Hall of Fame shows humanity of athletes

Jason Johnston, Editorial InternI am a fan of sports, especially the Kansas City Chiefs.

My favorite player is Priest Holmes – even though he retired from football in 2007. He played football the right way – without being too flamboyant. Holmes was a leader and appreciated his opportunities by showcasing his God-given abilities on the football field.

When I saw Holmes stroll into the Jan 30 news conference for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame 2011, I was awestruck. Here stands my sports hero.

To take my mind off the situation, I took pictures of him and the other inductees. What I noticed about them was their humbleness and openness. When they were not being interviewed, the inductees just talked to each other as if they were long-time friends.

Along with Holmes, the inductees this year were Ed Crenshaw Sr., Mildred Barnes, Dick Zitzmann, Linda Dollar, Monsignor Louis Meyer, Ray Cliffe, Randy Morrow, Stephanie Phillips, Vernon “Hap” Whitney, Jess Bolen, Jack Emmitt, Johnny Roland, Mike Matheny, Kenny Schrader, Tom Herr and the Missouri State University handball team.

Gary Filbert received the Missouri Sports Award for his contribution to basketball and the Show-Me State Games. The Central Bank in Lebanon received the John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award for its involvement with Lebanon, Laclede County and the hall of fame.

Here is the list of the inductees’ achievements.

About 1,340 people attended the ceremony at the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center.

Sarah Boleach, who was from the Hannibal Regional Health Foundation, sang the U.S. National Anthem beautifully with an opera tone.

Roland led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Matheny gave the invocation.

The most memorable moment occurred when Scot Phillips received the award on behalf of his wife, Stephanie Phillips, who was Kickapoo High School Lady Chiefs’ head basketball coach for nine seasons. On July 10, she died of cancer.

“She wanted to be an inspiration to people,” Scot Phillips said while receiving the award. “In her three year fight against cancer, Stephanie rarely missed work or practice. Except for a brief moment this past season, she never missed a game.

“She actually went as far as having a bed set up in her office so that she (could) rest between classes. Due to complications with chemotherapy, she had to wear gloves to games and practices.”

Just before he finished his speech, Phillips wept.

My favorite part of the ceremony was when Holmes gave the last speech of the evening.

He said the other inductees had courage, dedication and passion for life. Holmes thanked Crenshaw and Roland for breaking the color barrier in athletics and allowing him to stand before the audience as an inductee.

Holmes thanked Barnes for the courage that she had to bring in collegiate athletics for women and for having a progressive administration, which pushed for that acceptance.

He also gave a nod to Emmitt’s accomplishments as a fisherman, and shared anecdotes of his own fishing excursions.

“There are a few things I enjoy in life and fishing happens to be one of them,” Holmes said. “Unfortunately, when I would go fishing, people would always say, ‘Priest, the first fish goes back into the lake.’ Many times I would sit there because there were no more fish that would end up on my hook.”

Before he finished, Holmes thanked the audience for volunteering their time and supporting the 2011 inductees.

After the ceremony, Holmes, Roland, Matheny and Herr signed autographs. About 70 former and current Missouri State handball players and coaches gathered around Head Coach Tommy Burnett for a group picture.

Besides getting to hear one of my favorite Kansas City Chiefs players speak, I learned from this event that athletes are humble people who are passionate about their sports, teammates and fans.

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