Record crowd assured for induction banquet

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The Class of 2015, from left to right: Steve Knight, Brett Favre, Gwen White, Clarence Weatherspoon, Fred McAfee, Mike Dennis.

Already assured of the largest crowd in history, the BancorpSouth Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet moves to the Jackson Convention Complex this Saturday night.

Tickets remain on sale for the event at the Hall of Fame and Museum, at msfame.com, or by calling 601 982-8264. The move to the downtown Jackson convention center was to assure that all folks who want to attend will have the opportunity. The induction weekend begins with Friday night’s Drawdown of Champions at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. That event also includes both silent and live auctions. Saturday night’s events include reception at 5:30 p.m. and the banquet to follow at 7.

Brett Favre, pro football’s all-time leading passer, heads the list of six deserving inductees, which follows in alphabetical order:

Mike Dennis: The last two-time All-Southeastern running back (1964-65) at Ole Miss until Deuce McAllister. Led Ole Miss in rushing, receiving and scoring in in 1965 and was voted the team’s MVP and team captain. As a sophomore, he played for an SEC Championship team and led the team in rushing in the 1964 Sugar Bowl. Dennis also made All American All Academic team as a senior and was scholastic first team All-SEC. He played for Hall of Famer John Vaught at Ole Miss and for Hall of Famer Jack Carlisle at Jackson Murrah High School, where he was an All American, All State, All Big Eight and was nicknamed Iron Mike Dennis. Professionally, he was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills and and the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons. He eventually signed with the Los Angeles Rams and was the Rams Rookie of the Year in 1966. His professional career was cut short by a serious knee injury.

Brett Favre: Played high school football for his father, Irv Favre at Hancock North Central before signing with USM. There, he started as a 17-year-old freshman and became one of school’s all-time greatest players, leading the Golden Eagles to road victories over the likes of Alabama, Auburn and Florida State. Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, he was traded to the Green Bay Packers after one season and became one of the all-time legends of the NFL. Favre is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 70,000 yards, over 500 touchdowns, over 6,000 completions and over 10,000 passing attempts. He is the league’s all-time iron man, having started a record 297 games (321 including playoffs.) He won three straight NFL MVP honors from 1995-1997. Since his retirement, he has spent time helping coach the Oak Grove High School football team and helped the 2013 Warriors win the State 6A championship.

Steve Knight: At William Carey University where he is head basketball coach and athletic director, Knight has become the all-time winningest college basketball coach in Mississippi history with 610 victories. He passed Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Dave Whitney on Nov. 20, 2010, when he picked up victory number 506. He reached career win number 600 on January 9 of this year against Coastal Georgia. Knight’s 32nd season at Carey was his best when the Crusaders won 28, lost 3 and went a perfect 18-0 in the Southern States Conference. Knight was named NAIA National Coach of the Year. It was the ninth time he has taken Carey to the NAIA National Tournament. Knight has served as athletic director at Carey since 1987 and during that time Crusader teams have won 33 league championships and made more than 40 trips to national tournaments. As an athlete at Hattiesburg High, Knight helped the Tigers to a state basketball championship. He played both basketball and baseball at Southern Miss, once throwing a no-hitter for USM. He played two seasons in the Seattle Mariners baseball organization before beginning his coaching career.

Fred McAfee: Nicknamed Fast Freddie, McAfee, from Philadelphia, led Mississippi College to a Division II national championship as a speedy running back before being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 1991 NFL Draft. His NFL career spanned 16 seasons during which he was known as one of the league’s most valuable special teams player. He was the first player in Saints franchise history to play on three division title winners. As the Saints Rookie of the Year in 1991, he carried the ball a career-high 109 times for 494 yards. He made All-Pro in 2002 and played in the 2002 Pro Bowl. He played in the 1995 Super Bowl as part of the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. At Mississippi College McAfree ran for 4,416 yards and 38 touchowns, helping the Choctaws to 37 victories over four seasons. His senior season he ran for 1,583 yards and 17 touchdowns, both still school records. In Philadelphia, he was a two-time state champion pole vaulter. McAfree, the first cousin of Marcus Dupree, now serves as director of player development for the Saints.

Clarence Weatherspoon: Nicknamed Spoon, from tiny Crawford, Clarence Weatherspoon was a three-time Metro Conference Player of the Year (1990-1992) and a four-time All Metro Conference selection. This was when the Metro Conference included the likes of Louisville, Memphis, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul. He is the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots, rebounds and minutes played and came up six points short of Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Nick Revon for points scored. He led the Golden Eagles two NCAA Tournament appearances under Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame coach M.K. Turk. He was the first Golden Eagle to have his jersey number (35) retired. A first round draft choice (ninth overall by the Philaelphia 76ers), he played 13 years in the NBA averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Spoon was a model of consistency, once scoring in double figures in 80 of 82 games for the 1993-94 Sixers. That season was statistically his best. He averaged a double-double (18.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game).

Gwen White: A true pioneer of women’s sports in Mississippi as an athlete and then a coach, Gwen White coached high school teams to state championships in three different sports, started girls AAU track and basketball in Mississippi, coached a Mississippi team to an AAU national basketball championship and won 79 percent of her games as a high school basketball coach. She retired from coaching after 51 years in 2012. Her Northwest Rankin tennis teams achieved a record of 325 victories and 26 defeats for an astounding winning percentage of nearly 93 percent. She coached high school teams to state championships in the sports of basketball, tennis and track and was an all-star coach in all three sports. As an athlete, she scored more than 3,000 points as a player at Clinton High School and was a member of the state championship track team. She was the junior college state champion in tennis at Hinds Community College. Her Belhaven College basketball team won the small college state championship in 1982. She started the first girls basketball camp in Mississippi. She was the first female in the Mississippi Association of Coaches and is a member of that group’s Hall of Fame and the Belhaven Hall of Fame.

In addition to the inductions, West Point native George Bryan will receive the Rube Award for his lifetime of contributions to Mississippi sports. Bryan, who has supported Magnolia State athletics at all levels, is most known for bringing the 1999 U.S. Open Women’s Championship to Old Waverly, the golf course he built in his hometown.

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Click here for the BancorpSouth Hall of Fame Induction Banquet order form.

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