You can read my comments on our picks for Nos. 23 and 24 in the main Numbers Game story. We asked for these tough decisions when we started the project, but I’m not sure we ever thought we’d have decisions like Al Wood vs. Jeff Malone vs. J.T. Thomas. You have a pretty good group when Willie Greene finishes fourth.
I’m sure the pick of Thomas over Wood and Malone and Brenda Cliette over Norm Nixon at No. 23 will draw some controversy. But I’d ask, how do you not choose a member of one of the greatest defenses of all time and perhaps the greatest female athlete in Middle Georgia history?
Here are the others we considered, and this list is huge because of how many greats wore No. 20. A number of these folks would have made the paper in any of the previous seven editions of the project.
James Smith, Dublin, basketball: Smith followed up his great prep career by playing at Auburn.
Shelva Ross, Hawkinsville, basketball: Ross was a great player for the Red Devils, leading them to a state title as both a player and as a coach.
C.G. Stroud, Lanier, football: Stroud was Lanier’s athlete of the year in 1953.
Mark Mimbs, Windsor, baseball: Mimbs followed a standout career at Windsor by playing at Mercer. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he stayed in the system for nine years.
Ken Sikes, Perry, baseball: Sikes had a brilliant senior year in 1991, going 13-0 with a 1.62 ERA and earning the Selby Buck Award as Middle Georgia’s best athlete.
Mike Sheppard, Southwest, baseball: Sheppard followed his strong high school career with a memorable career at Georgia Southern.
Robert Smith, Cordele, football: Smith was Cordele’s top player on the undefeated 1951 team.
William Sanders, Lanier, football: Sanders made the All-Southern team in 1953.
Curtis Ryals, Montgomery County, football: The Class A back of the year in 1971 rushed for 1,364 yards.
John Perkins, Warner Robins, football: Perkins made the all-state team after helping the Demons win the 1988 state title.
Alton Sanders, Warner Robins, football: Sanders was named All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year after leading the Demons to the 2004 state title.
James Liipfert, Westfield, football: Liipfert followed an all-state high school career with earning multiple letters at Georgia Tech.
Amanda Abrams, Baldwin, basketball: The all-state player signed with Georgia.
Chan Beasley, Dublin, football: Beasley was the Class AA Back of the Year in 1967 before playing at South Carolina.
Eugene Corbett, Lyons, football: Corbett was the key cog on Lyons’ 1975 state title team.
Travis Billings, Perry, basketball: Billings was one of the better Perry basketball players ever.
Roosevelt Wilder, Central, football: Wilder went on to play football at Alabama.
Ross Peoples, Crisp County, baseball: Peoples is one of the top baseball players in school history. He played in the New York Mets organization, and he has spent the past eight years playing for the independent Lancaster Barnstormers.
Sandra Felton, Crisp County, basketball: Felton led Middle Georgia in scoring as a senior.
Kevin Brown, FPD, football: Brown finished with 503 career tackles and played college football at Georgia.
Stephanie Couch, John Milledge, basketball: The best player in JMA history played at Mercer.
Ogden Hansford, Central, football: Hansford followed his prep career by playing for Clemson.
Rex Putnal, Lanier, football: Putnal battled injuries during his career, but he started as a sophomore at Georgia.
William Wilkins, Stratford, football: Wilkins rushed for 2,358 yards and 28 touchdowns in 1994.
Chucky Davis, Southwest, football: The city player of the year in 1978 played college ball at Wisconsin.
Melvin Howard, Warner Robins, football: Howard signed with Pittsburgh and played at Texas A&M.
Michael Reaves, Baldwin, basketball: Reaves played on one of the best teams in Iowa history.
Jennifer Stokes, Putnam County, basketball: Stokes led Putnam County to a state championship and then played at Clemson.
Chip Sanders, Southwest, football: A former Macon Player of the Year, Sanders’ jersey is retired at Southwest. He played at Florida State.
Parrisha Simmons, Southwest, basketball: The three-time All-Middle Georgia pick plays at Auburn.
Wilson Dugger, Crawford County, basketball: Dugger teamed with Kenny Walker to bring state championships to Roberta in 1981 and 1982.
Tyler Roberts, Jones County, baseball: One of the few Middle Georgians to be named Telegraph player of the year twice. He currently plays in the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system.
Undre Williams, Jones County, football: Williams played college ball at Clemson.
Jarvis Coursey, Jonesco, football: Coursey played at Florida State after an all-state and All-Middle Georgia career at Jonesco.
Larry Emery, Northeast, football: Emery was one of Macon’s best backs in the 1980s. He played college football at Wisconsin.
Stephany Raines, Upson County, basketball: Raines was Class AA Player of the Year after leading Upson to the 1988 state title.
Stephanie Walker, Southwest, basketball: The standout Patriots player played college ball at Florida Memorial.
Robbie Sovie, Stratford, football: Sovie followed an outstanding football and baseball career by playing at Western Carolina.
Anna Claire Knight, Trinity Christian, basketball: One of the best players in GISA history now plays at Georgia Southern.
Jerry Paul, R.E. Lee, football: Paul was an all-state selection in 1970, going on to play at Georgia.
Greg Manson, Northside, football: Manson rushed for more than 3,000 yards over his junior and senior seasons.
Marquette King, Rutland, football: King played wide receiver in high school, but he became an all-conference punter at Fort Valley State. He signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders in April.
John Ridley, Perry, football: Ridley rushed for 3,565 career yards at Perry.
Randy Marshall, R.E. Lee, football: Marshall rushed for 1,356 yards and 20 touchdowns on the school’s 1988 state title team.
Fred Wright, Peach County, football: The dominant defensive player went on to play at Southern Illinois.