George Rose didn’t last long.
The former high school football standout at Glynn Academy whose career continued to the SEC and NFL hardly got a few words out when the impact of the evening hit him.
“It’s a very humbling experience for me to be in this group,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m getting all shook up here. Let’s see.”
Rose regained his composure as he, like the rest of the Class of 2009, thanked a variety of people for their help in a career that added induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame onto an impressive resume.
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Until he neared the end.
“There’s one thing they can’t take away from you, and that’s your memories, and I’ve got an abundance of (Saturday night),” he said, emotion again creeping into his voice. “I’m sorry I got choked up, but I’m very, very glad.”
Jeff Malone, the former Southwest basketball standout who lived in Macon until a few years ago, rebounded from a cold that prevented him from attending Friday night’s jacket ceremony at the Hall and attended Saturday’s ceremony. He twice gave “a shout out” to Don Richardson, his head coach at Southwest and member of the Hall.
“I’d like to thank the city of Macon,” he said. “I was walking in here, in the Auditorium, and I saw some old faces. You guys have always embraced me and showed me support, and I hope that I’ve represented you guys on and off the basketball court.”
He also talked about the influence of his mother.
“She has gone on to be with the Lord,” he said. “She was our glue, our rock in the Malone family. I really miss her and I love her so much and I definitely want to dedicate this award to my mother.”
A dinner crowd of approximately 650 plus a few dozen in the Macon City Auditorium’s balcony watched the induction of a class that included three Georgia Bulldogs, two products of the Brunswick area, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, a Southwest Patriot, boxing’s most famous referee and a former Harlem Globetrotter.
Longtime sports broadcaster Bob Neal was the master of ceremonies. New members Roman Turmon and Milton Byard Sr., are deceased, and retired boxing referee Mills Lane suffered a stroke in 2002 and was unable to travel from his home in Arizona.
University of Georgia products Terry Hoage and Hugh Durham traded jabs, Hoage saying he was happy to speak before Durham, because little time would be left after Durham.
Georgia women’s head basketball coach Andy Landers noted, and Durham concurred later about his own career, that he was merely part of a team that won so many games, more than 800 in Landers’ case. Landers noted that two former UGA stars were on hand, Teresa Edwards and Lou Sims-Holmes, part of his first recruiting class.
Shannon Sharpe, who now talks for a living covering the NFL on CBS, eloquently thanked everybody from a coach who drove a bus back and forth from Savannah to Glennville delivering players to events and then driving back home to Savannah, to a Spanish teacher to friends and family.
He raved about having a best-friend sister who knows more about him than his brother Sterling or mother or friends — “and I’m holding her to that” — and of the gamble made by his first NFL head coach Dan Reeves — who moved him to tight end — to his grandmother.
Mary Porter was undergoing surgery for a blood clot recently when she suffered a heart attack. Sharpe said she was recovering, and he dedicated his induction to her.
“I remember my grandmother telling me and my brother something when we were little boys,” said Sharpe, who used the night to put the spotlight on those who helped him become an elite NFL player.
“My grandmother didn’t want a whole lot. I remember my grandmother saying, ‘Before my life ends on this earth, I want to live in a decent house.’”
To her, that simply meant a house that kept her dry when it rained as she slept.
“I remember as small child, in the middle of the night, putting rain coats on beds so my brother, my grandmother and I wouldn’t get wet. I remember putting pots and pans in the middle of the floor so the floor wouldn’t get soaked. I remember that. That drove me.”
Sharpe earned a reputation for determination, and he was often asked about his inspiration.
“I don’t want to eat cold oatmeal,” he said, “and I don’t want my grandmother to ever be wet again.
“Granny, I stand here before you. I know you’re not here, I wish you were, to see the man that you raised in me and my brother. It means the world to me that you’re my grandmother.”