Only weeks after a quest for gold in Greece, Reese Hoffa came home for a brass plaque from a Latin teacher.
A cheering Panther Stadium crowd at Lakeside High School on Oct. 8 welcomed the Olympic shot-putter and 1997 graduate by retiring his jersey, representing Hoffa's three high school state championships in track and field and his competition in football, baseball and wrestling.
Reese Hoffa, who competed in the shot put during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, hugs his former Latin teacher, Constance Grimaud, at Lakeside High School during a ceremony to retire his jersey. The ceremony coincided with Teacher Appreciation Night. Principal Jeff Carney (left) unveils the framed jersey.
Photo by Barry Paschal
Surrounded by teachers brought onto the field for Teacher Appreciation Night festivities before the Panthers' game with Statesboro, one special teacher handed Hoffa his plaque commemorating the event - Constance Grimaud, Hoffa's Latin teacher for four years at Lakeside.
"Not only is Reese a worthy competitor, but he is also a role model to others with his positive attitude, work ethic and sportsmanship," said the school's principal, Jeff Carney, as the bulky Hoffa swept up the diminutive Grimaud in an appreciative hug.
In addition to lauding Hoffa's recent competition during the 2004 Summer Olympics, Carney rattled off dozens of records and championships Hoffa has received in sports during and since high school, including a Southeastern Conference track championship and medals in national and international competitions. School staff members then pulled the cover from a framed jersey, which Hoffa later signed.
"I'm incredibly honored," Hoffa said.
Hoffa visited several Columbia County schools before the ceremony, demonstrating his shot-put prowess and giving motivational talks to pupils.
His next stop on the tour is with a grander audience: He is scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday with other Olympic track-and-field athletes to meet with President Bush.
"I'm looking forward to it," Hoffa said. "It's going to be exciting."
From there, Hoffa will return to Athens, Ga., to continue training in preparation for a December competition in Clemson, where he holds both indoor and outdoor records in shot put.
Additional training and competitions will lead up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and possibly the 2012 Olympics - but only if New York gets the bid, Hoffa said; he said he doesn't much care for traveling to other countries.
"It's kind of tough," he said. "It's a food issue. You miss the home stuff - like hamburgers."
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