Recently on my radio show, I spent several days taking calls from listeners as they nominated players and coaches from the Augusta area for a mythical CSRA Sports Hall of Fame.
I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the top athletes and coaches who spent their high school or college careers in this area. Over the course of two days, I received nearly 100 nominees. Nearly all had solid credentials. There were Olympians, Super Bowl champs and boxing champions who got nods from my listeners. It was quite an impressive list.
As I looked over the list, I realized that two of the highest vote-getters were from Columbia County: Todd Greene and Terry Holder.
So I decided to take a look at former Columbia County athletes and coaches who were worthy of Hall of Fame status. That is, of course, if we actually had a Columbia County Sports Hall of Fame. The criteria is simple: They had to play or coach at a Columbia County high school.
I came up with five names that stood out to me as worthy of induction. I'm sure many of you are already thinking of names of people you feel would be solid choices as well. So feel free to send me an e-mail with your selections (firstname.lastname@example.org). I will feature the results in an upcoming column.
So without further ado, here are my top five (in no particular order):
l Terry Holder (Evans and Greenbrier)
Holder was a longtime assistant football coach at Evans and helped assemble one of the state's top defenses in the late 1980s.
He also was the head football coach at Greenbrier and led the Wolfpack to the state playoffs in the school's first three seasons.
However, baseball was Holder's bread and butter, and he piled up quite a rsum on the diamond. He tallied 527 wins, and when he retired he was Georgia's all-time winningest coach. Along the way, he racked up eight state championships during an incredible 12-year span - five at Evans and three at Greenbrier.
Also, I had the good fortune of being at Evans for three years while Holder was there, and I can attest that he absolutely got every inch out of his athletes. I can only hope my son has a coach like Terry Holder some day.
l Jimmie Lewis (Harlem football and baseball)
Like Terry Holder, Lewis recently joined the 500-win club. Also, like Holder, he can boast many state titles - five, to be exact.
Lewis has always had the respect of the folks in Harlem, but now it seems like anyone who talks Columbia County baseball praises the Bulldogs' head coach.
I jokingly say that Lewis is the "hardest-working man in Columbia County" because it is rare these days to have one person handle the job of athletic director, football coach and baseball coach. However, Lewis pulls it off and the fans in Harlem would like it no other way.
l Todd Greene (Evans baseball and football)
Most of you know Greene's major achievements, but here's a quick update. He led Evans to its first two state titles in 1988 and 1989, finishing his high school career with a record of 58-1 over his last two seasons.
Also, Evans was ranked in the top five in the nation each year (fifth in 1988 and third in 1989) according to USA Today. As a senior, Greene hit 17 home runs in just 29 games to establish a county public school record that still stands.
What's even more astonishing is that the previous high at Evans was seven (by Greene and Lenny Springs the previous year). He was the national freshman of the year at Georgia Southern, hitting 25 home runs and leading the Eagles to the College World Series.
He finished his college career with 88 career homers, which is third in the history of college baseball. He also played on the 1991 Pan-Am Team and nearly made the 1992 Olympic Team. Greene is a member of the Colorado Rockies and has posted three consecutive seasons with at least 10 homers.
l Reese Hoffa (Lakeside track and field)
While at Lakeside, Hoffa sort of flew under the radar screen. Shot putters just don't get the press that the major sports get. However, it was hard to debate his dominance in his sport as he captured three straight state titles in the shot put. Also, he was given a full athletic scholarship to Georgia.
While there, Hoffa honed his craft and became one of the best in the world in his sport. In 2003, Hoffa had a breakout year as he captured silver medals in both the indoor and outdoor World Championships and won gold at the Pan-Am Games.
More importantly, it seemed clear that he would be a contender for a spot on the 2004 Olympic team. Hoffa captured every track and field athlete's dream by making the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Lakeside has since retired his jersey.
l Lenny Springs (Evans baseball, basketball and football)
While Springs did not make it to the big leagues or the Olympic Games, he may have had the most impressive all-around high school career of anyone ever to come through Columbia County. He was a three-year varsity starter at tailback in football, a four-year starter at point guard in basketball, and a four-year starter at second base in baseball.
In football, Springs led Evans to back-to-back perfect 10-0 regular seasons, had three straight 1,000-yard seasons and was a two-time All-State performer.
In basketball, he was the human press-breaker and ran the Evans offense for four straight years. And in baseball he was simply incredible.
He earned the 1988 AAAA State Player of the Year award after leading Evans to its first state championship and won more than 100 games in his four varsity seasons.
Well, that's my first five. Did I leave someone out that you deem worthy? If so, e-mail me your selections at email@example.com.
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