Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford graduate Darius Walker, right, a former Notre Dame and NFL running back shakes hands with his high school coach Dexter Wood, left, during the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame ceremony at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville Saturday.
LAWRENCEVILLE --Upon hearing he was the first soccer player voted in, Josh Wolff mouthed a distinct "wow" during the early stages of Saturday evening's Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame's induction ceremony.
The two-time U.S. World Cup player's reaction was a common one at the celebration, hosted for its fourth year at Coolray Field.
Former Duluth golfer Courtney Swaim Trimble, who now coaches the sport at Louisville, was moved to tears as she thanked her family and supporters during her acceptance speech. Buford grad Darius Walker, a star running back at Notre Dame and now a college football analyst, couldn't believe he was in such great company.
Those athletes were joined in this year's class by South Gwinnett grad and Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams, former WNBA player Sherill Baker of Greater Atlanta Christian, and longtime Brookwood football coach and athletic director Dave Hunter.
All six took the opportunity to thank family and friends for their success, in addition to recognizing the county where it all started for them.
"I feel fortunate to be shoulder to shoulder with these great athletes," said Wolff, a Parkview product who got emotional himself as he talked about his family. "I'm very grateful to come from Gwinnett County and the state of Georgia. We're all representing the communities where we're from and I'm very proud to be one of the athletes in this hall of fame."
As in past years, the hall of famers were inducted during a private ceremony at Coolray Field's suite level, though unlike the previous years, weather impacted this one. The inductees were to be introduced on the field between innings of Saturday night's Gwinnett Braves game, until it was called off by heavy rain.
The previous three celebrations had ideal weather.
"We're batting .750, so I guess that's not bad," said David Seago, president of the event's beneficiary, the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation.
Though the on-field recognition didn't happen, it failed to dampen the spirits and smiles of those recognized and their families.
"For me, it really put in perspective how lucky it is to be part of such an elite group of athletes and coaches," Walker said. "When I look back at high school, I realize how lucky I was to be in a place like this and have this opportunity. To go to Buford High School, where I was surrounded by great players and great coaches, that's what opened the door for me to be able to do what I did.
"Remembering all the other athletes from Gwinnett, like what Jeff Francoeur was doing in football and baseball, to be honored with this kind of award from a group like this is very humbling."
Walker was honored for a record-breaking career that included 5,676 rushing yards and 91 touchdowns during his Buford career. His 46 TDs as a high school senior broke Herschel Walker's state record. He followed that by leading Notre Dame in rushing for three seasons and playing three seasons in the NFL.
Williams was a star basketball player at South, winning the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award as national player of the year in 2005, his senior season. He has played in the NBA since 2005, when he was drafted directly out of high school by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Trimble was a state champion golfer at Duluth before becoming an All-SEC and All-American player at Auburn. She played professional golf briefly, then embarked on a college coaching career that also included stops at Auburn and Central Florida.
Baker also is a college coach, serving as director of basketball operations at Auburn. The former Miss Georgia Basketball at GAC earned All-SEC and All-American honors at Georgia, where she is the all-time steals leader, and also played in the WNBA and overseas.
In addition to his two World Cup appearances, Wolff played 14 seasons of Major League Soccer as well as a season in Germany. He currently coaches for D.C. United, his last MLS club.
Hunter, the lone coach in this year's class, is widely credited for bringing a successful football and athletic model to Gwinnett, both on the field and through fundraising for high-level facilities. He accomplished a number of firsts for the county, including the first state football title for a GCPS school when Brookwood won in 1996.
This year's six inductions brings the four-year total to 24 --20 athletes and four coaches. The hall doesn't have a permanent home for its display, but that is one of the organization's long-term goals.
Saturday's gathering also was the last induction that will be held at a G-Braves game. The celebration's rapid growth, along with a boost from the Gwinnett Sports Commission, prompted a change to a more banquet-style event for 2014.
"We're going to take this to another level," said Aaron Lupuloff, a member of the GCPS Foundation's Executive Committee.