Seven new inductees — including several nationally and internationally renowned Mississippians — will enter your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in a star-studded Class of 2014.
The group includes, in alphabetical order: basketball standout and two-time Olypic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton; college and NFL football standouts Doug Cunningham, Deuce McAllister, and Steve McNair; track and field sprinter Calvin Smith; and Richard Williams, the only coach ever to take a Mississippi team to the NCAA Division I Final Four.
Famed TV personality Robin Roberts has been elected to the Hall of Fame but will be unable to attend the 2014 ceremonies.
“In my mind, this is as accomplished and as diverse a group of Hall of Famers as I have ever seen,” Rick Cleveland, executive director of the MSHOF said. “My congratulations to them and to the statewide selection committee who chose them.
“I think it’s important to note that all seven are from smalltown Mississippi. They should serve as inspiration to youngsters — boys and girls no matter their background — across the Magnolia State.”
A brief biographical sketch of each, again in alphabetical order:
Ruthie Bolton: Born in Lucedale but raised in McLain, Bolton was a star on two U.S. Olympic Gold Medal basketball teams, in Atlanta in 1996 and in Sydney in 2000. One of 20 children in her family, Bolton starred at McLain High School and then Auburn. She was a two-time first team WNBA selection with the Sacamento Monarchs and averaged 19.4 points per game as a rookie in 1997. She now lives in Elk Grove, Cal.
Doug Cunningham: From Louisville, Cunningham was a standout running back and kick returner for Ole Miss and then for nine years in the NFL, eight with the San Francisco 49ers. In a brilliant three-year varsity career at Ole Miss as a wingback, tailback and kick returner, Cunningham averaged nine yards for every time he touched the ball. He was teammates with Steve Spurrier at San Francisco, where, Spurrier says, “When we first saw Doug, nobody could believe how fast he was.”
Dulymus “Deuce” McAllister: From Lena, outside of Morton, McAllister was a record-setting back first for Ole Miss and then with the New Orleans Saints. He was All-SEC twice at Ole Miss and is the leading rusher and touchdown scorer in Ole Miss history. He is the leading rusher in Saints history with 6,096 yards and 49 touchdowns. He played in two Pro Bowls.
Steve “Air” McNair: From Mount Olive, McNair became the all-time total offense leader in NCAA history at Alcorn State before a 13-year NFL career, mostly with the Tennessee Titans. McNair, who died in 2009, threw for more than 31,000 yards and was a three-time Pro Bowler, selected as the NFL MVP in 2003 and the NFL Man of the Year in 2005.
Calvin Smith: From Bolton, Smith is one of those rare individuals who at one time was known as “the world’s fastest human.” Specializing in the 100- and 200-meter runs, Smith won three World Championship gold medals and one Olympic gold medal. Smith set the 100-meter world record on July 3, 1983 with a run of 9.93 seconds. n doing so, he broke the previous record set by Jim Hines, which had lasted for almost 15 years. Smith also became the first athlete to run the 100 in under 10 seconds and the 200 in under 20 seconds on the same day in 1983 in Zurich. He now lives in the Tampa, Fla., area.
Richard Williams: Raised in Forrest and then Pearl, Williams’s first basketball coaching job was as volunteer coach at Natchez Montebello Junior High (7th grade team). He was also the assistant baseball and assistant cross country coach at Natchez High. His Disney-like rise through the coaching ranks led him to Mississippi State where he led the 1995-96 Bulldogs to an SEC Tournament championship, an NCAA Regional Championship and into the Final Four.
The Class of 2014 will be inducted at a banquet at the Jackson Hilton July 25, 2014, followed by more BancorpSouth Induction Weekend activities on July 26 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Museum.