Privileged, honored, humbled and appreciative.
Those were feelings expressed by some of the newly selected members of the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame, who were announced Friday during a press conference at WTVY in Dothan.
The nine new members, who will be inducted a week from today at the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center, are Jackie Burkett, Leroy Cook, Hildred Deese, Mike DuBose, Dan Klages, Sonny Raley, Larry Thorpe, Richard Shaughnessy and Tom West.
The nine make up the 23rd class, pushing the number of honored into the hall to 205 members.
“It is a privilege and honor for me with all of the people in the world that could be selected to be a part of this group. It is overwhelming,” said Raley, a 1955 Dothan High graduate who had a long coaching career. He had stops at Marianna, Ashford, Wetumpka, Chipley, Malone and Rehobeth high schools and Girard and D.A. Smith junior highs, plus a 10-year career as a basketball official in the area.
Deese, an Ashford native, was a longtime college volleyball, basketball and softball coach. She was also an administrator/events director for the Women Pro Softball League and National Fastpitch Coaches Association who said she felt “humbled” by her upcoming induction.
“I am humbled to be going into your hall of fame, knowing the caliber of those who have gone before, that includes my older sister (Mary Hickman), who went in last year.” Deese said. “To see the resumes of the (eight) others who will be inducted into the class of 2015, I am just incredibly honored and will cherish this for the rest of my life.”
One year after her sister’s induction, Deese will enter this year with another family member. Deese and Klages, a veteran high school football in the area who had successful head coaching jobs at New Brockton, Ashford and Eufaula, are first cousins.
“I would go over to her house all the time and see all the Ashford football memorabilia,” Klages said.
All of the soon-to-be inductees who were at Friday’s press conference credited others for helping them earn their Wiregrass Sports Hall of Famer status.
“I was fortunate enough to work with some really good coaches when I was an assistant coach and some of those are already in the hall and some are at the state level,” said Klages, who also stressed good assistant coaches under him were also instrumental.
“I am very humbled. It is a result of a lot of other people and hard work why I am here.”
West was a four-sport letterman at Headland High school and a wide receiver-offensive tackle at Florida State in the 1960s. He later had a distinguished career in the United States Air Force.
“I am humbled to be here,” West said. “I don’t know why I am here, but I am pleased to be here and be part of this Wiregrass group.”
Shaughnessy played football under Harry Wayne Parrish at Northview and later coached under him at Early County before going on to his long career as strength and conditioning coach at Troy University. He thanked his mother, Mae Shaughnessy, for her support and devotion.
“For my mother to see this is big for me,” Shaughnessy said. “She sat at the ball parks and in the stadiums, watching my brothers and myself.”
He later added, “She worked two jobs and still made it to the ball parks to watch us.”
Burkett was a standout who grew up in Andalusia and later starred in the late 1950s at Auburn then in the NFL in the 1960s. He said he was appreciative that more than 45 years after his playing days he is still remembered.
“Any honor you get you appreciate and I am very appreciative,” said Burkett, who starred on Auburn’s 1957 national championship team and played 11 seasons in the NFL. “I am glad people still remember the fact that I did play. It gives me a real thrill to think that there are people around that say, ‘Hey, look, he was pretty good when he played.’”
Here are capsule looks at the nine inductees.
Jackie Burkett: After a standout career at Andalusia High and Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., (junior/senior year), Burkett starred at Auburn (1957-59) where he was named the top center and linebacker by SEC coaches his junior season in 1958 and was an All-American in 1959. He played 11 seasons in the NFL – seven with the Baltimore Colts, two with the New Orleans Saints and two with the Dallas Cowboys. He is already a member of the Andalusia Sports Hall of Fame, the Panhandle All-Sports Hall of Fame, the Auburn All-Century Team and the Auburn Walk of Fame and was selected among the SEC Legends of Football.
Leroy Cook: An all-state football player at Abbeville High School in 1970 and 1971, Cook became a two-time All-American at the University of Alabama as a defensive end under legendary coach Bear Bryant. He would finish his college career with 200 tackles, leading to a selection on Alabama’s Team of the Century and the Tide’s Team of the Decade in the 1970s. He was chosen in the 10th round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Hildred Deese: A native of Ashford, Deese started her coaching career at Judson College in Marion where she won two state championships in volleyball and one in basketball and two Coach of the Year awards in a five-year tenure. In 1979, Deese became the first head softball coach at the University of South Florida. In 17 years at USF, she amassed the most wins of any coach in school history (500 wins, .650 winning percentage). She left the coaching ranks to become Director of Game Operations for the Women’s Pro Softball League and after five years, she joined the National Fastpitch Coaches Association as Senior Director of Events, a position she held until retiring in 2014.
Mike DuBose: A native of Opp, DuBose was a standout linebacker the University of Alabama where he was part of the 1973 national championship team. He later became an assistant coach at his alma mater before being elevated to head coach (1997-2000). While head coach, he led the Tide to the SEC Championship in 1999 and was SEC Coach of the Year. DuBose also spent time as head coach at Millsaps College (2006-09) and defensive line coach at Memphis (2009-11) before returning to high school and leading Luverne to a state runner-up finish in 2013. He was also head coach at Northview (2002-03) and at Luverne (2003-05) and had previous coaching experience at Prattville, Fairhope, University of Southern Mississippi, Chattanooga and as defensive line coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is currently an assistant coach at his high school alma mater, Opp.
Dan Klages: This fall, Klages will be entering his 31st year in the coaching profession, which includes 16 years as a head coach (New Brockton, Ashford and Eufaula). He has a 119-63 career record with 14 state playoff teams. His greatest success came at Eufaula where he was 90-39 in 11 years, highlighted by a state runner-up finish in 2006. He is the only coach to lead Eufaula to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons (2005-06). He was also a successful coach at Admiral Moorer Middle School in Eufaula. He is entering his first year as an assistant coach at Bainbridge (Ga.) High School.
Sonny Raley: After graduating from Dothan, Raley attended Howard College (now Samford) where he was a four-year letterman in baseball and basketball. He then coached at eight different schools, including three high schools in Florida and two junior highs in the Wiregrass. Some of his biggest success came at Ashford (101-29) from 1960-65. After getting out of coaching, Raley became assistant principal at D.A. Smith Junior High in Ozark and at East Gate Middle School in Ozark. He also served as a basketball official at SEABOA for 10 years, co-coordinated the Ozark City Recreation softball program and was a charter member of the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame selection committee.
Larry Thorpe: Born in Ozark, Thorpe graduated from West Fulton High School in Atlanta where he led the state in scoring in basketball his senior year (23.9 average) in 1963. He also lettered in track, cross country and rifle in high school. He accepted a basketball scholarship to Troy where he was four-year letterman where helped the school to a 94-32 record from 1963-67. He averaged 20 plus points as a senior. After college, he played industrial and church leagues and scored a personal best 61 points in one game. He officiated high school basketball for more than 20 years for the Southeast Alabama Officials Association.
Richard Shaughnessy: A Dothan native and Northview graduate, Shaughnessy is the Director of Strength and Conditioning Coach for all 17 intercollegiate athletic teams at Troy University. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), a certified member of the College Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA), the National Association of Speed and Explosion (NASE) and is a club coach for the United States Weightlifting Federation (USAW). In 2003, he was selected by the NSCA as one of 18 “Elite” Strength Coaches in the world. He was recognized as a Master Strength Coach by CSCCA in 2009, the highest honor awarded for individuals in the field of strength and conditioning.
Tom West: Born and reared in Headland, West was a four-year letterman in football, basketball and track at Headland High School. As a senior, he was named all-state in football as a guard and linebacker, all-state in basketball after averaging 26 points a game and qualified for the state finals meet in track for the shot put and discus throw. He attended Florida State, first as a wide receiver then moved to offensive tackle. As a senior, he helped FSU to a 9-1-1 record and the school’s first major bowl appearance, a 36-19 win over Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl. He coached at FSU as a graduate assistant before departing for active duty in the United State Air Force in 1966, where he achieved the ranking of Major General and was honored with many awards and decorations during his years of service.
Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame
Class of 2015
Where: Dothan National
When: Noon on Friday, July 31
Cost: $50 per person
Contact: Tom Vickers at 797-1518
Where: Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center
When: 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1
Cost: Tickets $50, must be reserved in advance
Contact: Janna Everett at 699-2172