We've Lost Three Great Ones

Tonight we celebrate Mississippi’s rich sports history with the 50th annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, sponsored by BancorpSouth. We celebrate the present. We celebrate the past.

Sadly, we will remember the three Hall of Famers we have lost in the past 12 months: Roland Dale, Kent Hull and Bucky McElroy. I am proud to have called all three friends.

Roland Dale, a great player and top-notch assistant coach at Ole Miss, later became the athletic director at Southern Miss. He steered the Golden Eagles into the Metro Conference and hired these Hall of Fame coaches: M.K. Turk, Bobby Collins and Hill Denson. At USM, Roland always did a lot with a little. I knew him to be a kind and honest man, who could be tough when the situation called for toughness.

I first met Kent Hull when he was a 17-year-old, 195-pound freshman center at Mississippi State, elevated to a starter because of injuries. He took his licks early on but Emory Bellard was right when he said, “Kent Hull is going to be a great one.” I later covered Kent in four different Super Bowls. He never changed. He was always kind, always honest, always humble — a true gentleman. This will tell you something: When Kent retired from the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo area media threw a party for him. That might not have happened before or since where any professional athlete is concerned. But Kent was that kind of person. People gravitated to him; people loved him.

Bucky McElroy played at USM before my memory begins, but my daddy always talked about what a splendid player he was and I’ve seen the 16 mm film from those days when little Mississippi Southern defeated both Georgia and Alabama. Bucky was a big, fast back with the size and speed to play today. I did know Bucky later in life and attended his funeral last week in Monroe, La., where his rich life was celebrated by a church filled with friends and admirers. He was remembered for his philanthropy in Monroe, especially for the hungry and the homeless. A month ago, I received a letter in the mail from Bucky. He said he regretted that he could not attend this years induction ceremony for the first time but his health just wouldn’t allow it. He enclosed a check for $1,000 to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and said, “Rick, I know you can use this.”

We certainly can. We induct six new members of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, but we also remember the three splendid Hall of Famers we have lost.

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