Georgia Sports Hall of Fame selects Brooking, Hearst, 6 others
Several former Georgia high school sports stars were among eight athletes and coaches selected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
The class of 2017 consists of football player Keith Brooking, football and track athlete Willie Gault, football player Garrison Hearst, football player Jeff Saturday, basketball player Matt Harpring, golfer Laura Coble, and athletic leader/golf coach Liz Murphey and tennis coach Manuel Diaz.
Hearst (1989 Lincoln County) and Gault (1978 Griffin) played on football state championship teams. Harpring was the state basketball player of the year in 1994 at Marist.
The induction ceremonies will take place in February in Macon.
Here are the bios released today by the Georgia Spors Hall of Fame.
A graduate of East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, linebacker Keith Brooking went on to become one of the best defensive players in the nation during the 1990s while playing for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. With 467 tackles, he finished his collegiate career as the leading tackler in Georgia Tech history. The twelfth overall selection in the 1998 NFL draft by his hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons, Brooking became a fixture of the Falcons defense for the next eleven years. Ranked as one of the 20 greatest Falcons ever by the AJC, Brooking appeared in Super Bowl XXXIII and is considered one of the greatest Falcon linebackers ever, along with fellow GSHF members Tommy Nobis and Jessie Tuggle. A five time pro-bowler, Brooking went on to captain the defense of the Dallas Cowboys and retired after one season with the Denver Broncos. He played in over 200 games in the NFL and was one of the most durable linebackers in the NFL. Brooking has also given back to his home state by founding The Keith Brooking Children’s Foundation in 2003, which serves the needs of foster children in metro Atlanta. Brooking has received numerous awards from the Falcons and the NFL for his leadership and community involvement, including being named the Falcons “Man of the Year” in 2002.
Widely considered one of the greatest all-around athletes of all time, Willie Gault was born in Griffin, Georgia and attended the University of Tennessee after graduating from Griffin High School. Gault was a standout at UT in both track and football. He set records in the 110-meter high hurdles at the SEC track and field championships in 1981 and 1982. He is considered the greatest sprinter in UT history. On the gridiron, Gault led Tennessee in all-purpose yards for three consecutive years, and he left UT as one of the greatest kick returners in college football history. Gault was also a member of the 1980 United States Olympic track team, that boycotted the games in Moscow, and he was a member of the world record setting 4×100 meter relay team at the 1983 World Championships. Considered one of the fastest NFL players of all time, Gault was a first round pick by the Chicago Bears in 1983, and went on to help the Bears win Super Bowl XX in 1986. Gault played wide receiver for 11 years in the NFL and garnered respect as one of the best dual sport athletes to ever play in the league. Amazingly, Gault also made the Olympic bobsledding team in 1988. Gault is still an elite athlete who holds records for the 100 meter and 200 meter dash for the Masters competition, where he ran a 10.88 second 100 meter dash at the age of 50. Proving that he is a true renaissance man, Gault is now an actor in Los Angeles, CA.
A three-sport star at Marist School in Atlanta, Matt Harpring was named Mr. Georgia Basketball in 1994. After spurning numerous college football offers, Harpring decided to play basketball for coach Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech. He joined Mark Price as the only two Georgia Tech players to be named all-ACC for three years, and his number “15” was retired by the school during the final home game of his senior year. He finished his career as the second leading scorer and third leading rebounder in Georgia Tech history, and he is widely considered one of the hardest working players in college basketball history. While at Georgia Tech, Harpring was named “Academic All-American” twice and went on to be selected by The Orlando Magic in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft. He was named to the 1998-1999 NBA All-Rookie First Team. Harpring played eleven years in the NBA and scored over 12,000 career points. He enjoyed his finest years under Jerry Sloan with the Utah Jazz. Harpring was named team captain of the Jazz, and achieved his career best average of 17.6 points per game in 2002-2003 playing alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton. Matt Harpring is now a color analyst for the Utah Jazz and runs numerous youth camps and youth initiatives within the state of Georgia.
A standout running back at Georgia’s Lincoln County High School, Garrison Hearst was one of the top football prospects in the United States in the late 1980’s. He chose to attend school at the University of Georgia, and he became one of Georgia’s all-time great players. During his junior year in 1992, Hearst led the nation in touchdowns (21) and was named the Doak Walker Award recipient for the top collegiate running back in the nation. A consensus All-American, Hearst finished third in the 1992 Heisman trophy voting. He finished his career at UGA as the school’s second all-time leading rusher behind only Herschel Walker. He was the SEC Player of the Year in 1992, and was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals as the third overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft. Hearst battled injury throughout his NFL career but still managed to become an elite NFL running back. His greatest seasons came with the San Francisco 49ers, and he set numerous game, season and career marks for San Francisco. He finished his twelve-year NFL career with almost 8,000 rushing yards and was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2001. Hearst resides in Atlanta with his family and continues to work for the NFL, and he is also still active with his alma mater.
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Jeff Saturday played football at Shamrock High School in DeKalb County. He spent his career overcoming odds and is considered one of the greatest undrafted players in NFL history. After being named All-State in 1992 at Shamrock, Saturday continued his career at the University of North Carolina where he was a first team All-ACC selection in 1996 and 1997 and an Academic All-ACC selection in 1997. Although he was a dominant lineman in the ACC, Saturday went undrafted by the NFL in 1998. While settling into a life after football, Saturday received a call from the Indianapolis Colts and signed with the team as a free agent. Along with fellow GSHF members Ray Donaldson and Bill Curry, he became one of the best centers in Colts history. Saturday started 188 games for the Colts during his career and was enshrined into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2015. During his NFL career, he was selected to four All-Pro teams and six Pro Bowls. Saturday was also the NFL Alumni’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2007. Saturday helped the Colts to a victory in Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears in 2007. One of the most respected men in the NFL Saturday was an instrumental member of the Executive Committee for the NFL Player’s Association. Saturday is currently an analyst for ESPN and volunteers his time in numerous endeavors within the state of Georgia.
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Laura Coble was a member of the University of Georgia women’s golf team from 1982-1984 and was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 2013. Coble is one of the greatest amateur golfers that the state of Georgia has ever produced. She has won 28 state titles, and was named the “Tommy Barnes Award” winner for the overall state player of the year in 2000, 2005, and 2009. She played on three winning USGA State teams, in 2005, 2009, and 2011. Coble has participated in an amazing 30 national amateur championships while representing her home state, and she has been named the GSGA Women’s Player of the Year fourteen times. She also played in the 2001 US Open in Southern Pines, NC. Coble has dedicated her life to promoting golf and sport in the state of Georgia. She has given back to the golfing community for over 30 years by supporting the sport in her native city of Augusta and throughout the state. She is an inspiration for all amateur golfers, and especially for young women who have a passion for the game.
Tennis coach, Manuel Diaz, took over for a legend, and he then proceeded to become one himself. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Diaz attended the University of Georgia on a tennis scholarship and led the Bulldogs to four SEC Championships for Coach Dan Magill in the 1970s. After graduating, Diaz eventually came back to Athens, serving as an assistant coach to his mentor. When Magill retired in 1988, Coach Diaz was the natural replacement, and since then, he has led the UGA Bulldog tennis program to unprecedented levels. His career record is an incredible 651-140 (.823). Under his care, the Bulldogs have captured 26 SEC titles and six national championships (four NCAA titles and two ITA National Indoor titles) to go along with six other national finals appearances. During his storied career, the Bulldogs have finished the season ranked nationally in the top five 19 times, and in the top ten 25 times. Every one of his 28 teams has finished their season nationally ranked. Diaz has been named SEC Coach of the Year five times and has produced 34 All-Americans. His teams have also excelled in the classroom and the 2015 team had the highest grade point average in the UGA athletic department. Diaz shows no sign of slowing down as he enters his 29th year as the head men’s tennis coach in Athens, and he is on pace to become the most decorated college tennis coach of all-time.
Born in Newnan, Georgia, Liz Murphey belongs on the Mount Rushmore of leaders in athletics at the University of Georgia. She was inducted into the school’s ring of honor in 2001. Murphey was the first women’s golf coach at the University of Georgia where she led the team to six top-10 national finishes during her tenure. Murphey was named the 1984 National Golf Coach of the Year, and she is a charter member of the Collegiate Golf Hall of Fame. She is probably most revered for the role that she played in leading all of women’s athletics at the SEC school to national prominence. Murphey served as the Senior Woman’s Administrator at UGA for fourteen years, and for eight of those years, the UGA women’s program was named the top overall women’s program in the SEC. During her tenure, the women’s teams at UGA won four national team titles and 31 individual national titles. Ms. Murphey passed away in 2005 at the age of 72. For more than three decades, the women’s golf team has hosted the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic at the UGA Golf Course to honor her pioneering service to the University of Georgia and college athletics in general.