High School Sports

The Numbers Game: The 80s

The Numbers Game

Numbers 89-80

No. 80

Craig Ogletree, Lamar County, football

Bio:Ogletree went from an all-state career at Lamar County to an All-American career at Auburn. Ogletree finished the 1989 season with 113 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 11 sacks for the SEC champion Tigers. He helped lead the Tigers to three consecutive SEC titles, earning All-American status from The Sporting News in 1989. Ogletree briefly played for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Why we picked him: One of the harder selections in the 80s, No. 80 had plenty of worthy candidates from high school stars to college stars to solid NFL players. Ogletree had the best mix of the group, with the all-state prep career to go with the best college career of the No. 80s. He didn’t

Others to consider

Ulysses Norris, Monticello, football:Norris parlayed an all-state high school career into a solid career at Georgia and then seven years in the NFL – where he caught eight career touchdowns – with the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills from 1979-1985.

Steve Putnal, Lanier, football:The Poets’ multi-sport star went on to start for Georgia Tech for two seasons, and he made 91 tackles with two interceptions in 1973.

Kirk Warner, Bleckley County, football: A great high-school athlete, Warner earned All-Middle Georgia honors as a football and basketball player – he scored 2,000 career points – before playing tight end at Georgia from 1986-89.

Ben Utt, Vidalia, football: Utt followed an all-state prep career by starting for three years on the Georgia Tech offensive line and then played with the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts from 1982-89.

No. 81

Takeo Spikes, Washington County, football

Bio: One of the greatest high school players in state history, Spikes was named the AP all-classification player of the year as a senior after leading the Golden Hawks to a state championship in 1995. He also earned All-American honors from Parade Magazine and USA Today. He went on to an All-American career at Auburn, finishing with 136 tackles in 1997. Spikes left Auburn after his junior season and was drafted 13th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. Spikes has played for five teams during a 14-year NFL career. He has made two Pro Bowls and has earned two All-Pro selections.

Why we picked him: Spikes truly is one of the greats to come out of Middle Georgia. He not only met the incredible hype coming out of high school but surpassed it. The 35-year-old is still going strong in the NFL, having signed a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers in 2011.

Others to consider

Mackel Harris, Americus, football: As good as Spikes has been, Harris was nearly his equal through college. Harris anchored a defense that allowed eight points all season in 1975 to go with 13 shutouts. He was a standout at Georgia Tech following his AP state player of the year selection as a high school senior.

John McIntyre, Monticello, football: Arguably the first great player in Monticello history, McIntyre helped lead the school to back-to-back championships in 1955 and 1956. He was named the AP State Player of the Year in 1956.

No. 82

Larry Tharpe, Southwest, football

Bio: Tharpe wasn’t a dominant high school player, but he continued to build and work hard to become a longtime professional. Tharpe earned at conference honors in 1991 at Tennessee State before being drafted in the sixth round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Tharpe played for five different NFL teams before retiring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000. He started 48 games in his eight-year pro career.

Why we picked him: Tharpe deserved the recognition for the dedication to his craft, going from good high school football player to NFL veteran.

Others to consider

Chuck Heard, Lanier, football: Heard missed half his senior season at Lanier, but he peaked as a three-year starter at Georgia from 1969-71 and later as a successful doctor.

Robbie Hahn, Dublin, football: Hahn made two all-state teams (1963-64) at Dublin. Hahn’s name is littered throughout the Furman record book, and he still holds the single-season and career record for receiving yards per game. He made to All-Southern Conference teams.

No. 83

Mack Guest, Central, football

Bio: Guest was a multi-sport standout in the early years of Central, but he starred on the gridiron. He was named to the all-state team by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1973 and 1974. Guest took his place on a Georgia offensive line in 1977 and started there for two years, including during Georgia’s 9-2-1 season in 1978 where he started on offense with fellow Middle Georgians Ulysses Norris and Jimmy Womack. Guest was named to the AP All-SEC first team in 1978.

Why we picked him: While Tony Gilbert and Neil Callaway earned all-state honors once and a honorable mention nod another time, Guest is the only player in Central history to make two all-state teams.

Others to consider

Hugh Nall, R.E. Lee, football: Nall started at center during Georgia’s national championship run in 1980 and later became a successful college coach at TCU, Mississippi and Auburn.

Mixon Robinson, Lanier, football: Like his friend Chuck Heard, Robinson battled injuries as a senior at Lanier, but he went on become team captain to start alongside Heard at Georgia in 1971.

No. 84

Greg Montgomery, Southwest, football

Bio: Montgomery stood out on the second football team at Southwest following integration before heading to the University of Alabama. He became the first freshman to play under head coach Bear Bryant when the NCAA ruled freshmen could play in 1972. Montgomery would letter all four years at Alabama, first as an offensive lineman and later as a linebacker.

Why we picked him: Montgomery became Southwest’s first football star while the basketball team was already beginning produce standout players. Any time a player becomes the first of anything while playing for Bryant, he deserves some recognition.

Others to consider

Edward Kendrick, Mount de Sales, football: Kendrick had one of the most impressive GISA careers, leading the Cavaliers to a state championship in 1997 before heading to Tennessee.

No. 85

Peppi Zellner, Mary Persons, football

Bio: Zellner made an all-state team as a defensive end at Mary Persons in 1993. He was The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 1993. Zellner played his college ball at Fort Valley State before getting drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft. Zellner played 89 games in the NFL for three teams over six seasons.

Why we picked him: Not only was Zellner a standout football player, he also made an All-Middle Georgia basketball team and played in the state basketball all-star game as a senior. It would be tough to find many multi-sport standouts better than Zellner during the 1990s.

Others to consider

Ron Wallace, Willingham, football: Wallace earned All-South Independent honors in 1969 at Florida State, and he still holds the single-game, season and career record for fumble recoveries at Florida State.

No. 86

Nick Eason, Toombs County, football

Bio: Eason earned all-state honors in football and basketball at Toombs County. He played tight end and on defense, where he averaged more than 10 tackles per game his senior year. Eason earned All-ACC honors in 2002 when he finished with seven sacks. He was also Clemson’s MVP as a sophomore. Eason was drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos in 2003, and he has remained in the NFL for 10 seasons. Eason played in two Super Bowls, playing with the winning Pittsburgh Steelers in Jan. 2009. He currently plays for the Arizona Cardinals.

Why we picked him: One of the toughest choices in the 80s, Eason was selected because of his decade-long professional career. It was a difficult choice between he and Ronnie West, who was named The Telegraph’s Player of the Year in 1986.

Others to consider

Ronnie West, Wilcox County, football: West was one of the most electric players over the past 30 years in Middle Georgia. He won the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II’s best player at Pittsburg State in 1991. He played two years with the Minnesota Vikings.

No. 87

Rod Whipple, Wilkinson County, football

Bio: Whipple was a true two-sport athlete in high school. He helped lead the Warriors basketball team to state championships in 1999 and 2000. He starred on the football team as well, coming up with 29 tackles for loss as a junior, and finishing with five sacks as a senior. He earned all-state honors both years. Whipple played defensive end and later tight end at Clemson.

Why we picked him: Whipple's performance in two sports merits his inclusion in the list. Along with Xavier Whipple, Rod Whipple helped Wilkinson County head basketball coach Aaron Geter lay the groundwork for a championship program.

Others to consider

John Skalko, Mark Smith, football: Skalko followed a solid career at Mark Smith by earning two letters as a linebacker at Georgia Tech in 1972-73.

No. 88

Marcus Robinson, Peach County, football

Bio: Robinson was named to the all-state as a defensive back as a junior and as a receiver following his senior season. He was named The Telegraph’s Player of the Year in 1992. He played at South Carolina before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 1997 NFL Draft. He played for four teams in 10 NFL seasons, finishing with 4,699 career receiving yards and 43 touchdowns. His 1,400 receiving yards in 1999 is the 64th best single season total in NFL history.

Why we picked him: Robinson is one of the most successful professional athletes to come out of Middle Georiga. From an all-state high school career to 10 years in the NFL, Robinson could have made the list wearing almost any number.

Others to consider

Fred Stokes, Vidalia, football: Stokes was more of a basketball player in high school before heading to Georgia Southern. He would play 10 years in the NFL, starting for the Washington Redskins in their Super Bowl win over the Buffalo Bills in 1992.

Al Gerhardt, Lanier, football: Gerhardt earned three letters at Georgia Tech from 1966-68.

No. 89

Benji Roland, Dodge County, football

Bio: Roland earned all-state and All-Middle Georgia honors as a senior in 1984. He took his game to Auburn, where he played for all four years. His best season came in 1988, when the noseguard helped lead the Tigers to the 1988 SEC championship. Roland was named an All-American following the season. He played in three games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why we picked him:It’s hard not to acknowledge an All-American who was also an all-state high school player. Auburn led the nation in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense during Roland’s senior season.

Others to consider

Byron Walker, Warner Robins, football: Walker followed a solid career at The Citadel to play five seasons for the Seattle Seahawks from 1982-86.

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