The Numbers Game
Tank Lawrence, Lanier, football
Bio: Lawrence had a stellar prep career, making all-state and All-Southern teams. He started on Lanier’s 1948 state championship team, the last state football title for a Bibb County school until Central won its title in 1975. Lawrence played college football at Duke, earning three letters. He was named to the All-Southern Conference team in 1951. He played in the Senior Bowl and the North-South Game before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1953. He was inducted into the Macon Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Why we picked him: The Numbers Game could be littered with football players from Lanier who won statewide praise before heading to play college ball. But most estimations, Lawrence was one of the greatest of the greats for the Poets.
Others to consider
Cliff Hutto, Northside, basketball: One of the best basketball players in Houston County history, Hutto led the Eagles teams of the mid to late 1960s.
Russ Tanner, Johnson County, football: Tanner is one of the few players in Middle Georgia history to make three all-state teams. Tanner earned four letters at Georgia and eventually started at center three seasons for the Bulldogs. His jersey joins Herschel Walker’s as the only two retired at Johnson County.
Travis Jones, Wilkinson County, football
Bio: Jones dominated as a high school senior at Wilkinson County, racking up 142 tackles to earn All-Middle Georgia and all-state honors in 1989. Jones went to Georgia and earned four letters. He started on the defensive line as a senior. He played for the Baltimore Stallions in 1995 when the team became the only American squad to win the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup. Following his playing career, Jones coached at Georgia, Appalachian State, Kansas, LSU and with the Miami Dolphins. Jones has been a defensive line coach with the New Orleans Saints since 2008.
Why we picked him: Jones is one of the greatest football players in Wilkinson County. Few players had more productive high school careers on defense in the 1980s.
Terry Fair, Southwest, basketball
Bio: Fair was often to go-to player for the 1979 Southwest basketball team, which won both the state title and a mythical national championship. Fair didn’t lead the team in scoring, but he was a dominant defender and a heck of a finisher on offense. He averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds as a senior. Fair was The Telegraph’s Player of the Year, and he became the second Middle Georgian ever – after Al Wood – to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Fair went to Georgia, where he started all four years. Fair averaged 13.7 points to help lead Georgia to the Final Four in 1983.
Why we picked him: It’s hard not to pick the best player on the best team in the history of Georgia high school basketball. Fair was dominant in high school, averaged more than 10 points per game in three of his four years at Georgia, and he helped lead the Bulldogs to a Final Four.
Others to consider
Vivian Dixon, Warner Robins, basketball: Dixon was one of the more dominant girls basketball players in Middle Georgia history. As a senior in 1964, she scored more than 70 points in a game twice, and she averaged nearly 40 points per game.
Greg Lloyd, Peach County, football: Lloyd peaked later in his career, moving from a solid but not spectacular career at Peach County to a great stint at Fort Valley State. He made multiple All-SIAC teams. He became an elite linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, making five Pro Bowls and three AP All-Pro teams. Lloyd was the UPI’s AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. He made the Steelers’ 75th Anniversary Team. He was more well-known for the No. 95 he wore in Pittsburgh.
Ronnie Rogers, Dublin, football: Rogers was the Class AA Lineman of the Year and The Telegraph All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 1965. He earned three letters at Georgia, starting at nose guard as a senior in 1970.
Dave Taylor, Central, football
Bio: Taylor first garnered attention as a kicker for the Chargers. He earned all-state honors in 1972 as a placekicker. But he also starred on the offensive line. He was named The Telegraph’s Co-Lineman of the Year alongside teammate Mack Guest in 1974. Taylor signed with Georgia, but he later played at BYU, where he lettered in 1975-76.
Why we picked him: Taylor was one of the early greats for the then-young Central football program. Few players in Middle Georgia history are as versatile as Taylor, and perhaps none received All-Middle Georgia honors as a kicker and as an offensive lineman.
Others to consider
Terron Pullen, Johnson County, football: Pullen was named the Class A defensive player of the year in 2001 before signing with Georgia Tech.
Horace Grant, Hancock Central, basketball
Bio: Grant went from high school to Clemson, where he blossomed into a star. Grant was named ACC Player of the Year in 1987 a few months before being selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 10th overall selection in the NBA Draft. Grant won four NBA championships, the first three coming with Michael Jordan and the Bulls from 1991-93. He later won his fourth title playing alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal with the Lakers in 2001. Grant made one NBA all-star team (1994) and landed on the NBA All-Defensive second team four times.
Why we picked him: While there were some great high school players who wore No. 54, Grant gets the nod because he is indelibly linked with No. 54. He wore the number from his high school playing days to Clemson and then to all five different NBA teams he played for. Rarely does a player keep that same number that long.
Others to consider
Steve Grayer, Southwest, basketball: Grayer won the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Mr. Georgia Basketball in 1984. Grayer played college ball at Wichita State, where he made the Missouri Valley Conference’s all-conference team in 1988-89.
Kerry Hammonds, Northeast, basketball: Hammonds was the first player to earn back-to-back All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year honors when he accomplished the feat in the early 1980s. He went on to have an outstanding college career at Middle Tennessee State, leading the Ohio Valley Conference in rebounding in 1988-89.
Audra Smith, Baldwin, basketball: One of the great girls basketball players in Middle Georgia history, Smith won three state titles with the Bravettes. She was named Miss Georgia Basketball as a senior in 1988. Smith played in three Final Fours as a player at Virginia. She later coached at her alma mater before taking over her current position as head womens basketball coach at UAB.
Kammeon Holsey, Hancock Central, basketball
Bio: Holsey served as Hancock Central’s team captain for three years and led the Bulldogs to their first state basketball championship in 2008. He averaged 27 points and 10 rebounds and was named the AP Class A player of the year. Holsey has started 43 games – including all 31 in 2011-12 – in two seasons at Georgia Tech. He averaged 9.4 points per game as a sophomore.
Why we picked him: Holsey essentially threw the Bulldogs on his back en route to the 2008 state championship. He did something neither Horace nor Harvey Grant before could accomplish – bringing a state title to Sparta.
Others to consider
Kaye Foskey, Northside, basketball: Foskey made an incredible 202 of her 259 field goal attempts (78 percent) in 1967 to lead Northside to the state championship. She averaged 25.7 points per game.
Ralph Torrance, Lanier, football: Torrance earned all-state honors after helping lead the Poets to the 1950 state championship game, where they lost to Decatur.
Jeffrey Whitaker, Warner Robins, football: Whitaker played in the U.S. Army All-American game as a senior a few months after he helped snap Warner Robins’ four-game losing streak to Northside. He played as a true freshman for Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game win over Oregon in 2011. Whitaker is projected to start for Auburn as a junior defensive tackle in 2012.
Josh Weldon, Crisp County, football
Bio: Weldon led a Crisp County team that went 21-5 from 1995-96. The Cougars lost in the 1995 state semifinals to Cedar Shoals in overtime in the Georgia Dome, but Weldon earned all-state honors. He received the same recognition after his senior season in 1996. Weldon went on to earn three letters at Auburn.
Why we picked him: Weldon was one of the key players of two of the best teams in Crisp County history. That was apparent with Meiko Collier and Whit Smith joining Weldon at Auburn. Of the three, Weldon was the only to make two all-state teams.
Torrey Howard, Northside, football
Bio: Like our No. 58 Kenny Parker, Howard helped Northside’s emergence during Conrad Nix’s second stint leading the Eagles. The Eagles went 25-2 during Howard’s final two seasons in 1998 and 1999. Howard then went to Valdosta State, where he was named to three consecutive Gulf South All-Conference teams from 2002-04. Howard earned All-America honors as a senior in 2004 after helping lead the Blazers to the Division II national championship.
Why we picked him: Howard may not have the same name recognition as some of his other Northside contemporaries like Chansi Stuckey, Dantonio Burnette, Jason Respert, Kenny Parker or Anthony Sessions. But his collegiate career measures up to any of them.
Kenny Parker, Northside, football
Bio: Parker earned all-state and USA Today All-America honors as a senior in 1999. Parker played in 29 games – starting nine – in his college career at Florida. Parker coached at Florida and Murray State before landing his current job as assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State.
Why we picked him: Parker’s final two seasons at Northside became the two best in school history to that point. The Eagles went 12-1 and lost to McEachern in the quarterfinals in 1998, and they went 13-1 and lost to Lowndes in the semifinals in 1999.
Others to consider
Tony Berryhill, R.E. Lee, football: Berryhill started two years at Clemson, including on the Tigers’ national championship team in 1981. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1982 and later became a charter member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame.
Jerome Bibbins, Northside, football: Bibbins made all-state teams in 2006 and 2007 as he anchored an offensive line that won consecutive state titles. Bibbins signed with Georgia Southern.
Willie McGaughey, Lanier, football
Bio: McGaughey earned all-state and All-Southern honors as a senior in 1956. He was also selected as Lanier’s MVP as a senior. McGaughey lettered three seasons at Georgia Tech, earning the honor of team captain as a senior in 1961. He started at center his final two years at Tech.
Why we picked him: Lanier had an impressive string of All-Southern selections, and McGaughey continued that string. McGaughey’s leadership helped the Poets to a 9-1-1 senior season in 1956 and a spot in the state semifinals.
Others to consider
Glen Peacock, Dooly County, football: Peacock followed up a stellar prep career by heading to South Carolina in 1982.