From Staff Reports
The Athens Review
Joe Bob Johnson and his wife, Susie, have roots that run deep in the story of Trinity Valley Community College.
On Saturday, before a packed crowd during the latest TVCC Cardinal Hall of Fame induction, Johnson recounted the story of how he and his wife, Susie, landed in Athens.
Long story short, he had an offer to play football at the University of Arkansas, but had also been contacted by Henderson County Junior College.
HCJC not only offered Johnson a scholarship, but asked his wife to come too, to organize a drill team that became the Cardettes.
As for him, he was told that the facilities weren’t much, but that if he were able to help the team be successful, future generations of Cardinal football players would reap the benefits.
Johnson, who lives at Pinnacle Club, said he sometimes finds himself driving around the Athens campus, taking pride in what he and his teammates helped build.
Johnson — who led the nation in rushing and scoring in 1959 and 1960 — was back on campus Saturday, as he was one of five individuals inducted into the Cardinal Hall of Fame.
The 1989 TVCC cheerleading squad also became the first campus group to be inducted.
Johnson went on to play two years at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M-Commerce), where he was a 2-year starter, and was named small college all-state both seasons.
The spotlight would be back on Johnson, once he began his career as a successful high school coach. He served 12 years as athletic director/head football coach at Lake Highlands, where he claimed the Class 5A state championship with a 15-0 record in 1981.
His first squad in 1975 went 13-0-1. In all, he led Lake Highlands to three playoff appearances.
His father, Cecil Johnson, served as the Cardinals’ head football coach for two years in 1949-50.
Others inducted Saturday were:
• Yaleshia “Boo” Barnes
Women’s Basketball (1997-99)
In 1999, the Lady Cardinal basketball team produced the first unbeaten season in the college’s history, and Barnes was largely responsible. The 2-time first-team All-American was named NJCAA Player of the Year to cap a season, in which the Lady Cardinals claimed their fourth national title in six years.
Barnes was named the Region XIV Conference Most Valuable Player as a sophomore. In her first season, she was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year in helping the Lady Cardinals to a national runner-up finish.
In her two seasons, the Lady Cardinals were 70-1 and never lost a conference game.
“I am so thankful for the coaches and teammates I had here, and my foster parents – Mr. and Mrs. John Glover,” Barnes said. “After I got over being homesick, I enjoyed my two years here very much.”
She played one season at the University of Alabama, where she turned in 15 double-digit scoring performances. Barnes was named the Most Valuable Player in one tournament, and named to the all-tournament team in another.
• Scotty Conley
When it comes to coaching football at the college, Conley takes a back seat to no one.
In four seasons at the helm of the Cardinal football program, he compiled a 34-10 record, giving him a college-best .780 winning percentage.
Included in the numbers were a 12-0 record and national championship in 1997, two conference championships and two bowl victories.
As a result of the Cardinals’ unbeaten national championship season, Conley was named NJCAA Coach of the Year. He was twice named Southwest Junior College Football Conference Coach of the Year, at one point winning 19 of 20 games.
Conley talked about his decision to come to TVCC to be head football coach.
“First, I wanted to see if there was an atmosphere and a chance at being successful. The success of “CJ” and the cheerleaders, the 1994 football team and the women’s basketball team played a role in that decision,” he said. “I was convinced there was an environment here to play at a championship level. We used the success of those programs when we were recruiting.”
After leaving the college, he was Special Teams Coordinator at the U.S. Naval Academy for one season, before becoming head coach for five seasons at Texas A&M-Commerce.
He led Texas A&M-Commerce to the Lone Star Conference North Division championship in 2007.
Currently in his fifth season at the University of North Texas, where he serves as Director of Football Operations and Recruiting Coordinator, Conley has also had coaching stints at Texas A&M, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, Rice, Arkansas and Howard Payne.
• Niles Dockery
Men’s Basketball (1980-82)
One of the most exciting players to ever don a Cardinal uniform, Dockery helped the Cardinals to their most successful season in the college’s history in 1982.
With Dockery running the show on the floor, the Cardinals advanced to the national tournament for the first time, finishing third, and completing the season with a 33-3 mark.
Dockery established two school records his sophomore season – free throws made in a game (22), and free throws made in a season (218). He hit 86 percent of his free throws that season, which still ranks No. 17 on the all-time NJCAA list. His 22-of-23 free-throw shooting exhibition against Lon Morris in 1982 ranks 11th on the all-time NJCAA list.
He was named honorable mention NJCAA All-American as a sophomore, and was a 2-time all-Texas Eastern Conference selection.
Dockery played two seasons at the University of New Mexico after leaving the college.
“I’m honored, privileged and humbled to be here,” Dockery said. “I hope I made an impact on this school, because it sure made one on me.”
• Kynan Forney
As a freshman in 1997, Forney helped pave the way for the Cardinals to claim their second national championship – literally.
Playing on the offensive line, he played a key role in the Cardinals leading the Southwest Junior Football Conference in rushing, which resulted in a perfect 12-0 season.
In his two seasons, the Cardinals went 19-3. He was named first-team all-conference offensive lineman as a sophomore.
“I am very humbled by this honor. Being a part of that 1997 team (which won national title) taught me how to be accountable,” Forney said. “Trinity Valley gave me the proper foundation to take the first step to being a man.”
Forney continued his playing career at the University of Hawaii, where he played every game, and made five starts as a junior, and was named All-Western Athletic Conference as a senior.
He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2001 NFL Draft, and went on to have a 9-year pro career, playing for the Falcons, San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars. He started eight games as a rookie, and for his NFL career started in 89 of 95 games.
• 1989 Cheerleaders
Team members were Lisa Apple, Willy Bibbs, Kristy Boyett, Craig Callaway, Craig Dickerson, Lisa Dunson, Melanie Dyer, Kelly Gilliam, Chris Griggs, Chris Hendershott, Rob Henderson, Scott Lamontagne, Susan Manning, Russell McCoy, D’Ann Whitsell, Dianna McFarland, Jenny McMillian, Jeff Wolpa.
The coach was Connie “CJ” Russell, who was inducted into the hall of fame in 2008.
“On behalf of the crew, WOW, this is huge … more than we expected,” Callaway said. “We thank you very much. The tradition here at the college is amazing. The tradition with cheerleading here is amazing.”
Russell addressed current Cardinal cheerleaders who were in attendance, and served as escorts during the grand entrance.
“We took care of our teams (football, women’s and men’s basketball) first, then we focused on our competition,” Russell said. “Always remember, it’s about our teams.”