Lanier athletics trio stuck together through grade school, high school and college

May 14, 2012 

It’s fitting that Rex Putnal, Mixon Robinson and Chuck Heard will be inducted together into the Macon Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies Thursday night at the Macon Centreplex.

The trio, all 1968 graduates of Lanier, were teammates from elementary school through college. A bond which began at T.D. Tinsley School more than 50 years ago is still strong today. They talk often and get together several times each year.

After playing on the elementary level at Tinsley, they went on to outstanding high school careers at Lanier, which led to football scholarships for each of them. Putnal was a starter for the Poets in both football and basketball, while Heard and Robinson excelled in football and were reserves in basketball.

During their senior season, the first for legendary head coach Godfrey “Goot” Steiner at Lanier, they ended the year with a 7-3 record, with the highlight of the year being a 7-0 win over top-ranked Valdosta.

Putnal, who played both quarterback and wide receiver against Valdosta despite a severe thigh injury, completed just one pass in that game -- a pass to Robinson for a touchdown. Putnal went on to earn first-team all-state honors and played in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association all-star game at Porter Stadium.

Robinson earned honorable mention all-state recognition despite missing half the season due to a broken hand and a knee injury, and Heard played only three games before being sidelined with an injury against Columbus that necessitated the removal of his spleen. Despite the injuries, Robinson, who also played in the GACA all-star game, and Heard joined Putnal in signing football scholarships to Georgia.

Following their football playing days at Lanier, they helped lead the Poets’ basketball team to a 26-3 record and a spot in the state playoffs. Putnal led the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game.

At Georgia, all three became starters on the football team. Putnal still appears in the UGA record book, as his average gain per catch of 26.4 yards during the 1971 season is the second-best single season mark in program history, and his career mark of 20.5 yards in that category is the third-best figure.

Putnal caught a 44-yard touchdown pass against Florida for Georgia’s only touchdown in a 10-7 win in 1972.

Robinson and Heard were defensive stalwarts for the Bulldogs. Heard started three seasons and was named to the all-SEC team as both a junior and senior, as well as to the academic all-SEC squad. Robinson, also chosen to the all-SEC team as a senior, was named Georgia’s most outstanding defensive player that season and was defensive team captain. He was an academic All-American, as well as academic all-SEC. He is one of 13 Georgia players to win an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

Heard and Robinson went on to become orthopedic surgeons. Robinson practices in Athens, while Heard is in Orlando, Fla.

Putnal, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Macon until 2009, now owns and operates a pool service company in Savannah.

Putnal, Robinson and Heard will be joined by six others in this year’s Macon Sports Hall of Fame class.

The class includes Chuck Richardson, a standout pitcher at Lanier and Vanderbilt; basketball star Elmore Smith, who played at Ballard-Hudson and Kentucky State before an eight-year career in the NBA; Wilbur Whitfield, who has coached and mentored Macon youth for more than five decades; Multi-talented Bert Schwartz, who was a basketball and tennis whiz at Mercer and also a city golf champion; Mark Smith and Georgia Tech star Cam Bonifay, who has had a career in professional baseball that has included serving as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates; and Howard Glover, who was a standout athlete at Ballard-Hudson and Morris Brown College before going on to a successful coaching career that included time at his high school alma mater and in the Atlanta school system.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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