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October 3, 2011

2011 CARDINAL HALL OF FAME: Shiny & red

Five more get call for prestigious honor

ATHENS — Upon officially entering into the Cardinal Hall of Fame Saturday, Jennifer Sposato admitted she wasn’t unlike several of her fellow inductees. To put it simply, a stop at Trinity Valley Community College wasn’t originally in her plans.

Standing before a crowd of about 120 supporters, alumni, family and friends, Sposato joined those fellow inductees in what became an oft-heard chorus.

To put it simply, given the chance to do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.

Choking back tears, she said, “This is just exceedingly, abundantly above anything you could ask for.”

The Cardinal Hall of Fame officially added five new members during a ceremony held at the school’s Student Union Building. Also inducted were Marshall Crawford (basketball); Anthony “Champ” Dickerson (football); Michael Stokes (basketball); and Alton Tompkins, who was instrumental in the organization of the college and served as its first athletic director and basketball coach.

The five newest inductees bring the total number of Cardinal Hall of Fame members to 30. The first class was inducted in 2008.

“After we sit back and look at the class we’ve selected, we always feel like we got it right,” said Michael Landers, co-women’s head basketball coach, vice president of student services and a member of the selection committee. “This year we got it right again.”

MARSHALL CRAWFORD

(1967-1969)

Crawford won a basketball state championship in 1967 at Brownsboro High School before joining Henderson County Junior College that fall.

Known as HCJC’s “Big Gun,” he scored between 15-25 points per game and played a key role in helping Leon Spencer’s Cardinals to a conference championship and a ninth-place finish nationally during his sophomore season.

“We always said if this was a four-year school, we’d have stayed right here the whole time,” said Crawford, who now serves on the Chandler City Council. “We loved Athens.”

ANTHONY DICKERSON

(1975-1976)

Dickerson, the youngest of five siblings, explained he wanted to play sports at a major university just as some of his friends had done. When TVCC head coach Jim Owens came calling, he admitted he wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it.

“But once he told me I could go anywhere else from here, man, I was in …,” Dickerson said with a laugh.

He went on to a record-setting career at Southern Methodist University and played six seasons in the NFL — five with the Dallas Cowboys (1980-1984) and one with the Buffalo Bills (1985). In 1983, his sack of Ken Stabler for a safety won a game for the Cowboys against the New Orleans Saints. He had 10.5 sacks that season.

JENNIFER SPOSATO

(1994-1996)

Sposato said she tried to make a pact with God that if He would send her to a major college to play basketball, she would attend church regularly.

“I later found out He didn’t want church, He wanted me and he had something better,” she said. In 1995, she helped the Lady Cardinals to a national runner-up finish, and in 1996, the Lady Cardinals won a national title. Sposato, who drew 12 charges alone in the national tournament, was named its most valuable player that year.

She finished her career with a 63-6 record as a Lady Cardinal – having never lost a conference game. Oklahoma State head coach Kurt Budke, her coach at The Valley and himself a Cardinal Hall of Fame member, was in attendance.

MICHAEL STOKES

(1997-1999)

Stokes’ call to the Cardinal Hall of Fame was typical – if you know Leon Spencer.

The longtime and legendary former Cardinal head basketball coach, Stokes explained, broke the news to him with a phone call saying Stokes had a warrant out for his arrest in Athens.

“I was like, ‘What!,’” Stokes recalled. Spencer soon admitted he was joking and shared the good news.

Stokes stoked the fire for a team that, in 1998-1999, won 17 more games than the previous season. The electric point guard led Spencer’s Cardinals to the Region XIV Conference title and a seventh-place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. For his efforts, he was named the conference’s MVP.

After averaging 17.6 points, six assists and three rebounds per game at TVCC, Stokes went on to have a successful two-year run at Southeast Missouri University. He has also played basketball internationally.

“God has blessed me with basketball,” Stokes said. “This little brown ball has taken me all over the world.”

ALTON TOMPKINS

(1946-1971)

Tompkins, who was instrumental in the organization of Henderson County Junior College (which later became TVCC), was also the school’s first athletic director and head football coach. He died on March 6, 1991, at the age of 86 – leaving a legacy of love for TVCC and especially its basketball program.

“My dad would be so pleased to be here, to be counted among so many great athletes,” said his daughter, Joan Hallmark — an on-air personality for KLTV television in Tyler. “My dad loved athletics and he loved this college.”

He became the college’s first men’s basketball coach in 1952 and continued to support the college athletic program after moving into administration to become vice president and academic dean. Tompkins and his wife, Jewell, served as “second parents” to many students after his 25-year career. The couple were known for their annual fish fry for basketball players.

The Hall of Fame selection committee consists of Dr. W.P. “Rip” Drumgoole; Michael Landers; Pat Smith; Brad Smiley; Kenya Landers; Ashley Johnston; Tosha Spain; Jerry Rogers; Mike Peek; James Quattlebaum; Benny Rogers; Leon Spencer; Jimmy Mitchell; Dr. Glendon Forgey (ex officio); and Jennifer Hannigan (ex officio).

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