Well, we are halfway through the Numbers Game.
It feels like this project has been going on forever, largely because I’m in my third month of working on it. But I’m proud of how it has turned out thus far.
You’ll notice a trend of the next three weeks. While the competition has certainly risen to another level for many of the numbers, we still have a scarcity of candidates in the bottom half of the numbers of each week. For the most part, only football players wear numbers 36-39, 46-49 and 56-59. Any time the pool of sports to choose from narrows, the result is fewer candidates. I guess the other side of the coin is having 27 worthy candidates at No. 24 to choose from.
As I promised in the weeks leading up, this is the toughest week of choices so far.
The hand-wringing began quickly at No. 50 with Tank Lawrence and Russ Tanner. It’s tough to compare two guys from completely different eras, particularly when Tanner’s achievements are fresh on the mind. Lawrence was an All-Southern selection, which was about as high of an honor as a high school football player could receive back then. The Orlando Sentinel named between one and six players from each Southern state to the All-Southern team, so you were in exclusive company if you made the list. The state had fewer high schools back then for sure, but all of the players in the state were measured against one another without regard for class.
We had very tough decisions to make at Nos. 52 and 54.
At 52, we had Vivian Dixon, Greg Lloyd and Terry Fair among others. Lloyd had undoubtedly the best post-high school career, but you think of his Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 95 when you think of Lloyd. Using the number a player is known best for isn’t the only (or even the most important criteria), but it can be the difference when the decision is difficult. We don’t have any set criteria for making these decisions – it’s difficult to when you have so many players who exceed at different levels – but we do consider each number independently from the others. So one piece of evidence can be the deciding factor at one number, and it may not play any role in the decision-making process for another number. Back to 52. Dixon was an unbelievable high school player. Fair was one of the great basketball players in state history, leading arguably the best team in state history. His performance as a four-year starter at Georgia just adds to his resume.
We had Audra Smith, Steve Grayer and Horace Grant at No. 54. Now, after that long comment above how the criteria evolves with each number, the same rationale applied for 52 came into play for 54. Few athletes in the Numbers Game carried the same number from high school to the pros. Grant wore No. 54 at every stop along his prep, college and professional career. Despite Smith and Grayer both being Miss and Mr. Georgia basketball during their career, Grant is so linked to No. 54 that it’s difficult not to select him.
We could have went with Kaye Foskey or Kammeon Holsey at No. 55. Holsey really threw Hancock Central on his back to win the 2008 state championship. He was the state player of the year for Class A, and he has carved out a nice little college career at Georgia Tech. Jeffrey Whitaker would also have been a solid selection.
This feature will continue to get longer each week, but here’s the group of other we considered for the 50s.
Tommy Raye, FPD, football: Raye collected 480 career tackles in high school, earning all-state and team captain honors as a senior in 1980. He played at Georgia Southern.
Harold Tarrer, R.E. Lee, football: Tarrer earned three letters at Georgia, and he started on defense in 1967 for the Bulldogs.
Montravious Adams, Dooly County, football: Adams had one of the truly dominant seasons in Middle Georgia history in 2011. That all-state season helped Adams turn into one of the most hotly recruited players in Middle Georgia history. As a rising senior, Adams is a consensus top 10 player nationally and has scholarship offers from nearly every ACC and SEC school.
Jimmy Daniels, Macon County, football: Daniels made two all-state teams as a dominant defensive lineman and linebacker.
Kimberly Oates Duggar, Peach County, basketball: Duggar’s jersey is retired at both Peach County and Fort Valley State.
Dianna Lott, Warner Robins, basketball: Lott may be the best Demonettes player over the past 25 years. She earned two letters at Georgia.
Jack Cox, Central, football: Cox was an all-state pick in 1971 before heading to Georgia Tech, where he earned one letter.
Tommy Hinson, Willingham, football: Hinson is one of just six Willingham players to make all-state teams. He accomplished the feat in 1965.
Terry Osbolt, R.E. Lee, football: Osbolt earned three letters at Georgia.
Albert “BoBo” Thomas, Southwest, football: Thomas was a Telegraph City Player of the Year in high school before heading to Centenary, where he still ranks as one of the career leaders in multiple categories.
Jack Morris, Lanier, football: Morris was The Telegraph’s City Player of the Year in 1957 after rushing for 645 yards.
Bubber Key, Lanier, football: Key was named as an honorable mention to the Orlando Sentinel’s prestigious All-Southern team in 1953.