Impressive statistics, outstanding linemen, stellar careers, all-around performances, rugged defense, honor, and great accomplishments comprised the 2014 Induction Banquet Sports Hall of Fame event this year. The banquet was packed with all the fame needed to ensure the players made this year Sports Hall of Fame.
The tenth annual induction banquet was held at Upson Lee High School on February 22, 2014 to honor outstanding accomplishments and to show respect for this years’ inductees into the Sports Hall of Fame. This evening included five individuals, and two team inductees that will join the impressive group of 69 individuals, and nine teams that currently makes up the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame.
This year inductees included Foy Bentley, noted as one of the top outstanding offensive lineman in R.E. Lee football history. Bentley was introduced by Jim Fowler. He stated that “Bentley went on to complete a four-year letterman and three-year starter at tackle. After his outstanding high school career, he went on to be awarded a football scholarship to Georgia Tech with the honor of being a 1961 letterman. Bentley played at an all-star level and was one of the top linemen and leaders in history.”
Bentley was the Co-Captain of the 1956 squad and named the Most Valuable Lineman on the 1956 team that year. He was also named the All-Region 1AAA team and the AAA All-State team. After his high school and college career, he worked as assistant coach with the R. E. Lee junior team, and volunteered with the Thomaston Recreation Department football league for the youth. In this position he served 16 years where he gained the title of superior coach with intense preparation, and excellent instruction.
The second inductee was Richard “Dickie” Deal. He was introduced by Ronald Johnston. Deal led the 1944 R. E. Lee baseball team to a state championship. When he graduated, Deal signed a professional contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1944. At Milford, Connecticut he had a 7-3 record, and he went on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, where he ended his pro career in 1947.
Dickie was an outstanding left-handed pitcher and first baseman for the Legion Aces team coached by his father, Dutch Deal. His was selected by the Atlanta Journal-Esquire Magazine, because of his excellent performance and skills. This recognition was done in 1944 by the Georgia-Florida Prep All-Star Team. During that year. Dickey earned several outstanding local championships. He later made a name for himself on the diamond prior to his outstanding career as a Georgia State Patrolman. Deal passed away in 2001, but his wife, Frances Deal, accepted the award in his honor.
The third inductee of the evening was Michael Hicks, presented by Jim Pruett with an impressive introduction as the best running back in his career. He was a three-year starter and letterman for the Rebels and “rewrote the Lee record book!” He led the Rebels to the Region 5A championship in 1990 and 1991, along with leading the team in rushing in 1989 and 1991.Hicks was awarded the Coaches Trophy during 1990, Best Offensive award, and the Most Valuable Player award in 1991. Hicks held significant records, such as most yards gained rushing in a season (2,143), the most touchdowns scored in a season (38), which both were records set in 1991, and most points scored (230). His career record includes most yards rushing (4,368), and the highest average yards gained per rush (7.7). He also had 11 touchdowns runs of 57 yards or more during the 1991 season.
Prior to signing with South Carolina, Hicks was chosen to the Class A All-State team by the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 1991. He was also selected to receive the same recognition by the Macon Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia team. He played in the Georgia-Florida All-Star game in 1992 and then signed to play at South Carolina State University.
Hicks’ record at South Carolina was so impressive and yet unbelievable. He led SC State and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in rushing for three seasons in 1993-94-95. Hicks rushed over 200 yards four times in his career with the Bulldogs. The rushing yards totaled (4,093) gave him the position as #2 rusher in South Carolina’s history, and the #4 rusher in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference history. That’s not all! He holds the single season record holder in yards gained rushing (1,426 in 1993), rushing touchdowns (22 in 1994), and points scored (132 in 1994). His career record setting includes and holds at the yards gained rushing (4,093), rushing touchdowns (51), rushing yards per game (127.9), and points scored (316).
Hicks earned the title as an All-MEAC performer for three years, and the MEAC Offensive Player-of-the-Year in 1995. He was recognized as Palmetto State Co-Player-of-the-Year in 1994. He was a 1AA All-America team pick in 1993, 1994, and 1995.
Hicks was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round of the 1996 National Football League draft. He played two seasons and then played for the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL in Europe before retiring. He was also named to the South Carolina State Centennial Football team in 2007. Coach Pruett added “I cannot even tell you what all this young fellow accomplished during his career. It is so impressive!”
The fourth inductee, presented by Ronnie Lowe, was Clint McAbee, who is a graduate of Spalding High School in 1947. He earned a scholarship to the University of Mississippi, but an arm injury caused him to transfer to South Georgia Junior College. During that year, he was the starting center coached by Bowden Wyatt, and they won the 1949 Junior Sugar Bowl. He received his degree from the University of Georgia, and began teaching in they Spalding School System. He later joined Coach Jim Cavan in 1953 at Robert E. Lee Institute as an offensive line coach. He was an assistant coach at R. E. Lee for 19 years, and helped lead the Rebels to region titles in 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1970. He was a member of the five Lee region championship teams with an impressive record of 119-66-13 for a .634 winning percentage. McAbee was named assistant coach in 1962 for the Georgia High School All-Star game.
Ronnie Lowe stated, “He was recognized for his volunteer service as the bus driver of the “Rebel Bus” for many Rebel sports’ teams, such as football, basketball, and baseball teams. Coach McAbee was considered a treasury of Lee football history and knowledge. He is recognized as an icon for the Thomaston community, which he was loved and respected by his peers, former students, and local citizens.”
Raymond Phagan was the fifth inductee, presented by Jim Fowler. Phagan was a 1973 graduate of Robert E. Lee, where he was a three-year starter and letterman on Coach Jim Cavan’s Rebel football teams. During 1972, Phagan suffered a knee injury which ended the season for him, for which Coach Cavan made the statement, “After losing Raymond we not only lost a senior with experience, but we also lost our best offensive blocker, one of our hardest runners, a top defensive back, our punter, and fine pass receiver.” During 1972, Coach Cavan stated, “Phagan is our best football player!” Phagan was named the Most Promising Player Award in 1970, and Best Defensive Back Award in 1972. Phagan finished his Lee career with (1,000) career rushing yards and nine interceptions. Punting Average in 1972 was 37.8, which he made the second best average in history. His 35.3 punting average gave him the third best mark in Lee history. He received a scholarship to play with Auburn University and completed 1974, 1975, 1976. He was known for his “hard-hitting” style, which he earned a position as a starter at linebacker for the Tigers in 1975. Phagan’s damaged knee injury caused him to pass up his final year with the Tigers.
In 1962 and 1963, the Drake Yellow Jackets boys’ basketball team drew great attention to the community. Mr. Fowler proceeded to present the team along with Coach Gene Walker and made the statement, “Their accomplishments should be recognized with considerable pride and satisfaction.” The Drake Boys’ team earned advancement to the semi-finals of the state tournament, where they defeated Louisville to advance to the state finals in 1962. From there they defeated East Depot High of LaGrange and obtained the G.I.A. Class A state title and a record of 22-3 finals for the season.
During 1963, the Yellow Jackets made it to the championship game in Swainsboro to defend their state title. They defeated the Wolverines and took home the state crown again. Tommy Chapman and Curtis Carthon moved on to play at a college level with Fort Valley State and Clark College Squad respectively.
The members of the team were as follows: Willie Gene Atwater, Monroe Bands, Curtis Carthon, Tommy Chapman, Johnny Gray, David Harden, Charlie Hobbs, Charles King, Willie Lucas, Bobby Sanders, Robert Starling, Louis Taylor, George Washington, Ernest Wilder, Henry Wilder, and James Wonnum. The trainers recognized were Ray Allen, Minder Rucker, and Danny Smith.
The 1970 Robert E. Lee Football Team was presented by Jim Pruett, who stated, “This team accomplished something that no other team in Lee football history had accomplished. They were the first to finish with a 10-0 record.” This gave them the accomplishment of capturing the Region 6AAA Championship, and Coach Jim Cavan was named the Region’s Coach of the Year. They were the first Lee team to defeat LaGrange High School on the gridiron, with a score of 14-7. The defense was credited with four shutouts and kept their opponents to seven or less points in nine of their ten regular season contests, with the offense averaging 22.3 points per contest. His coaching staff included Clint McAbee, Tommy Perdue, Daryl Jones, Ronald Johnston, and Burns Pruett.
Eight members went on to receive scholarships during the 70’s, which includes Jerry Paul (Georgia), Pete Cavan (Alabama), Mickey Thrasher (Alabama), Raymond Phagan ( Auburn), Rick Rawlins (Georgia Tech), Webb Nall (Colorado), David Brady (Livingston), and trainer Stan Clark (Gerogia).
Seniors on the 1970 team were Ken Blankenship, Charles Brazil, Joey Bullington, Ed Burkett, Mike Colquitt, David Fordham, Mike Hall, Steve McCrary, Ronnie McRae, Alan Ormand, Jerry Paul, Allen Smith.
Pruett went on to say, “I can’t say anything but nice things about this team. Basically the long plays of Jerry Paul and a great defense headed by Nath Sandefur paved the way for a perfect season.”
The Team would like to give merit and honor to Mike Cavan, Pete Cavan, and Rusty Dean with a combined experience total of ten years of quarterback starters in Robert E. Lee History.
Individual plaques extolling the achievements of the members are located at the Thomaston-Upson Civic Center. The Board of Directors encourages each and every one to visit the exhibit, and view the careers of all the members of the organization. Members of the Board of Directors includes: Jim Fowler, Jim Pruett, Marcus Cunningham, Steve Ellerbee, David Millen, Freddie Sparks, Robbie Sheppard, Ronnie Lowe, Toiee Park, Phyllis Sanders, Jessie Wilder, and Ronald Johnston. The members would like to thank everyone for coming out and taking part in the tenth annual Inductee Banquet Sports Hall of Fame for 2014!!