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Hall welcomes 8 new members

Redwood native Johnny Brewer, right, shakes hands with Jackson Touchdown Club president Walter Reed at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Friday night at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[4/3/04]A group of hard-nosed, gritty football players, two coaches who could match them in intensity, a superstar quarterback and the man who covered them all came together Friday night to form the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2004.

Redwood native Johnny Brewer joined fellow football legends Don Owens, Johnie Cooks, Eddie Khayat and Willie Totten as the latest inductees to the hall. Sports writer Lee Baker and high school coaches Jack Carlisle and Lindy Callahan rounded out the class. Baker, who died in 2003, and Owens, who passed away in 1997, were inducted posthumously.

More than 900 people attended the ceremonies at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“I am awed by the fact that I’m on the stage with such illustrious people in the state of Mississippi,” said Carlisle, who won 262 games in a coaching career that spanned five decades in Mississippi and Tennessee. “Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d be in this position, so my heartfelt thanks to all involved.”

In an effort to shorten the inductees’ often-lengthy acceptance speeches, this year’s class was limited to pre-recorded remarks that were played on video screens. That didn’t prevent all of the new members from becoming emotional, however.

Cooks, an All-American linebacker at Mississippi State who went on to enjoy a 10-year NFL career, got choked up several times during his videotaped acceptance speech. As he sat on the dais, the 300-pound giant repeatedly wiped tears from his eyes.

“Thanks for giving a young boy from Mississippi a chance to make a dream come true,” said Cooks, who won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants in 1991. “I wish my mom were alive today so I could give her a hug and a kiss and say thank you.”

Brewer, the All-American tight end from Ole Miss, was more philosophical in his remarks. He helped the Rebels to national championships in 1960 and 62 and played in 135 NFL games over a 10-year span. He never missed a game and boasted that he was never called for a holding or clipping penalty.

The Vicksburg resident added that football taught him lessons that extended well beyond the field.

“There’s so many things to be learned in this game that parallel life,” Brewer said. “You can experience so many challenges on the football field that you’ll face in life, and you’ll learn how to deal with them.”

Totten shattered nearly five dozen NCAA records during his career at Mississippi Valley State in the mid-1980s. He led the Delta Devils to a 29-10-2 record from 1982-85, and threw for 13,170 yards and an incredible 141 touchdowns.

He is the first Valley player inducted into the MSHOF, and he credited the architect of the Devils’ revolutionary spread offense with getting him there.

“I give all the credit to Coach (Archie) Cooley, The Gunslinger,’ who had the nerves and the charisma to run the offense we did and not be afraid,” Totten said. “It was fun days. It was a fun opportunity for us.”

The Hall of Fame class highlighted the evening, but several other coaches and athletes were honored.

Robert Morgan, who has spent his entire 36-year coaching career at Warren Central, was the recipient of the Jackson Touchdown Club’s Contribution to Amateur Football Award.

“You have to understand, when I’m recognized I represent 36 years of players, coaches, and administrators,” Morgan said.

St. Aloysius senior David Weiland was honored as one of 11 Central Mississippi Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame scholar-athletes.

Porters Chapel Academy senior Ryan Hoben received a $2,000 Gene May Scholarship, presented to a student-athlete who shows great leadership, athletic and academic ability.