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Witten headlines Carter County Hall of Fame class

June 23rd, 2014 11:12 pm by Trey Williams

Witten headlines Carter County Hall of Fame class

The Carter County Sports Hall of Fame landed quite a catch for its third annual class.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is among 20 new members who will be formally inducted Thursday at Elizabethton High School. 

Hall organizer C.Y. Peters said a few tickets are still available for the 6:30 p.m. banquet (www.carterhalloffame.com). Peters said 135 attended the inaugural event in 2012, some 150 were at last year’s ceremony and more than 200 have signed up for Thursday.

Demand could end up taxing the 300-seat capacity, and Peters knows Witten, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound, six-time Pro Bowler, is the big reason why.

“It’s just totally awesome to have him,” Peters said Monday. “Even the people that’re being inducted are telling us, you know, ‘Hey, I’m glad I got to go in in this class instead (of the first two) … because Jason’s going in.’”

Peters said Witten will be introduced by his grandfather, Dave Rider, who coached Witten at Elizabethton and was inducted in the inaugural class along with the likes of Sonny Smith, Buck Van Huss, Johnny Mills, John Treadway and Charlie Bayless. The second class included Duard Walker and former East Tennessee State All-American fullback David Holtsclaw.

This year’s group features basketball legends Milburn Ellis, Danny Webster, Bobby Chambers and Bill Birchfield, who led Cloudland to a state tournament victory in 1968. Sam Rogers, who was on Birchfield’s team that season, will be in attendance Thursday. Rogers was inducted last year.

Among the others going in are Elizabethton Twins manager Ray Smith and Earl Campbell, who played on Tennessee’s national power football teams while lettering three seasons (1950-52) for the Volunteers. Smith will be at a Twins game Thursday, and Peters said he will be recognized prior to a Twins game later this season.

“After that first class, I thought ‘we won’t be able to top this,’” Peters said. “And then that next class was just as good, if not better, and this one here is super, too. … And now we’ve got more people involved and it’s really helped to get some of the older guys involved and talking to us and telling us about some other people that should be in there.”

Veteran official Joel Pierce will be inducted Thursday. Peters said former Major League Baseball umpire Dale Ford will introduce Pierce.

Webster’s name often comes up when talking to basketball players from his era. He was in the class of 1962 at Happy Valley.

“When I did an interview with Charlie Bayless a few years ago,” Peters said, “he talked about how Danny Webster was the best he ever coached and he was just a natural talent and he could do about anything.”

Ellis left Van Huss’s Hampton as the program’s all-time leading scorer in 1958 (2,308 points).

Inductee David Hughes, who won state titles in cross country, the mile and 3,200 meters at Happy Valley (class of 2003), will likely be the happiest inductee in attendance. 

The banquet was scheduled around Witten’s availability. He’s home for his annual football camp (Saturday) as well as a Niswonger Children’s Hospital benefit (Monday).

But it worked out well for Hughes, who Peters said is home from Afghanistan.

Others to be inducted Thursday are Garry Oaks, Jim Presnell, Al King, Jason Brewer, Wiley Hardin, Mikki Brown, Kim Holly, John Klock, Doran Marcus, Wes Holly and Mike Young in what’s sure to be a surreal setting.

Everyone being inducted alongside Witten on Thursday will likely experience similar feelings to those of his youthful contingent of campers on Saturday.

“Just like his camp says, dreams do come true,” Peters said. “Jason gives all those kids hope. … He’s just a good-hearted big kid, too.”

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