First Class: Gwinnett sports legends bond at inaugural event

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Their high school careers were separated by enough time that they never competed against each other, so Matt Stinchcomb and Terry Harvey had some time Sunday afternoon to get acquainted.

Two of the five inaugural members of the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame, the former football standouts, were honored with a ceremony at the Gwinnett Braves' home game at Coolray Field along with fellow inductees Ida Neal-Smith, Cindy Brogdon and Ezzard Charles.

Stinchcomb's list of football honors featured a long list of academic accomplishments, including his 3.96 GPA at Georgia that elicited a response from the crowd. It also gave Harvey a segue into his acceptance speech.

"I didn't have as good of grades as Matt, so I had to throw more touchdown passes," joked Harvey, the third-leading passer in North Carolina State history.

All kidding aside, the chance for Harvey and Stinchcomb to meet each other was one of the unique elements of the event -- it brought several generations of Gwinnett athletes and their families together for one celebration. Harvey (Dacula class of 1991) and Stinchcomb (Parkview class of 1995) were the two closest inductees in terms of age, which wasn't the case with basketball inductees Brogdon and Neal-Smith.

Brogdon's basketball career spanned the 1970s, when she was a legend at Greater Atlanta Christian in the first half of the decade. She later starred for Tennessee and played on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, establishing her as the county's brightest icon in women's basketball for players like Neal-Smith, who played in the 1980s at Central Gwinnett and Georgia Tech.

"That's one of the things that excited me the most about (the event)," Neal-Smith said. "I had never met Cindy Brogdon over the years, but I heard a lot about her from my aunts who played against her."

Charles passed away of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1975 at just 53, but his son Ezzard Charles II made the trip down from Illinois to accept his father's award. He teared up as he stood to receive the honor, inducing the same response from some in the audience.

"I'm just so incredibly blessed to be with this incredible group of athletes," Charles said. "I can't say enough about what this means for them to honor my dad like this."

Sunday's induction ceremony is the first of what organizers hope is an ongoing event for the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation, the beneficiary of the hall of fame. Plans are already underway to honor a second class of inductees in 2011.