Thursday, February 27, 2014
The North Augusta Sports Hall of Fame welcomed three individuals and a team to its ranks.
On Saturday night at its induction ceremony, Johnny Harrison, Vicki Mann, Bill Utsey and the 1989 North Augusta High School state championship football team were all honored.
Harrison was a three-sport athlete for the Jackets; he played football, basketball and baseball. He kept his speech short and to the point, thanking his family, friends and coaches for “teaching (him) more about life than they know.”
“I also want to thank the teammates I've had throughout the years,” he said. “It's because of you that I am here today.”
He was followed by Mann, another multisport star for the school. She played basketball, tennis, swimming and softball at North Augusta High School. She credited her parents for supporting her through her playing career.
“Even though they both worked, they found a way to go to almost all of my games,” she said. “Even away games. It was such an honor, and it is something I will treasure as long as I live.”
Mann said North Augusta was a “fabulous town” and a “wonderful place to grow up in.”
“There's a commercial on TV about cotton and that it's the fabric of our lives,” she said. “For me, sports were the fabric of my life. Sports taught me the importance of hard work and the value of teamwork. It taught me confidence and how to lose graciously and lose gracefully. It brought me great friendships and memories to last a lifetime. Sports helped shape me into the person I am today.”
Coach Bill Utsey was the final individual inducted into the Hall of Fame. Utsey achieved a record of 56-36 at North Augusta High School, which ranks him fourth all time. He also led the Jackets to the Class AAAA Division II State Championship after his squad started 0-6, only to sneak into the playoffs at 4-7. Utsey also had the honor of introducing that very team, which was also inducted to the Hall of Fame.
That Jacket squad was led by Matt Campbell, a tight end who would end up playing for the University of South Carolina and, eventually, with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.
“This Hall of Fame is humbling and is truly an honor,” Utsey said. “ ... I am not in this Hall of Fame without my coaching staff and a lot of teams that helped me. North Augusta is a special place, and North Augusta High School is even more special. When I came down here, it wasn't long before I figured that one out.”
In introducing the team, Utsey said each player contributed important parts to the state championship. He said it didn't matter whether they played in college football, like 11 players did, or even if they were on the field for one play, that each of them were important and necessary pieces.
“I know I said this almost every year, but if your son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter, comes up to me and asks, 'Did my dad score the two touchdowns to win that state championship?'” Utsey said. “I don't care who it is. I don't care if you didn't play a lick or if you were the star. I will say, 'You're darn right he did.' Every one of you were that important. You made our practices effective and efficient. You enabled us to have more repetitions and got us better prepared for games because we had all of those bodies in there. We were much more organized than the other teams, and we could get more done in two hours than other teams could get done in two or three. It made a huge difference; your talents were unbelievable. You were better than I thought you were.”
Also inducted were a number of athletes of distinction. These included Ron Beckman, Elizabeth Creech, Emily Sam, Kelsey Williams, Nicole Fuller, Dan Pippin, Nik O'Brien, Jake Whitley, Maurice Williams and Neko Williams.
Pippin, who is leaving North Augusta for the head coaching job at Greenwood High School, said North Augusta was a “great community.”
“I look forward to Greenwood High School playing North Augusta High School in the state finals, because then I'm going to be happy,” he said.