Top 10 of 2021: No. 10, Sports Hall of Fame grows on special night

Welcome to the Warren County Sports Authority Top 10 of 2021. Each day until Dec. 31, we will be releasing a new story counting down the top 10 sports stories in Warren County this year. Be sure to check back everyday to see the biggest headlines from this year!




No. 10 - WC Sports Hall of Fame honors legendary class


Legendary coaches, all-star players, record holders, a voice everybody recognizes instantly, an Olympian - the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 truly had it all. It was truly a special night in August when 12 new individuals and one special team were honored as new Hall of Famers.

The Class of 2021 Hall of Fame included Barbara ‘Babs’ Biles, Mike Chilcutt, David Dunlap, Curtis Lusk, Gerald Lusk, Gooby Martin, Keith Martin, Paige Northcutt, George Oleksik, Bill Rutledge, Russ Spivey and Jay Walker. The Americans baseball program also became the first team honored by the WC Sports Hall of Fame.

When all were gathered at WCMS and joined by several more Hall of Famers as introducers, it turned into a magical night. Check below for the WCSA story from that great night.


The Sports Hall of Fame will be growing again in 2022. To make a nomination, just email Jeffery Simmons at wcsportsauthority@gmail.com.

The No. 9 story on the 2021 list will come out Thursday, Dec. 23.


 

Every story sounded like a tall tale, but they were real. The strolls down memory lane on induction night inspired laughter, smiles and tears and, by the end of the ceremony, the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame had grown significantly.


Twelve individuals and the Americans Baseball program were inducted into the Hall of Fame Thursday, forming one of the largest classes ever. It was a momentous night where some of Warren County’s greatest athletes, coaches and sports influencers were all honored.


The Class of 2021 certainly has it all – stars on the hardwood, diamond and gridiron. Those standouts, the true Pioneers and Lady Pioneers for years and years, will now be enshrined forever.

“It’s been a tremendous honor to bring all these great athletes and coaches into the Hall of Fame,” said Danny Martin, a board member on the Hall of Fame committee. “They are all very deserving and have done so much to help Warren County. It’s great to see all of them get the recognition.”


The Class of 2021 Hall of Fame includes Barbara ‘Babs’ Biles, Mike Chilcutt, David Dunlap, Curtis Lusk, Gerald Lusk, Gooby Martin, Keith Martin, Paige Northcutt, George Oleksik, Bill Rutledge, Russ Spivey and Jay Walker. The Americans baseball program also became the first team honored by the WC Sports Hall of Fame.


Nearly all of the inductees were in attendance, as were many members and coaches of the Americans. The large crowd was delighted by stories of the glory days, including some told by Hall of Fame coaches (and introducers at the event) Ronnie Brown, Edd Cantrell Sr. and Pedro Paz.


Below are a feature of highlights from the event, which can be seen in its entirety on YouTube:




Always be Humble


There seemed to be one word that tied the entire class together: Humble. While every athlete there was an unquestioned star locally, none would have ever shown it. These Hall of Famers always had the mentality of putting the team first, which led to some of the greatest moments in Warren County history.


“She didn’t know how good she was,” said Betty Wood, referencing her former teammate and newest Hall of Famer, Barbara Biles. “She raised the ceiling for basketball in Warren County through the 70s. Girls basketball was just taking off and we were in the state tournament 3-4 years in a row. Babs had the influence.”

Gooby Martin deflected praise from himself throughout the night. Like many during the event, Martin took time to give his teammates, coaches and family some shine.


“I want to thank my high school teammates. Baseball is a team sport and I wouldn’t be where I am now without my teammates. I may have gotten a lot of recognition, but I couldn’t do it without my team,” said Martin. “My coaches – thank you all. I think I’ve taken something from all of you and tried to use it with my girls. And my family, thank you for giving me the opportunity and I hope I made you proud.”


Curtis Lusk had a similar mentality, saying, “I don’t believe in egotistical. I don’t believe in thinking I’m better than anybody else. We play as a team and that’s how we got through it.”


Humbleness runs in the family.


Harold Lusk, who fought back emotion during his short speech, gathered himself long enough to say, “I want to thank the ones who voted me into the Hall of Fame. I personally don’t feel like I’m worthy, but I do appreciate it.”


There is no doubt everybody gathered, especially Harold Lusk, was worthy of the call from the Hall of Fame.


Plenty of laughs


With so many characters together in one room, there were going to be some laughs. It never turned into a roast at the podium, but there were plenty of times where it felt like a stand-up comedy routine. Here are some of the funniest lines from the night.


  • Mike Chilcutt didn’t wait long to address the elephant in the room. Chilcutt was going into the sports Hall of Fame as the band director, a position not often associated with sports. Chilcutt went after it with his first words, saying, “Well, here I am among all these great athletes ---- a musician.”

  • Matt Richey, the emcee for the night, had a funny way of praising tennis coach David Dunlap before he was inducted. “He is known for one sport, but he’s also known for being able to shoot his own age in golf,” said Richey.

  • Pedro Paz (more on him later) didn’t have any trouble remembering the offense he ran when Harold Lusk was in the backfield. Recalling when a coach asked him about his scheme, Pedro said it was, “One of the best offenses in the world – Harold to the right, Harold to the left and Harold up the middle. I told Harold he better be in shape because we were going to run him until he dies.”

  • Only good friends can make some jokes. Jamie Smith had fun with his friend since their early days, Gooby Martin, who may not look exactly like he did in his playing days. “Goob hasn’t changed a bit, well except for one thing. He’s always been the tall, handsome, talented, soft-spoken, polite guy, but as a young guy, he was skinny as a rail,” said Smith, who reached over and patted Gooby’s stomach with a laugh.

  • Smith wasn’t done. He also had a great story about playing with Gooby, where he was nailed with a hard shot from his teammate. That night, Gooby did his best to make sure Smith would make it through the night. “That night in the hotel room – and this was concussion protocol back in the 1980s – they just said to watch him while he’s sleeping and make sure he wakes up OK. Goob woke me up every hour that night, just shaking me to make sure I was OK,” said Smith, thanking Gooby for always being there for him.

  • Jeff Watson flipped the script during his introduction of Keith Martin. The teammates stood in front of the room side-by-side, with Martin looking like he could suit up and star for the Pioneers to this day. Watson turned it on Martin though, saying “I know what you all are thinking, ‘there is no way these two guys played ball together. That guy in the blue (referring to himself) looks way better than that guy over there.'”


  • “My wife says I’m a man of few words, so I’m going to stay consistent to that,” said Keith Martin, who drew a big laugh. He was also up and out from the podium within a minute.


  • Ronnie Brown got the late call to talk about George Oleksik, who couldn’t attend. Before he got to talking about the star of the 1992 state championship baseball team, Brown had to talk with Pedro. “I wanted to answer coach Paz’s question about how many coaches are lucky enough to have two players inducted tonight --- well, I have four,” said Brown. Paz didn’t answer back immediately, leaving Brown to quip, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up.” Paz had a good laugh about it.


  • Steve Harvey described growing up with basketball prodigy Russ Spivey like this: “I’ve been friends with Russ since the first grade. We played basketball at recess, 2-on-2 games, and had a great time. At that time, I was on the same level as Russ Spivey. It didn’t last long. In 7-8 grade, we had some good coaches at the time – Gary Rankin, Charlie Dalton – who let me know in a really nice way that basketball was probably not my forte. I became a spectator at that point instead of a teammate, but also a big fan.”


People have heard Jay Walker talk for decades, but they may not know the Voice of the Pioneers also has a great sense of humor. He’s all business on the air, but Thursday he had some fun at the podium. Some of his gems include:


  • “Yesterday, my wife Teresa and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary and I know what you’re thinking, ‘How in the world could anybody put up with him for 43 years?”

  • “I was told the second word I learned to say was ‘football.’ There was daddy and then football. My mom came third, I hope.”

  • “I want to thank Joe Harvey and his TV crew, who have confirmed to the world that I do indeed have a face for radio.”


Paz is still a tour de force


Put a mic around Pedro Paz and watch magic happen. Everybody in Warren County is aware of Paz’s ability to be witty in a moment’s notice. He may not get around as quickly anymore, but his mind is still as sharp as ever.


“I need to put a motor on this thing,” said Paz as he approached the mic with assistance of a walker. He also said he was going to “wing” his speech introducing Harold Lusk, before grabbing a piece a paper from his pocket and saying, “this is what Harold wrote and wanted me to say.”


Paz wasn’t a big fan of the cafeteria seats either, letting people know that he had an epiphany while sitting down - “I know now why our students aren’t eating a well-balanced meal. Those are the most uncomfortable chairs I’ve ever set.”


Paz also says a lot with his movements, so it must be watched. Make sure to check out the video – Paz starts speaking at the 55:30 mark. Paz got the biggest laughs of the night.


Tears flowed on an emotional night


It was evident from the very first inductee that this mattered deeply to everybody getting the call. Sometimes, the emotion was just too much to hold back. The room got misty a few times when introducers and inductees got choked up at the podium, but they always came back with great lines.


One of the first times the emotions grew was when Carlene Brown went into detail about how far David Dunlap will go to help kids play tennis. She told the story of Dunlap’s commitment to help Alessandro Prando – an Italian student who was a co-op player from Grundy County - play for the Pioneers last spring.


“He made sure this child, who came from Italy and had the dream to come America to school and to play tennis, could play. David drove to pick him up and drop him off every day. That’s what great coaches do,” said Carlene Brown, fighting back tears as she introduced her longtime friend.


She also finished with a great line, “Job well done!” about Dunlap’s work for decades on local tennis.


Dunlap, who was teary-eyed, was able to gather himself at the podium. And he found the perfect joke - “You guys know any good tennis players I can recruit – from Italy or anywhere?”


While Paz got some laughs, he was emotional too. He didn’t care either, not when he was talking about his feelings for his former player. “They say a man should not get emotional or cry, but Bull S…. I love Harold Lusk.”


Jeff Watson said he didn’t want to cry, but it was hard to praise Keith Martin without having a tear come to his eye. “He will always be my team captain. When things were tough, Keith was there. He didn’t say a lot, but Keith was always there,” said Watson.


Though she was quick to note that her friends knows she will cry, Paige Northcutt probably didn’t think she would be so overcome with emotion at the event. It was a big deal for the Florida native to be so accepted in Warren County, however, and Northcutt shed tears.


“It is a true honor to be part of this class and be inducted into the Warren County Hall of Fame. I can’t begin to tell you how the residents of this town have embraced me and given me such strength to do all that I do,” said Northcutt through tears. “I am so honored and thrilled to be a part of Warren County - to call this place home. I’ve been here longer than I actually lived in Florida.”


Drew Walker may not have broken down during his speech, but those in the room were moved by his heartfelt speech while introducing his dad, Jay Walker. He hit a crescendo at the end, closing with: “Whether it was football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball and, Heaven help him when he had to do soccer, he was always there and the voice you could trust to tell you exactly what was happening.


There have been many who have announced Warren County sports over the years before him and there will be many more who will come after, but I’m here to say that there is only one Voice of the Pioneers and that’s Jay Walker.”


Other good moments:


  • Chilcutt couldn’t help but praise the band members he had over the years: “I had some of the greatest kids anybody could ask for. Every year, they wanted to be a better band.”

  • Hall of Famer Edd Cantrell Sr. got a chance to introduce Curtis Lusk. Before his speech could start, he handed Curtis his walking cane, one his former player was quick to accept. “It was an honor to coach Curtis,” Cantrell would go on to say.

The feeling was mutual. Curtis Lusk said, “Coach Cantrell is a good coach and he instilled in me what to do to get the job done. Sports is the game of life – they teach you that when you get knocked down, you get back up and go at it again. Eventually, something good is going to happen.”


  • Curtis Lusk also talked about the time Cantrell took him to an award ceremony where he was going to be named the state’s MVP. Lusk, who was a self-described ‘Country boy,’ got some culture shock at the banquet.

“When we walked into the National Guard armory, there were people everywhere. There was a big table and there was the Governor, the mayor, Bear Bryant and the SEC player of the year. I lost my appetite. I had butterflies, I was asking myself, ‘What am I going to say in front of all these people?’” said Lusk. “Football taught me that if you have butterflies before you go onto the field, you tend to do pretty good. If you don’t have butterflies or no feeling, you’re going to have a bad game. I wanted to thank the coaches for the job they did and the time they spent.”


  • Because he was only a Pioneer for one year, Harold Lusk – the star of the inaugural 1969 team – isn’t ranked high in the Warren County record books. The numbers don’t matter to coach Paz – he knows who started the trend of the Pioneers having strong runners.

“Harold Lusk is the most humble human being I’ve ever been associated with. They can talk about Curtis, they can talk about Jeff Womack, they can talk about Jerry Lusk, but they all had to follow Harold Lusk. He set the standard for the running backs at Warren County - Every back that followed had to compete with what Harold did,” said Paz.

  • There were a few early nominations made at the podium for the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022. Jamie Smith made the case for Lane McCarter – “Lane should be up here next time, not just for the success he’s had as an athlete, but as a coach too” – and Paz continues to push for the matriarch of the Lusk family.

“They need to build a monument for Mama Lusk. Five of her sons – Charlie, Harold, Jerry, Curtis and Donald – played football for me. Not only that, she is also the grandmother of Jeff Womack. She’s the grandmother of ‘Big Baby’ Womack, Moody Tubbs and Michael Tubbs. They all played football for Warren County. I think whoever is in charge needs to consider placing Mama Lusk in the Hall of Fame.”


  • Jamie Smith told a great story about Gooby Martin outdueling Todd Van Poppel, a first-round draft pick for the Oakland A’s in 1990. Media had flocked to see Van Poppel throw a minor league game, but Gooby stole the show by tossing a no-hitter.

What happened next was even better, according to Smith – “The more impressive part was how he handled the media flocking to him and wanted to talk to him and it was so cool to watch Gooby handle it with such humility, like he had just thrown another no-hitter against Van Buren County.”


  • Lane McCarter, who was a late scratch at the banquet, still got a chance to relay a message about Gooby Martin. McCarter said of his teammate and friend, “If I could draw up the perfect make up of a player to put on my team, it would be Gooby Martin.”


  • Jeff Watson recalled a game where Keith Martin carried the Pioneers to victory. All of the success came on the same play, according to the former offensive lineman.

“57 power – my job was to pull and kick out the defensive end. They called the play and I never could get there before Keith got through the hole. Keith would go and I’d be right in behind him, so I was always the first guy to pick him up when he scored,” said Watson. “One game, we went into three overtimes. You knew where the ball was going, I knew where it was going. And I knew I had to block the defensive end.

“I could never get there, but did it matter? No, because of Keith. I was there to pick him up in the endzone three straight times. And we won that game --- because of Keith Martin.”


  • Coach Brown talked about Oleksik’s recruitment process to MTSU. Before the state tournament, Brown knew his star shortstop wasn’t in the Blue Raiders’ plans. But after watching Oleksik play exceptional in five state tournament games at Murfreesboro, coach Steve Peterson had seen enough to make an offer.


“Coach Peterson told me, ‘That kid is a winner. All he does is win. I’m going to get him here,’” said Brown.

The 1992 state championship coach also had high praise for Oleksik: “There was story where a reporter asked coach Bear Bryant, ‘would you rather have 40 of the best athletes around or 40 men who would rather die than lose?’ Bryant said he would take the latter. George would’ve been one of those 40.”


  • Bill Harris remembers how unstoppable Bill Rutledge was on the outside for the Pioneers. “They would put two and three defenders on Bill, but they still couldn’t stop that hitch-and-go,” recalled Harris about the dominant wide receiver.

It could have been because nobody could keep up with Rutledge in a footrace. Even Jay Gruden, who was coaching the Nashville Kats at the time, could barely keep up with a stopwatch.

“When Bill was trying out in Nashville, he ran a 4.28 and coach Gruden called him over and said, ‘I’m having a little trouble believing this and I need you to run it again.’ Bill ran a 4.29,” said Harris.


  • Bill Rutledge: “I heard somebody say earlier, today it’s an I game. Well, back then it was a ‘we’ thing – it was a team thing. We learned to play together.”


  • Drew Walker told a story about listening to replays of the play-by-plays done by his dad of his games. Drew said there was one game where he recovered a fumble and Jay calmly explained the action and was going to move on, but his buddy in the booth had to try to elicit a reaction.

"Without missing a beat, Troy Jones would say, “Jay, that was a great play by that young man. I wonder who his parents are?” Troy would do everything in his power to make dad break whenever I would make a play, which wasn’t many. What I realized about my dad in that is he was a professional in what he did.”

  • Jay Walker: ”I’ve always been proud to be the radio voice of the Pioneers. I try to be accurate, objective and professional because I want the Warren County Pioneer fans to have a radio announcer they can be proud of. Thank you very much and go Pioneers!”


  • Russ Spivey closed his acceptance speech with one of the best lines of the night - “I’ll Always be a Pioneer for Life.”


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