0

Stinchcomb part of Gwinnett's first HOF class

Having shed 100 pounds from his playing weight, Matt Stinchcomb no longer looks the part of a Georgia All-American and NFL offensive tackle.

The weight was no longer necessary when a back injury ended his pro career, so dropping it made him look more and more like a former Bulldog basketball player instead of a football player as his near 6-foot-7 frame slimmed down. Though he has distanced himself from football in that regard, the Parkview grad still remains heavily linked to the sport that made him famous.

Hall of Fame

What: Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame; induction ceremony of inaugural class

When: Sunday

Where: Coolray Field, during the Gwinnett Braves’ 2 p.m. game with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

Induction class: Parkview’s Matt Stinchcomb, Central Gwinnett’s Ida Neal-Smith, Dacula’s Terry Harvey, Greater Atlanta Christian’s Cindy Brogdon and Lawrenceville native Ezzard Charles

And many Bulldog fans will always remember him carrying 300-plus pounds in a red-and-black jersey before embarking on a seven-year NFL career. In his home county, just as many recall Stinchcomb in the orange of Parkview, where his decorated athletic career began.

Stinchcomb, with a large crop of family and friends in tow, will return to those roots Sunday, when he and four other locals become the first members of the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Gwinnett Braves’ home game at Coolray Field.

“It’s a tremendous honor and I’m excited to be part of it, especially to be in the first class,” said Stinchcomb, a 1997 and 1998 All-American at Georgia before being taken in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft. “We’re excited about it having grown up in Gwinnett County and virtually all of my family except (younger brother) Jon (a New Orleans Saint offensive tackle) are Gwinnett County residents still.”

A standout on the football field, Stinchcomb garnered just as many honors for his academic work in college. He graduated with a 3.96 GPA in finance, earning the NCAA Top Eight Award (for the nation’s top eight senior student-athletes) and two prestigious post-graduate scholarships — he attended the Harvard Business School Executive Education Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program in 2006.

That led him to a career with an insurance, risk management and employee benefits consulting firm, where one of his co-workers in the Atlanta office is South Gwinnett grad and former UGA quarterback David Greene. Those two, along with Jon Stinchcomb, team up to host UGA’s Countdown to Kickoff each summer to raise money for children’s charities.

It appeared that may be Stinchcomb’s only remaining tie to football until his career as a college football analyst blossomed in recent years. He worked last season for ESPN and its SEC Network, and also has logged time with Comcast Sports Southeast and 680 AM radio.

“I really enjoyed (the ESPN gig) last year,” said Stinchcomb, who has three children 5 or younger with his wife, Jenny. “It’s a fun time. It’s stuff you’re already talking about all the time anyway.”

Stinchcomb’s post-football life took another exciting turn last fall when he was inducted into the UGA Circle of Honor, the highest award the university can bestow on a former athlete or coach. He is now permanently a part of an exhibit in Athens for all Circle of Honor recipients.

The UGA award was unexpected, much like the news he got a few months ago when he was picked for the inaugural class of hall of famers in his home county.

“Playing high school football, you don’t ever project or think you’d be a part of a group like that,” Stinchcomb said. “When you look back and find yourself inducted into a hall of fame like this, it’s very flattering and a tremendous honor. And a little bit surreal.”