the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League. In 1997 he was the MVP of the Texas League All-Star Game and reached career highs that season in home runs with 26 and RBIs with 79. Included in that season was a weeklong stretch in June in which Collier hit a Texas League record of seven home runs in the span of seven consecutive games, equaling a minor league mark shared by only three others and gained him entry into the Minor League Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
A shoulder injury forced Collier into an early retirement but he continued to contribute in baseball in the Wiregrass while mentoring youth by volunteer coaching. He coached the Carroll High American Legion baseball teams, Dixie Baseball teams and Little League football teams in Ozark. He then coached youth travel baseball teams for 15 years.
He is an active member of the Alabama Cattleman’s Club and Alabama Poultry Producers. Collier was recently awarded the 2017 Dale County Top Poultry Producer of the Year.
Edward Fleming: Fleming is a product of Dothan City Schools, where he played football and ran track. He graduated from Dothan High School in 1974 and began his college career at Chowan Jr. College in Murfreesboro, N.C., where he played football from 1974-1976 and earned his A.S. degree in Education.
Fleming later received another football scholarship to Norfolk State College in Norfolk, Va., and received his Bachelor of Science degree. While playing football at Norfolk, Fleming was a member of the C.I.A.A. Conference Championship team in 1976, and he obtained his Bachelor of Science in Education in 1979. He later obtained his Master of Science in Education at Troy University in 1990.
Fleming was a coach at Eufaula High School from 1979-1989, serving as JV boys basketball coach and as an assistant for varsity basketball and football. He was elevated to head basketball coach from 1986-1989.
Fleming became head boys and girls track coach at Dothan High from 1989-2009 while also serving as a football assistant. He was head girls basketball coach from 1993-2009 and assistant principal from 2009-2012 before becoming principal of PASS Academy alternative school. He retired from that position this summer.
Gwen Jackson: A basketball standout and 1999 graduate of Eufaula High School, Jackson started all four years of her prep career and scored 3,555 points. She was named an All-American as a senior and also the state’s Miss Basketball.
She signed to continue her college career at the University of Tennessee and was the only freshman to ever start for legendary coach Pat Summitt. Jackson became an All-SEC performer while scoring 1,508 points during her college career.
Jackson went on to play four years of professional basketball in the WNBA. She was the sixth pick in the first round of the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury and later played for the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Jackson returned to her alma mater to be the head varsity girls basketball coach from 2005-2007. She became assistant head coach of St Paul’s College in Virginia from 2008-2010 and was elevated to head coach and assistant athletics director from 2011-2012. From 2012 until 2017, she was head girls basketball coach at Austin-East High School in Knoxville, Tenn.
Jerrel Jernigan: A native of Eufaula, Jernigan played quarterback in high school and led Eufaula High to the 2006 state championship game, where the Tigers finished as the state runner-up. He played on the collegiate level with Troy University and was named first team All-Sun Belt Conference three years in a row.
At Troy, Jernigan had playing time in four different positions – wide receiver, punt returner, kick returner and quarterback. He holds records at Troy for most kickoff returns in a season (39), most yards on kickoff returns in a season (897), most receptions in a season (84), most career receptions (262), most career receiving yards (3,128), most season all-purpose yards (2,264) and most all-purpose yards in a career (5,985).
Jernigan was a member of four Sun Belt Conference championship teams and made appearances at four bowl games as a Trojan. He was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He played four years with the Giants, winning a Super Bowl title his rookie year. In 2017, Jernigan was inducted into the Troy University Sports Hall of Fame.
He currently coaches wide receivers at his alma mater of Eufaula and serves as a physical education teacher at Admiral Moorer Middle School.
Chris Padget: A 1980 graduate of Headland High School, Padget was an All-State pitcher for the state runner up Rams during his senior season. He then played at Wallace College from 1980-82 and was an All-Region selection as a sophomore.
Padget transferred to the University of Mississippi to continue his baseball career and was named first team All-SEC as a senior with a batting average of .353 with nine home runs and seven triples, which led the SEC.
Padget was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1984 and was named an Appalachian League All-Star during his rookie season. In 1985 he was a Carolina League Class A All-Star for Hagerstown, Md., and in 1986 a Southern League Class AA All-Star for Charlotte, N.C.
Padget was named to the Orioles’ 40-man Major League roster in 1986 and helped Class AAA Rochester win two International League titles while there from 1987-1990.
After his playing career, Padget became assistant baseball coach at Wallace College from 1991-1992. He then was head baseball coach at Ashford High from 1993-1999 with five of his six teams reaching the playoffs. Padget led the Headland High baseball team from 2000-2008 with eight teams reaching the playoffs. His overall coaching record was 181-124.
Padget is currently the Superintendent of Education for Henry County Schools.
Cedric Smith: A standout running back at Enterprise High School during his prep days, Smith was a three-year starter at the University of Florida, where he was the primary blocker for running back Emmitt Smith.
He was selected by Minnesota in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL Draft and spent his rookie season with the Vikings before stints with New Orleans (1991), Washington (1994-95) and Arizona (1996-97). In 72 career regular-season games (14 starts), he totaled 40 rushes for 100 yards with two touchdowns to go along with 20 receptions for 141 yards and two scores.
Smith is entering his 15th season as an NFL strength and conditioning coach. He is currently in his second season back with the Denver Broncos as assistant strength and conditioning coach after previously serving in that role for the club from 2001-2006. Smith spent seven years leading the strength and conditioning programs for the Houston Texans (2010-13) and Kansas City Chiefs (2007-09).
Smith was recognized as the NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by the league’s strength and conditioning coaches in 2012.
Steve Wade: Wade excelled in football, basketball and track at Young Junior High School and at Dothan High School. He was selected Mr. Dothan High in his senior year.
Upon graduation from Dothan High, Wade was recruited to play football by Auburn, Florida State, Alabama and Georgia. He chose to play for Alabama and legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. While at Alabama, Wade played defensive back, running back and special teams. He won the “Bobby Johns Most Improved Defensive Back” award and was captain of special teams on several occasions.
Wade’s older brother, Tommy, also played at Alabama and the two became the only brothers to start for a Bryant-coached team when they played in the secondary during Tommy’s final season and Steve’s sophomore year.