The Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame honored a wide variety of inductees in its class of 2014 at ceremonies held at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center on Saturday night.
The common threads they shared were a sense of humor and plenty of old stories.
B. R. Johnson, Jim Mackay, Cliff Rutledge, Marc Upshaw and Jeremy Williams represented a broad spectrum of sports in the Chattahoochee Valley.
The bulk of Johnson's
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baseball coaching career was spent at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City. Hired by the late Dr. Ralph Savage to start up the program, Johnson coached former Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, along with pitcher Danny Cox and catcher Randy Hunt, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Johnson recalled hearing from Cox that he and Hunt took the field together once.
"Danny Cox was on the mound and Randy Hunt catching, an all-CVCC battery. I was one proud daddy," Johnson said.
Johnson coached at CVCC for 25 years and coached hundreds of athletes. A dozen of his former players were in attendance to see their coach honored.
Jim Loftin stood in for his former Columbus State roommate and teammate, Jim "Bones" Mackay. Mackay is in Phoenix caddying for Phil Mickelson, who is playing in a PGA Tour tournament.
While Mackay was also a mentor and friend, his one struggle was the required pull-ups for his annual physical.
"I believe that pull-ups were his first failure," Loftin said.
Mackay sent a statement which he asked Loftin to read where he thanked many in Columbus who contributed to his success, including one surprising group.
"I'd like to thank Macon Road Barbecue," Mackay said. "I ate there a few hundred times when I was in college."
Cliff Rutledge's career broadcasting high school sports spans seven decades. Over the years, Rutledge has amassed countless memories. His one regret is that the term "broadcaster" is so mundane.
"I'd rather be known as the proclaimer of youth athletic prowess with emphasis on football and basketball."
Rutledge spoke of the impact of basketball on the black community. He noted that integration brought growing pains to athletics in Columbus. Rutledge remembered historic Columbus-Spencer clashes after integration.
Marc Upshaw made the life-changing decision to attend the University of Rhode Island instead of Georgia, shortly after signing with the Bulldogs.
After reuniting with his boyhood idol Claude English and graduating from Rhode Island, Upshaw eventually joined forces with his high school teammate Sam Mitchell to form the SaMarc foundation.
"Sam was the little brother I never had," Upshaw said. "Then all of a sudden we're playing high school ball and we look at each other and wonder who are these two dreamers from East Highland?"
Jeremy Williams followed a path from Kendrick High to Memphis and eventually to Greenville High. Williams retired from coaching after being stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease. But his spirit and sense of humor remain.
Williams is confined to a wheelchair, with technology speaking for him.
"I have four uncles and an older brother. Their job was trying to make me tough," Williams said.
"Well, you succeeded and I learned to look at the positives.
"I went to Kendrick at 5-9 and 170 pounds. After I graduated, one school offered me a scholarship. I'd like to thank Joe Lee Dunn. He knew I could raise the GPA of the team."
Williams commended his parents for instilling a positive attitude.
"I was eight years old and the first day of football I came home crying, but my mom and dad wouldn't let me quit," Williams said. "Now I have a bigger platform. God has used me to touch more lives than I would in a lifetime of coaching on the sidelines. People ask me 'are you sure you are blessed'. I tell them that God does not make mistakes."