The Numbers Game
Eddie Anderson, Warner Robins, football
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Bio: Anderson made the all-state and All-Middle Georgia team as a senior in 1981, the same year he helped the Demons win a state championship and their second mythical national title. Anderson went on to a solid career at Fort Valley State. The Seattle Seahawks selected Anderson in the sixth round of the 1986 NFL Draft. Anderson played just one year in Seattle before spending 11 years with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders. Anderson started 116 games at free safety for the Raiders, finishing his career with 19 interceptions and 813 tackles.
Why we picked him: This was a tough choice between Anderson and Eric Manuel. Anderson gets the nod because of the totality of his career. Had Manuel not run into trouble with the NCAA, he may have been one of the greats to play at Kentucky. For now, that’s speculation, while Anderson had one of the longest pro career of any Middle Georgian.
Others to consider
Jessie Cainion, Warner Robins, football: The All-Southern pick was also named The Telegraph Player of the Year in 1977. Cainion signed with East Carolina.
Donald Hartry, Baldwin, basketball: Hartry landed on the McDonald’s All-American team after averaging 21 points and seven rebounds as a senior in 1982. He started for two seasons at Georgia.
Aaron Jackson, Macon County, football: Jackson rushed for 1,942 yards to lead Macon County to a state championship in 1996.
Tim Jackson, Mount de Sales, football/baseball: Jackson was one of the greats in Mount de Sales’ history, winning five state titles (two in football and three in baseball) in high school. He went to Georgia.
Eric Manuel, Southwest, basketball: Manuel was named Georgia’s Mr. Basketball and made Parade All-American and McDonald’s All-American teams in 1987. Manuel signed with Kentucky and made the SEC’s All-Freshman team before the NCAA ruled him ineligible. He finished his career at Oklahoma City University, where he led the team to consecutive NAIA championships in 1991 and 1992. He played a short time with the New Jersey Nets.
Jason Russell, Stratford, soccer: Russell was named The Telegraph Player of the Year in 1994 after setting the then-school record with 92 career goals. Russell later played at Georgia Southern and professionally with the USL A-League New Orleans Storm.
Barry Veal, FPD, basketball/baseball: Veal is one of the best two-sport athletes in GISA history. He scored 1,979 career points and had a single-game high of 52 in 1981. He played college baseball at Mercer, where he was a two-time All-TAAC player. Veal still holds Mercer’s single season record for steals with 30.
James Brooks, Warner Robins, football
Bio: Brooks was named state back of the year after helping to lead the Demons to the 1976 state championship and mythical national title. He rushed for 1,810 yards as a senior. Brooks went to Auburn, where he made two All-SEC teams. He remains Auburn’s all-purpose yardage leader with 5,596 yards and is third in school history in rushing yardage. Brooks was a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1981. He made four Pro Bowls, all of which came with the Cincinnati Bengals. He left Cincinnati in 1991 as the franchise’s leading rusher. He finished his career with 7,962 yards and 49 touchdowns on the ground and 14,910 all-purpose yards and 79 touchdowns. Brooks is still ranked 29th in NFL history in all-purpose yards.
Why we picked him: Along with Ron Simmons, Brooks may be the most important player in Warner Robins history. Brooks led an outstanding rushing attack along with Jimmy Womack and Keith Soles that led to the 1976 state championship. His numbers in college and in the NFL are equally impressive, confirmed by his name still landing on the pages of record books for both.
Others to consider
Earnest Byner, Baldwin, football: Byner rushed for 2,049 yards in his career at East Carolina, and he was a 10th round pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1984. Byner rushed for 8,261 yards and 56 touchdowns and accumulated 13,442 all-purpose yards and 72 touchdowns in his 14-year NFL career. He had three 1,000-yard seasons, made two Pro Bowls and played for the Super Bowl winning Washington Redskins in 1992. Byner now coaches with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Michael Hicks, R.E. Lee, football: Hicks rushed for 2,413 yards and 38 touchdowns in 1991. He went on to an all-conference career at South Carolina State and eventually got drafted by the Chicago Bears.
Senario Hillman, Wilkinson County, basketball: Hillman made four all-state teams in high school, and he was The Telegraph’s Player of the Year in 2007 after leading the Warriors to a state title. Hillman started 68 of his 132 games played at Alabama. He averaged a career-high 12.9 points in 2008-09.
M.A. Linch, John Milledge, softball: Arguably the best fastpitch pitcher in GISA history, Linch won four consecutive state championships as the Trojans’ ace. She was The Telegraph’s Athlete of the Year in 2006. Linch made the All-MAC first team once (2010) and the second-team twice as a pitcher at Miami-Ohio. Linch is all over the Miami career record books: appearances (first all-time), wins (fourth), starts (second), complete games (fifth), strikeouts (fourth), innings pitched (fourth) and shutouts (sixth).
John Rocker, FPD, baseball: The standout pitcher at FPD went on a brief, but strong career as Atlanta Braves’ closer. He saved 83 games for the Braves between 1999 and 2001, with a high of 38 in 1999.
Travares Tillman, Toombs County, football: Tillman followed an all-state prep career by earning four letters at Georgia Tech. He helped the Yellow Jackets win the ACC title in 1998. The Buffalo Bills drafted Tillman in the second round in 2000. He spent seven years in the NFL, starting 29 games.
Brent Cunningham, Putnam County, football
Bio: Not only is he the only Putnam County player to be named a state player of the year, but Cunningham earned the distinction in both 1966 and 1967. He put up some incredible numbers during Putnam County’s run to the 1967 state championship. Consider this: Cunningham rushed for 1,822 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior. He also had 403 receiving yards. He averaged 38 yards per touchdown and had nine touchdowns of more than 40 yards. Of his 1,822 rushing yards, he gained 1,332 yards of scoring plays. He also had seven interceptions. Cunningham went on to start from 1969-71 at Georgia Tech. He rushed for 1,446 yards and six touchdowns and added four receiving touchdowns in his career. He led the Yellow Jackets in rushing in 1969 and 1970 and made the All-Southeastern Independent team in 1970. Cunningham finished his college career as the fifth leading rusher in Georgia Tech history and went into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame in 1982.
Why we picked him: You’d be hard pressed to find a better athlete in the history of Putnam County than Cunningham. He absolutely dominated his final two seasons in high school like few have ever done. He also played on state title teams in golf and baseball at Putnam County.
Others to consider
Jessica Burroughs, Houston County, softball: Burroughs’ electric softball career ended with a 24-5 record and a 0.87 ERA with 272 strikeouts in 2011. She also hit .444 with seven home runs and 45 RBI to earn Telegraph player of the year honors. She will play at Florida State this season.
Mike Cavan, R.E. Lee, football: Cavan earned All-Southern honors as a high school senior despite battling through injuries. He was a two-year starter at Georgia, quarterbacking the 1968 Bulldogs to an 8-0-2 record and a SEC and Sugar Bowl Championships. Cavan made the AP All-SEC second team in 1968.
Marquita Driskell, Baldwin, basketball: Driskell averaged a double-double for three straight years at Baldwin and was named state player of the year as a senior. Driskell played at both Georgia and Georgia College.
Michael Hunt, Southwest, basketball: Hunt averaged 18 points as a senior during the Patriots’ run to the 1979 mythical national championship. He went on to Furman, where he made the Southern Conference All-Freshman team and All-Southern Conference tournament team in 1980. Hunt went on to be a head coach at Towson and served as an assistant at Miami.
Tony Wesley, Mount de Sales, football: Wesley rushed for 2,046 yards and 28 touchdowns in 1997 and finished with more than 6,650 yards in three seasons. He helped Mount de Sales to the GISA championship in 1996. He played at Middle Tennessee State and then later at Valdosta State.
Phil Wallace, Dublin, basketball: Wallace averaged 25 points as a senior at Dublin before playing at Georgia and Texas Tech.
Xavier Whipple, Wilkinson County, basketball: Whipple helped lead Wilkinson County to state championships in 1999 and 2000. Whipple earned four letters at LSU.
Brenda Cliette, Northeast, basketball/track
Bio: Arguably the greatest female athlete in Bibb County history, Cliette was The Telegraph’s basketball player of the year as a senior. She was the first female to win The Telegraph’s Selby Buck Award for best high school athlete. Cliette played basketball and ran track at Florida State. She led the Seminoles as a freshman to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance and would average 14.1 points and 10.8 rebounds in her two-year basketball career. She won four national championships in track, becoming a three-time All American as a freshman. She went on to win gold medals in the World University Games, the Goodwill Games and the Pan Am Games. Cliette was an alternate in the 200 meters for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Cliette is in both the Macon Sports Hall of Fame and the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Why we picked her: How do you pick Cliette or Norm Nixon? Nixon obviously went on to great heights in the NBA. Cliette, however, had a transcendent track career and was one – if not THE – best female basketball player in Bibb County history. Cliette probably stands alongside Olympian Martha Hudson Pennyman as the two best female athletes in Middle Georgia history.
Others to consider
Wanda Burns, Southwest, basketball: Burns played three outstanding seasons at Florida State. She led the team in scoring and steals as a junior and took the Seminoles to the NCAA Tournament in 1990. As a senior, Burns averaged 18.5 points per game to lead the Metro Conference. She was named 1991 Metro Conference Player of the Year. Burns scored in double figures in 38 straight games and set a single-game record with 10 steals. She was inducted into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tasha Butts, Baldwin, basketball: Butts remains the all-time leading scorer in Baldwin history. She was the Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year as a senior, and her jersey is retired at the school.Butts played at Tennessee, helping her team to a 124-17 record in her four seasons. Butts was a second-team All-SEC pick in 2004 after averaging 10.4 points. She is among the school leaders in games played, 3-point shots made and free-throw percentage. She scored 37 points against Vanderbilt in 2004. Butts served as an assistant coach at Duquense and UCLA, and she now coaches at LSU.
Reggie Manuel, Southwest, basketball: After an all-state high school career, Manuel played four seasons at UNLV. He scored 1,118 career points, including 17.2 per game in 1993-94. He made the Big West All-Freshman team in 1992 and the All-Big West first team in 1994. The Las Vegas Review-Journal ranked Manuel as the 40th best player in UNLV history.
Norm Nixon, Southwest, basketball: A very good basketball and football player at Southwest, Nixon really hit his mark beginning in college. Nixon averaged 21 and 22 points per game, respectively, during his junior and senior seasons at Duquesne. Among his other college records: fifth in career scoring, first in field goals made and first in career assists. Nixon’s college jersey was retired in 2001. Nixon was a first round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, playing six seasons with the team and winning two NBA titles. He led the NBA in steals in 1978-79 and led the league in assists with the Clippers in 1983-84. He averaged 20.4 points and 8.1 assists in the playoffs as the Lakers won the NBA title in 1982. Nixon made two NBA all-star teams, and he is a member of the Macon Sports and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame. He is probably more recognizable, however, for wearing No. 10 in college and in the pros.
James Outlaw, Ballard-Hudson, basketball: Outlaw was a Parade All-American in 1970 after averaging 34 points per game as a senior. He went on to play at North Carolina A&T, where he was a two-time All-MEAC player. He also holds the school’s single-season scoring record.
Alfred Rawls, Wilcox County, football: Rawls rushed for 2,040 yards and 36 touchdowns in 1985 and was named Telegraph Player of the Year. Rawls earn two letters at Kentucky.
J.T. Thomas, Lanier, football
Bio: Thomas left Lanier to become the first black football at Florida State. He made an immediate impact, blocking two field goals in his debut at Florida State, with the second sealing a two-point win over Louisville. Thomas set the Seminoles’ school record with three interceptions in one game. He eventually landed on the first-team All-America lists for Pro Football Weekly and Time Magazine in 1972. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Thomas with the 24th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft. Thomas was a full-time starter for six seasons, playing in three of the four Super Bowl victories for the Steelers. He had 20 career interceptions and played in the Pro Bowl in 1976. Thomas is a member of both the Macon and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame.
Why we picked him: Picking between Thomas, Jeff Malone and Al Wood gave us ulcers. If The Telegraph ranked the top 25 athletes in Middle Georgia history, there is a good chance all three would make the cut. It’s unfortunate that all three wore the same number in high school. Wood was fantastic, but he wore No. 30 in college and different numbers in the pros. Malone and Thomas wore No. 24 for most of their careers, and that can be a tiebreaker in a situation like this. At the end of the day, we picked Thomas because he’s one of a select few men who can say they were members of the vaunted Steel Curtain defense, perhaps the greatest defensive unit in NFL history.
Others to consider
Gary Faulkner, Jones County, football: Faulkner rushed for 1,117 yards and 25 touchdowns as a during an all-state senior season at Jones County in 1968. Faulkner earned two letters at Georgia Tech, including starting at free safety in 1971.
Willie Greene, Jones County, baseball: Greene hit .564 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI with 32 stolen bases as a senior in 1989. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Greene with the 18th pick of the first round. He played for four different teams during a nine-year career. In his only full season as a starter, Greene hit 26 home runs and knocked in 91 runs with the Cincinnati Reds in 1997.
Joe Jones, R.E. Lee, football: One of the few four-year lettermen in Bear Bryant’s tenure at Alabama, Jones played on two national championship teams at Alabama.
Jeff Malone, Southwest, basketball: Malone led the Patriots in scoring in 1979, the year the team won the state championship and mythical national title. Malone was outstanding in four years at Mississippi State, averaging 19.5 points per game in his career and 26.8 points per game as a senior in 1982-83. Malone, the school’s all-time leading scorer, will be inducted in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, earning the same honor he has already received from the Macon and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame. Malone played 13 seasons in the NBA, making two All-Star teams with the Washington Bullets. He averaged 19 points per game for his career, with a high of 24.3 points in 1989-90. He averaged more than 20 points per game in six different NBA seasons.
Darius Marshall, Baldwin, football: Marshall made two all-state teams at Baldwin, rushing for nearly 4,500 combined yards to go with 58 touchdowns his final two seasons. Marshall rushed for 6,338 yards in his career, the highest total in Middle Georgia history. Marshall made the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2007, and he would rush for 1,099 and 1,131 yards his final two seasons at Marshall.
Al Wood, Jones County, basketball: One of the greatest basketball players in Middle Georgia history, Wood made a McDonald’s All-America team after his all-state senior season in 1977. Wood averaged 17 points or more during his final three seasons at North Carolina. He is one of only six players in UNC history to score more than 2,000 points. He is tied for most points in school history in a NCAA Tournament game with 39. He had a string of 43 consecutive games scoring in double figures. Wood made All-ACC first teams in 1979 and 1981 and was a second-team AP All America in 1981. Wood was the Atlanta Hawks’ No. 4 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. He played six years in the NBA, with his best year coming when he averaged 15 points per game with Seattle in 1984-85.
Isaac Jackson, Lanier, football
Bio: Jackson rushed for a then-Macon record 1,940 in 1968, adding 21 touchdowns on the ground. Jackson became a national recruiting sensational, drawing interest from across the country. Georgia head coach Vince Dooley recruited Jackson heavily, hoping to have Jackson become the first black player in school history. Jackson signed with South Carolina but ended up at Kansas State. Jackson had six 100-yard rushing games in 1973, all of which came in consecutive weeks. He held Kansas State’s single-season (1,137 yards) and career rushing records (2,182 yards) for 18 years. His 1973 total of 1,137 is still the fifth best total in school history. Only two players have rushed for more in a year – Darren Sproles surpassed the number in three different seasons. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Jackson in the 10th round of the 1974 NFL Draft.
Why we picked him: How many Middle Georgia athletes had a movie made about them? See Isaac Run became a hit when it aired on national television prior to Jackson’s senior year at Lanier. Jackson surely is one of the most heavily recruited players in Macon history.
Others to consider
Charlie Anderson, Mark Smith, basketball: Anderson was the go-to player for the Bulldogs during their memorable run to the state championship in 1969. Anderson played at Georgia, averaging 14.4 points as a starter during the 1973-74 season.
Vince Faison, Toombs County, baseball/football: Faison was an All-Middle Georgia selection in two sports and was The Telegraph’s Athlete of the Year in 1999. He was the 20th selection in the 1999 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. Faison also played college football at Tennessee.
Lewis Linder, Southwest, basketball: Linder was one of the best players in the early days of the Southwest program. He went on to start three seasons at Kentucky State, averaging 20.3 points per game as a senior in 1975-76. The Boston Celtics selected Linder in the fourth round of the 1976 NBA Draft.
Clint Kent, Westside, football
Bio: Kent helped lead Westside to two of its best seasons in school history. The Seminoles played in the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively, during Kent’s final two seasons. Kent earned All-Middle Georgia and all-state honors and was named The Telegraph’s Player of the Year in Macon in 2001. Kent played at James Madison, where he played on the Dukes’ 2004 national championship team. Kent has the school record for career interceptions with 13. He earned All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors in 2005.
Why we picked him: In addition to his solid prep and college careers, Kent has played in 57 CFL games. He was Winnipeg’s captain in 2011. Kent is injured right now, but he played in the first three games of the 2012 season for the Edmonton Eskimos. He returned a fumble for a touchdown earlier this season. Kent also played in the af2 and in Finland.
Kevin Brown, Wilkinson County, baseball
Bio: Brown was a bit of an unknown coming out of Wilkinson County, but he sure made his mark at Georgia Tech. He became the first player in Georgia Tech history to earn first-team All-America honors when he did so in 1986. The Texas Rangers selected Brown with the fourth overall pick in 1986. Brown was inducted into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame in 1991. Brown pitched 19 seasons in the major leagues, making six All-Star teams and leading the Florida Marlins to a World Series championship in 1996. Brown also pitched for the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series. Brown won 211 career games and had 2,397 strikeouts to go with a 3.28 career ERA. Brown led the American League in wins in 1992 and led the National League in ERA in 1996 and 2000. He finished in the top three in Cy Young Award voting twice. Brown is in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Why we picked him: Brown had a few strong seasons with the Rangers, but few pitchers in baseball were better than him between 1996 (his first year with the Marlins) and 2003 (his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers). Very few Middle Georgians made an impact in the pro ranks like Brown.
Others to consider
Lafeyette King, Lanier, football: The outstanding multi-sport athlete would go on to play football and baseball at Georgia. The Los Angeles Rams selected King with the 60th overall pick in the 1946 NFL Draft.
Pierce Staples, Perry, football: One of the first All-Middle Georgia players of the year, Staples signed with Georgia following the 1959 football season.
Lauren Hargrove, Fitzgerald, football
Bio: Hargrove scored two touchdowns and kicked the winning extra point in the Class A championship game against Decatur. He scored 463 career points in high school. Hargrove went to Georgia, where he earned the nickname “The Fabulous Phantom of Fitzgerald.” Hargrove learned three letters as a tailback at Georgia. Although Hargrove would battle injuries at Georgia, he managed to run for 167 yards in the first half against Auburn in 1951. The Green Bay Packers selected Hargrove in the 1953 NFL Draft.
Why we picked him: Hargrove is one of those high school legends that Georgians love. His achievements are still talked about on Friday nights in Fitzgerald because of the impact he had on his school and his community. It doesn’t hurt that he was a pretty good college player as well.
Others to consider
Bernard Ford, Crisp County, football: Ford went on to stardom at Central Florida, where he earned All-America status in 1987 after catching 82 passes for 1,403 yards. Ford still ranks in the UCF record books in career receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns. He was inducted into the UCF Hall of Fame in 2011. The Buffalo Bills drafted Ford in the third round of the 1988 NFL Draft. Ford played for the Oilers and Cowboys.
Luke Crowell, Peach County, football: Crowell landed on the all-state team in 2009 thanks to the versatility that helped the Trojans win the state championship. He rushed for 21 touchdowns along with making the pass breakup with no time remaining to seal the state title win over Gainesville.
Ben Smith, Warner Robins, football
Bio:Smith broke on to the scene in 1985 when he was named Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He went on to Georgia, where he started three seasons in the defensive backfield. He played on three bowl teams at Georgia, earning All-SEC first-team honors in 1989 and second-team All-SEC honors a year earlier as a junior. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Smith with the 22nd pick of the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft. Smith played seven seasons in the NFL, collecting six career interceptions in stints with the Eagles, Broncos and Cardinals. He started 40 of his 57 career games.
Why we picked him: Smith was one of three Demons to earn defensive player of the year honors in the 1980s along with Steve Boswell and Anthony Abrams, and he’s one of the school’s five selections for that honor ever. Smith is probably the best defensive back to ever suit up for the Demons.