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Hall Of Fame - 2010



             George Baker is a graduate of Carver High School (Gadsden) and Alabama State University.

            The Gadsden native spent 29 of his 39 years in coaching at Emma Sansom High School where his basketball teams won 505 games with a state championship and 28-1 record in 1992 and undefeated regular seasons in 1977, 1979 and 1981. He also coached at his alma mater and helped guide the Gadsden City Schools through the early years of integration as the system’s first black head coach.
            A four-sport athlete in college, “Big Bake” had 37 of his former players sign college scholarships. He was honored with a day by the City of Gadsden as he retired in 2001 and was inducted into the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
            His greatest achievement may have been the many lives he influenced as a father figure to hundreds of boys.


           John Esslinger is a graduate of Lee High School (Huntsville) and Jacksonville State University.

           This legendary track and cross country coach at Scottsboro High School—24 years as head coach and 8 as assistant—has guided his teams to 41 state championships, including the 25th cross country crown in 2009. Three times his teams won cross country, indoor and outdoor state track titles during the same school year.  
            Recipient of numerous coach of the year honors, he was selected NFHS Section Coach of the Year in 2000. He was chosen Jackson County Citizen of the Year in 1999 and the school cross country course is named in his honor.
            A team builder with an innate ability to bring people together around a common goal, he is a man of character and integrity who has touched the lives of hundreds of students in immeasurable ways.



            Woodie Jackson is a graduate of Choctaw High School and Talladega College.

            Jackson spent 19 of his 32 years as a basketball coach at Francis Marion High School where his teams won five state championships, including four straight beginning in 1988. He also guided Westside High School to the state title in 1978. 
            His six titles have come in 11 state tournament appearances in three different classifications (1A, 2A and 3A). He also had a two-year stint at East Perry High School. His overall record is 617-272 entering the 2009-10 season at Selma High School.
            The recipient of numerous coach of the year honors, he coached in the first Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic in 1991 and again in 2000 and also in the prestigious McDonald’s All-America Classic in 2008. He also coached at Dillard and Selma universities.
            Taking pride in everything he does, he always relished the challenge of blending players with various abilities and attitudes into a winning unit.



            Dr. Larry Lemak is a graduate of St. Vincent’s Prep School (Pa.), the University Pittsburgh and the University of Alabama Medical School.

            Since 1985 the world-renowned orthopedic surgeon has given countless hours assisting high schools on the sidelines and serving on the AHSAA Medical Advisory Board, now as chairman.
            As founder of Lemak Sports Medicine, he pioneered a program providing free medical coverage and certified athletic trainers for 20 Birmingham area schools. He has played an integral role in arthroscopy research as a founder and board member of the American Sports Medicine Institute and he established the National Center for Sports Safety that provides a sports safety course for coaches nationwide.
            The founder and board chairman of the Alabama Sports Foundation serves as team physician for several high schools and medical director for several colleges. In 1977 he received the Distinguished Sportsman Award from the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.



            Jamie Riggs is a graduate of T.R. Miller High School and Troy University.

            One of the state’s most successful football coaches during his 21 years at his alma mater, Riggs’ teams won four state championships (1991, 1994, 2000, 2002) and finished runner-up four other times with a 233-46 record. The 117 wins during the 1990s was the most by any school in the state. His overall career record is 245-65.

            During an earlier three-year stint at T.R. Miller, his track team won the state title. He also coached at Opp, McGill-Toolen and Winston County during his 32-year career

            A 13-year member of the First District Board he now serves as president, he has received several coach of the year honors and coached in the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game as head and assistant coach. He is president of the Alabama Football Coaches Association.
            His impeccable character, discipline and work ethic have had a positive impact on the the Brewton community.


           Steve Savarese is a graduate of Mellville High School (Kan.) and Southwestern College (Kan.).           
            The Glencove, NY, native has been a coach, teacher and administrator in high school athletics for 36 years. Since becoming the fourth full-time AHSAA executive director in 2007, he has introduced a revenue-sharing plan for member schools, emphasized sportsmanship through the STAR program, and helped put championship events on solid ground financially.

            His overall record coaching football was 281-98 in 33 years—26 in Alabama at Ensley, Benjamin Russell, McGill-Toolen and Daphne where his team was state champion in 2001. His Douglass (Kan.) team won a state title in 1978. His teams made the playoffs 29 times, he received numerous coach of the year awards and is a member of two other halls of fame.
            Always committed to educational-based athletics and a positive experience for students, he stressed discipline, character, honesty and determination.


            June Seals is a graduate of Winfield High School and the University of West Alabama.           
            A pioneer in Alabama girls high school athletics, she has coached basketball 16 years at Clarke County, six at Bob Jones and eight at Sparkman with an overall record of 677-139 entering the 2009-10 season. Her Sparkman teams compiled a 50-game winning streak during one stretch with three state titles (2002, 2003 and 2007). Clark County was champion in 1991.

            Her track teams at Clarke County won 12 state titles—9 outdoor and 3 indoor, were runners-up 7 times and compiled an overall 286-45 record. The 1989 team won 13 of 16 events for a state record 200 points. Named state coach of the year five times, she coached in the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game.

            Making coaching her life in spite of her battle with cancer, she has influenced many lives by demanding discipline and teaching character and moral values. 


            Gene Taylor is a graduate of Rockdale High School (Ga.) and Jacksonville State University.
            He made his mark on a state and national scale as wrestling coach at Weaver High School where his 15 teams won nine state titles and 221 straight dual matches from 1991-1999, best in state history in any sport and second longest wrestling win streak in the nation.  Compiling a 500-34 overall wrestling record during a 30-year career, he also coached at Lineville, Ohatchee, Cherokee County and Walter Wellborn after five years in Georgia. His baseball teams posted a 201-130 record.

            Named state coach of the year nine times, he coached eight All-Americans, two Academic All-Americans and Alabama’s only six-time state champion.

            With a positive impact on hundreds of young people, he taught the value of hard work, dedication, honesty, the value of family, and respect for others.


            Ron Watters is a graduate of Sylacauga High School and Auburn University.
            He served as football coach at Randolph County High School where his 22 teams compiled a 152-96-0 record and made him the winningest coach in school history. His teams reached the state finals three times (1979, 1984, 1998) and made 12 playoff appearances.

            Named state coach of the year in 1979, he coached in the North-South all-star football game and six of his players or assistants became head coaches.

            Also the Randolph County basketball coach for 11 years, he recorded 173 wins and won five county titles, three area championships and one region title. Five of his former players became head basketball coaches and one reached the NFL.
            He coached in Georgia 12 years and currently serves as part-time assistant coach at Handley High School.

            Perhaps his greatest legacy was his influence on his players and coaches.        


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