NFL greats Eli Manning, Jimmy Smith head Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

JACKSON — Three NFL greats, one of the best broadcasters in Major League Baseball history, and a bass fisherman are among the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 that was announced Wednesday.

Former Ole Miss and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith headlined the group introduced at the Hall of Fame in Jackson.

Legendary baseball broadcaster Walter “Red” Barber; bass fisherman Paul Elias; high school basketball coach Richard Duease; professional tennis player Becky Vest; Ole Miss track great Savanté Stringfellow; and former Mississippi State and NFL football player Jimmy Webb round out the class.

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The Class of 2024 will be enshrined during the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction Weekend Aug. 2-4 in Jackson. Tickets will go on sale in January.

Manning is one of the most beloved football players in Ole Miss history. The quarterback — and son of another Ole Miss legend, Archie Manning — set or tied 47 school records with the Rebels. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft and won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, among numerous other accolades.

Smith is a Jackson native who starred at Callaway High School and Jackson State. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and was part of their Super Bowl championship team that season, but had his best years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Smith was signed by Jacksonville as a free agent before its inaugural season in 1995 and played 11 years with the team. He finished his NFL career with 862 receptions for 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns. His yardage total ranked seventh on the NFL’s career list when he retired in 2006, and he is now 25th.

Webb grew up on a cattle farm near Florence and went on to play football at Mississippi State and in the NFL. The defensive lineman played six NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and one with the San Diego Chargers from 1975-81, and finished his career with 28 sacks. He is a member of the MSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Barber was born in Columbus in 1908 and in 1934 landed a job as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Cincinnati Reds. He also called games for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees during a career that lasted until 1966. He and Mel Allen were the first broadcasters inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Barber died in 1992.

Elias is a native of Laurel and the first bass fisherman to be elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. During a career that started in 1979 and continues today, Elias has won six major tournaments and had more than 50 top-10 finishes on the Bassmasters Tour.

Duease, the boys’ and girls’ basketball coach at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, has won 33 class and 15 Overall MAIS championships in 41 seasons. Between the two teams, the Indianola native has won 1,801 games.

Stringfellow attended Provine High School in Jackson and then Ole Miss. He won three NCAA long jump championships and a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics, in addition to a number of titles at various international meets.

Vest also graduated from Provine, albeit a couple of generations before Stringfellow. Vest won three consecutive girls’ tennis singles championships from 1956-58. She later played professional tennis and competed in the French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon.

Vest’s mother, Dorothy, was inducted into the MSHOF in 1980 for her contributions to Mississippi’s tennis scene. They are the first mother and daughter to be inducted.