The Numbers Game
Bobby Bryant, Willingham, football/baseball
Bio: Bryant earned 11 letters as an athlete at Willingham before heading to South Carolina, where he was an All-ACC halfback. Bryant was an All-ACC baseball player as a junior and senior, and he was the ACC’s Athlete of the Year in 1966-67. He was drafted by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but he spurned those offers to play for the Minnesota Vikings. Bryant played 14 seasons for the Vikings, make two Pro Bowl teams. He led the NFC in interceptions in 1973, and he is second on the Vikings’ career interception list with 51. Bryant played on all four of the Vikings’ Super Bowl teams in the 1970s and played on 11 NFC Central Division championship teams. Bryant is in the following Halls of Fame: Macon Sports, Georgia Sports, South Carolina Sports and University of South Carolina Sports.
Why we picked him: Bryant is probably the greatest athlete to come out of Willingham. He also is one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in Middle Georgia history.
Others to consider
A.J. Bryant, Peach County, football: Bryant was the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 after leading the Trojans to the state championship game. Bryant moved to wide receiver at Georgia, and he caught a touchdown pass against West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl.
Ken Bonifay, Lanier, football/baseball: Bonifay made the all-state team in 1963 before earning three letters at Georgia Tech in football. Bonifay also played baseball at Tech, leading the Yellow Jackets in home runs in 1966.
Bryan Ellis, Peach County, football: Ellis played just one season at Peach County, but he sure made it count. He passed for 3,600 yards and 31 touchdowns to lead Peach County to the 2006 state championship. Ellis, who was the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year and Telegraph All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 2006, played three seasons at UAB. He passed for 2,940 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior.
Johnny Henderson, Mount de Sales, football: Henderson led Mount de Sales to five total state championships in football and baseball. He made three all-state teams in football while posting close to a .500 batting average in baseball. The Chicago Cubs drafted Henderson in the third round in 1974, but he choose to play baseball and football at Georgia. Henderson had four interceptions in one game during his three years as a starting defensive back in Athens. Henderson spent some time in camp with the Baltimore Colts and Kansas City Chiefs following college.
Mike Jolly, Central, football
Bio: Two years after Steve Dennis electrified Bibb County football fans, Jolly stepped under center for the Chargers and led the team on a magical run to a state championship in 1975, the first in Bibb County since 1948. He was unstoppable for much of his senior season, but Jolly’s postseason performance made him legendary. He picked up a long fourth down on the game-winning drive to beat Northside in the quarterfinals just two weeks after the Eagles beat Central by 13. In the championship game, Jolly led his team on a 76-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a one-yard touchdown with 1:23 left to beat Douglass. Jolly went on to play at Georgia Tech and Tennessee State, and he spent some time with the Memphis Showboats in the USFL.
Why we picked him: Who has had a bigger impact on the football field in Bibb County since integration than Jolly? Probably no one. His performance during the 1975 looms even larger now considering it has been 37 years since a Bibb County school has won a state title. When he played for the Denver Broncos, Jolly’s Central teammate Roger Jackson said he used to tell John Elway, “You remind me of Michael Jolly.”
Others to consider
Michael Brooker, Brentwood, basketball: Arguably the greatest basketball player in GISA history, Brooker made close to 40 percent of his 3-point shots in high school. He made national headlines when he made 87 consecutive free throws to set the national record. Brooker averaged 33.7 points and 10.5 rebounds as a high school senior. He holds school records in single-game points (52) and career points (2,501). Brooker went on letter four seasons for North Carolina. He now serves as the head boys basketball coach at FPD.
Terry Brown, Southwest, football: Brown was a do-everything quarterback for the Patriots before earning four letters at Tennessee.
Jay Cranford, Stratford, baseball: Cranford was a part of four no-hitters at Stratford. He hit 13 home runs in 1988, and he holds the school’s record for career pitching wins. He went 36-3 on the mound. Cranford was drafted twice, the final time by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992. He also played at Georgia.
Vince Datillo, Mount de Sales, soccer: Datillo was a four-time Telegraph All-Middle Georgia soccer player of the year before playing at Mercer, where he was the A-Sun Player of the Year in 1992. He was the fourth overall pick by the Dayton Dynamos in the 1993 National Professional Soccer League.
Ed DeFore, Jr., Lanier, baseball: DeFore went 15-2 on the mound as a senior before signing with Georgia. He was drafted twice, signing with the New York Mets after they drafted him 12th overall in 1971.
Darius Dewberry, Peach County, football: Dewberry was a wrecking ball on defense for the Trojans during an all-state year in 2004. Dewberry earned four letters at Georgia.
Joe Dupree, Southwest, football: Dupree was The Telegraph's All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year before playing at both Georgia and Georgia Southern.
Moses Herring, Ballard-Hudson, football: Herring may have been the first great black quarterback in Macon. He led Ballard-Hudson to a state championship in 1959. It was the school’s only undefeated season.
Marques Ivory, Northside, football: Ivory never lost a high school game as a quarterback, leading the Eagles to state titles in 2006 and 2007. His most memorable game came in the Georgia Dome in 2007, returning at halftime of the state semifinals to help Northside to come back from a 28-7 deficit. Ivory had missed the previous six games with a broken leg. Ivory plays quarterback at Jacksonville State.
Morgan Johnson, FPD, softball/basketball/track: Johnson played key roles in state championship runs in all three sports she played. She holds FPD’s career home run record. Johnson started in the outfielder during Valdosta State’s run to a national championship in 2012. Johnson won the Gulf South Conference Commissioner’s Trophy as the conference’s top female athlete after hitting .427 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI.
Walter Johnson, Appling, basketball: Johnson may be the best player in Appling history, and he had a standout career at Fort Valley State.
Larry Lawrence, Mount de Sales, basketball: An all-state high school player, Lawrence played at Dartmouth, where he made the All-Ivy League team in 1979 and 1981. He scored 1,000 career points and was named the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1981. Lawrence was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, but he became famous playing in France. He averaged 32.4 points in 1989 with a French team.
Sam Nunn, Perry, basketball: Obviously known for his political achievements in the U.S. Senate, Nunn was also a great basketball player at Perry, helping the Panthers during the Eric Staples era.
Tommy Reid, Willingham, baseball/basketball: Reid was a standout baseball and basketball player with the Rams. He led Georgia in hitting in 1964 and made the All-SEC team in 1965. He would later win the Georgia Senior Amateur in 2001.
Justin Tyler, Jones County, baseball/football: Tyler was a tremendous two-sport athlete for the Greyhounds. Tyler hit more than 30 home runs during his final two seasons at Jones County. He played college football at Mississippi State before playing at Arkansas-Monticello.
Chris Wilson, FPD, football: Wilson rushed for 4,442 yards and 53 touchdowns at FPD. The all-state pick played at Georgia Southern and is a member of the Macon Sports Hall of Fame.
Billy Henderson, Lanier, baseball/football
Bio: Lanier’s two-time all-state running back made two All-Southern teams, including being named as the top player in Georgia in 1945. Henderson set the Macon touchdown record as a senior – the mark stood for 28 years until Steve Dennis broke it. Henderson was just as solid in baseball, playing in a national showcase at Yankee Stadium for Babe Ruth against a team coached by Ty Cobb. After being drafted by the Chicago Cubs, Henderson decided to head to Georgia, where he earned eight combined letters in football and baseball. He was a two-time All-SEC pick in baseball, leading Georgia in batting three times. He still holds the career record for steals with 91, and only two guys in the past 62 years have stolen more bases in a season than Henderson’s 29 in 1950. Henderson led the SEC in hitting twice, and his .375 career average in sixth-best in Georgia history. Henderson would return to Macon to coach at Willingham and Mount de Sales. He later won three state championships at Clarke Central.
Why we picked him: This was such a difficult choice between two of the greatest high school athletes in Middle Georgia history in Henderson and Chansi Stuckey. Stuckey may be one of the five best players who didn’t make the cut at their number, alongside guys like Norm Nixon, Jeff Malone, Al Wood and Roger Kingdom. It’s hard to compare guys from completely different eras, and it’s also easier to pick the guy who’s fresher on the mind. But Henderson is still one of the greatest baseball players in Georgia history, and he’s one of the best high school football players in state history. He rushed for more than 20 touchdowns in a season back when it was very difficult to accomplish the feat with fewer games. The state’s reverence for Henderson was apparent when he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1962, just 16 years after his last high school game as a 34-year-old.
Others to consider
Rodney Collins, Hawkinsville, football: Collins was the state back of the year in 1965. He hasbecome more known for his coaching exploits, winning four state championships as a head coach with three coming at Stratford, where he currently coaches.
Rashad Eldridge, FPD, baseball: Eldridge holds FPD’s school record for batting average. He signed with Georgia, but signed a pro contract with the Cleveland Indians in 2000. Eldridge spent 11 seasons in the minor leagues, collecting 1,041 career hits with a .270 career average.
Charles Harris, Mount de Sales, basketball: Harris was an all-state basketball player for the Cavaliers, making the GHSA all-star game in 1977 and playing in the Boston Shoot-Out. He played four years at Iowa State, finishing his career third all-time in assists for the Cyclones.
Boot Hunt, Perry, football: Hunt was Perry's first all-state player ever when he made the team in 1958. Hunt scored 100 points that season, a school record that stood for 48 years. He signed with Georgia.
Scooter Melvin, Fort Valley, basketball/football: Melvin won back-to-back Class C Back of the Year awards in 1952 and 1953. He was The Telegraph’s first All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 1953 after scoring 303 career points.
Billy Powell, Perry, basketball: Powell helped lead Perry to the 1953 state title. He averaged 20 points per game and scored 28 in the state title win over Clarkston. Powell was named captain of the all-state team.
Chansi Stuckey, Northside, football: He made two all-state teams, but it was during his senior year where Stuckey made his mark. The quarterback earned Class AAAAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2001 after leading the Eagles to their first state championship game. The Eagles lost that night to Parkview, but the road was paved to the eventual state championship five years later. Stuckey was also one of the first spread quarterbacks in Georgia. Stuckey moved to wide receiver as a sophomore, and he excelled with a combined 1,470 yards and seven touchdowns his final two seasons. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Stuckey has played for the Jets, Browns and Cardinals over the past five seasons. He has 1,062 career yards and five touchdowns.
Al Thornton, Perry, basketball: Thornton exploded his final two seasons at Florida State, averaging 16.1 points and 19.7 points, respectively. The Los Angeles Clippers took Thornton with the 14th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Thornton has started 167 games in four NBA seasons, averaging 11.9 points for his career. He averaged a career best 16.8 points in 2008-09.
Blue Moon Odom, Ballard-Hudson, baseball
Bio: Odom dominated in high school, leading Ballard-Hudson to consecutive state championships while going 42-2 with eight no-hitters. The Kansas City Athletics drafted Odom in 1964, and he would stick in the major leagues for 13 years. Odom made all-star teams in 1968 and 1969, which were two of his three seasons with 15 or more wins. While he had a roughly .500 record for his career, Odom came up big on the biggest stage. He had a 1.13 ERA in five playoff and six World Series appearances. He threw a complete game, three-hit shutout to beat the Tigers in the 1972 ALCS, and he finished the series with a 0.00 ERA in 14 innings. He had a 1.59 ERA in 11 innings in the 1972 World Series. He played on all three of the Oakland A’s championship teams in the 1970s. Odom was also a very good hitter, knocking five home runs and hitting .266 in 1969. Odom was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
Why we picked him: Odom joins a very select company of Middle Georgians with multiple world championships, joining J.T. Thomas (Lanier-Pittsburgh Steelers) and Norm Nixon (Southwest-Los Angeles Lakers) among a few others on the list.
Others to consider
Stewart Bloodworth, Perry, football: One of the first All-Middle Georgia Players of the Year, Bloodworth rushed for 1,285 yards and 10 touchdowns in 1957.
Dwayne Powell, Perry, basketball: Powell led the Panthers to consecutive state championships in 1962 and 1963. Powell averaged 18 points per game in 1962 and a school-record 29.9 points per game as a senior. He made 50 straight free throws during one stretch and finished as Perry’s all-time leading scorer with 2,043 points. Powell would go on to play at Georgia.
Theron Sapp, Lanier, football: Sapp became best known as Georgia’s “drought breaker” after his touchdown broke Georgia Tech’s eight-win win streak against the Bulldogs in 1957. How big was that touchdown? Georgia retired his college No. 40 two months after his final college game. He was a second-team All-SEC pick in 1958. Sapp played five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles – including on the 1960 NFL championship team – and three years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Inman Veal, Lanier, baseball/basketball: The man known as “Coot” was an all-state baseball and basketball player in high school. Veal played basketball and baseball at Auburn, making an All-SEC baseball team in 1952. Veal played six years in the major leagues mostly as a utility player and defensive replacement. Veal was the first player to bat in Washington Senators history.
Rondell White, Jones County, baseball
Bio: White helped lead Jones County to the 1989 state championship – the only one in state history – and eventually earned national recognition as a senior in 1990. The Montreal Expos selected White with the 24th overall selection in the 1990 draft. He made his debut in 1993 and became a full-time player in 1995. He remained in the big leagues until 2007, finishing his career with his seventh team, the Minnesota Twins. White hit 198 home runs and knocked in 768 RBI while hitting .284 for his career. He made his only all-star team in 2003. White hit a career-best 28 home runs with the Expos in 1997, giving him his first of three 20-plus home run seasons.
Why we picked him: Competition at No. 14 was stiff, with Steve Dennis and Nick Marshall being two of the great quarterbacks in Middle Georgia history. Burnette and Cranford had outstanding careers. But White is one of the most noteworthy athletes in Middle Georgia history, and he may stand alongside Al Wood as the greatest athletes in Jones County history.
Others to consider
Dantonio Burnette, Northside, football: Burnette was one of the key players to put Northside football on the map after head coach Conrad Nix returned. Burnette wreaked havoc at N.C. State, earning the moniker “Thunder Dan” for his ferocity. He ranks among the top 10 in school history in tackles, tackles for loss and forced fumbles.
Joannie Cavan, R.E. Lee, basketball: Cavan averaged 24 points per game over her final two years, leading the team to a 59-1 mark in that span. Cavan led the team to an undefeated season and a state championship in 1962.
Joey Cranford, Stratford, baseball/football: Cranford is third in single-season and career batting averages for the Eagles. Cranford hit 11 home runs and knocked in 51 runs to go with an 11-0 record on the mound to lead the Eagles to the GISA title in 1994. Cranford went 25-3 in his career on the mound. He was drafted twice, the second time by the Minnesota Twins in 1996 after he played two years for Georgia.
Steve Dennis, Central, football: Dennis broke Billy Henderson’s single-season city touchdown record in 1973. He was named Class AAA Back of the Year as a senior, and he was The Telegraph’s Player of the Year. Dennis played at Georgia, serving as team captain in 1978. Dennis coached at Auburn and Georgia before serving as Troy’s athletics director from 2005 until late July 2012.
Nick Marshall, Wilcox County, basketball/football: Marshall led Wilcox County to its first state football championship in 2009. He would go on to shatter the state’s career passing touchdown record with 103, 11 clear of the guy second on the list. Marshall also took the Patriots basketball team to two Final Fours. He was The Telegraph’s Selby Buck winner in 2010, and he was separately The Telegraph’s football player of the year and basketball player of the year twice. Marshall played one season of football at Georgia, and he currently plays at Garden City Community College.
Jacquez Green, Peach County, football
Bio: Green earned all-state honors as a senior for Peach County, but his career really took off in the pass-happy offense at Florida. Green caught seven passes for 79 yards in Florida’s Sugar Bowl win over Florida State in 2007 to clinch a national championship. Green finished the year with 33 catches for 626 yards and nine touchdowns. Green topped himself as a junior, when he caught 61 passes for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns in 1997. Green earned consensus All-America and All-SEC honors in 1997, and he also was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which went to Randy Moss. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Green in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He played five seasons in the NFL with his best year coming when he caught 56 passes for 791 yards and three touchdowns in 1999.
Why we picked him: Although his NFL career didn’t quite measure up to his college career, Green still has one of the most impressive pro football resumes for a Middle Georgia. The only reason his pro career didn’t match the college one is because his college run was so good.
Others to consider
Walter Daniels, Southwest, basketball: Daniels followed his prep career with an outstanding run at Georgia. Daniels averaged more than 10 points in each of his four seasons, including 16.4 and 21.9 points per game in his junior and senior seasons. Daniels finished his career at Georgia as the all-time leader in scoring and assists and made three All-SEC teams. The Los Angeles Lakers selected Daniels in the third round of the 1979 NBA Draft.
Allisha Gray, Washington County, basketball: Gray has already won a state championship as a player, and she is a two-time All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year. Gray was named Gatorade’s Georgia Player of the Year in 2012, and she played for USA Basketball’s under-18 national team. Gray has committed to North Carolina.
Chris Hatcher, Mount de Sales, football: Hatcher rose from the bottom of the depth chart as a freshman quarterback at Valdosta State to become one of the greatest players in NCAA Division II history. He passed for 11,363 yards and 121 touchdowns at Valdosta State, making two All-America teams and winning the Harlan Hill Trophy in 1994 as D-II’s best player. Hatcher returned to coach Valdosta State to the 2004 Division II championship. Hatcher is in the following Halls of Fame: Macon Sports, Valdosta State Athletic, Mount de Sales Athletic and Division II.
Chuck Hawkins, Crawford County, basketball: Hawkins helped lead Crawford County to its first state championship in 1969.
Bobby Huellemeier, Mount de Sales, baseball: Huellemeier was the Cavaliers’ ace on the mound during their run to the 1966 state championship. He struck out 16 in the championship game. In the 1967 region tournament, Huellemeier didn’t allow a hit while striking out 31. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1967, but he would go on to play college baseball at Mercer.
Mike Mimbs, Windsor, baseball: After standout careers at Windsor and Mercer, Mimbs was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1990 draft. He broke into the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1995, and he started 37 games for the Phillies over the next three years.
Danny Minor, Lanier, football: Poets’ head coach Selby Buck said Minor was the best back in the past 30 years after Minor rushed for 1,027 yards in 1955.
Anthony Sessions, Northside, football: Sessions played quarterback for the Eagles, making an AP all-state team in 1996. Sessions went on to letter two seasons as a linebacker at Tennessee. He spent some time in camp with the Washington Redskins.
Cam Bonifay, Mark Smith, baseball/football
Bio: Bonifay made the key basket to clinch the 1969 state basketball title for Mark Smith, but he played baseball and football at Georgia Tech. Bonifay kicked for the Yellow Jackets, while making earning honorable mention All-America honors in baseball. Bonifay was inducted in the Georgia Tech and Macon Sports Halls of Fame. After a brief minor-league career, Bonifay went into the front office and became general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He currently works in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
Others to consider
Nate Hybl, Jeff Davis, football: Hybl made two all-state teams in high school before signing with Georgia. He transferred to Oklahoma, where he served as a backup during the Sooners’ national championship run in 2000. Hybl started his junior and senior seasons, passing for 2,538 yards and 24 touchdowns with just eight interceptions as a senior in 2002. Hybl spent time with both the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Brett Layson, Tattnall Square, football/track: Layson was a scoring machine for the Trojans in 2006. The quarterback scored a school-record 36 touchdowns and accounted for 46 total touchdowns and 1,826 yards as the Trojans won the GISA championship. He scored 60 career touchdowns. Layson didn’t lose a hurdle race as a senior on the way to being named Telegraph track and field athlete of the year. He also won the Selby Buck Award as the Telegraph’s top athlete in Middle Georgia. He was the City Player of the Year in football in 2006. Layson played college football at Georgia Southern.
Ryan Taylor, Dublin, football: Taylor was named the Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1994. Taylor went on to letter four years at Auburn. He spent some time with the Cleveland Browns following his college career.
Mallon Faircloth, Crisp County, football
Bio: Faircloth made two all-state teams in high school, capped by his selection as Class AA Back of the Year honors in 1959. Faircloth would go on to be the last single-wing tailback in Tennessee history, rushing for 179 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt in his final college game in 1963. Faircloth led the Volunteers in rushing twice and in total yards three times.
Why we picked him: Of the No. 17’s we considered, Faircloth had the best combination of high school and college careers.
Others to consider
Mark Farriba, Stratford, baseball/football: Farriba starred in football and baseball at Stratford. He wore No. 17 in baseball. Farriba had arguably the most dominant pitching season in GISA history in 1974, when he didn’t allow an earned run in 45 innings while throwing three no hitters. He tossed four no-hitters in his career to go with a 17-1 record. Farriba would go on to punt at Georgia, and he is currently the head football coach at Prince Avenue Christian.
Gene Ratliff, Dudley Hughes, baseball: Ratliff followed a standout prep career by being selected by Houston in the MLB Draft.
Brandan Spillers, Tattnall Square, baseball: Spillers led Tattnall Square to a 31-0 record and the GISA baseball championship in 2000. He went 8-0 with a 0.97 ERA during his senior season, while hitting .417 with eight home runs. The Baltimore Orioles selected Spillers in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, and he spent six seasons with the organization.
Mark Johnson, Warner Robins, baseball/football
Bio: Johnson was a dominant hitter in high school at Warner Robins, getting drafted 26th overall by the Chicago White Sox in 1994. Johnson made his major league debut four years later in 1998. Johnson played five seasons for the White Sox. He played in limited action with the Oakland Athletics in 2003 and the Milwaukee Brewers in 2004. After a four-year absence in the major leagues, Johnson was called up by the St. Louis Cardinals in Sept. 2008. Johnson coached the Cubs’ short-season rookie club in Boise in 2011.
Why we picked him: Johnson was a pretty solid two-sport athlete at Warner Robins. While he was a solid quarterback, Johnson was an outstanding high school catcher, and he remains one of the few Middle Georgians to be selected in the first round of the baseball draft.
Others to consider
Marlon White, Westside, football: White set all of the receiving records at Westside, finishing his career with 1,487 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. White earned four letters at Vanderbilt.
Louis Ivory, Peach County, football
Bio: Ivory exploded on to the scene as a running back at Furman. In 2000, Ivory rushed for 2,079 yards and 16 touchdowns and won the Walter Payton Award as the best player in Division I-AA. He followed that with 1,719 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior. Ivory, who was spurned by Georgia Southern coming out of Peach County, rushed for 5,353 yards and 53 touchdowns in his career. He rushed for 301 yards and three touchdowns in an upset over top-ranked Georgia Southern in 2000. Ivory was named South Carolina College Player of the Decade – this was for all schools in South Carolina besides Clemson and South Carolina – by The State (Columbia, S.C.). He was a two-time consensus All-American and a two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year. Ivory’s number (he wore 34 in college) is one of three retired jerseys at Furman.
Why we picked him: Ivory wasn’t the best back in Peach County history, nor was he the biggest. But he had a ton of heart, becoming the only Middle Georgian to win the Walter Payton Award.
Others to consider
Josh Gordy, Washington County, football: Gordy’s all-state senior season was punctuated by a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in state semifinals in the Georgia Dome in 2004. Gordy replicated the feat as a freshman for Central Michigan in 2006. Gordy had 10 career interceptions in college. He started 45 games at Central Michigan, making the All-MAC second team in 2009. Gordy played for the St. Louis Rams in 2011, starting nine games and intercepting three passes.
Brian Mimbs, Dublin, football: Mimbs was a two-time All-Middle Georgia selection at punter for Dublin. A two-year starter at Georgia, Mimbs made the All-SEC second team in 2008.