GULFPORT – Two members of the one of the most storied teams in Mississippi State University football history were among the 15 men and women inducted into the sophomore class of the Gulfport Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Former MSU offensive lineman Bill Bell and his teammate Fred Collins, a Gulfport native who played fullback, were part of the historic 1980 Emory Bellard-coached team that saw the Bulldogs go 9-4 and win a berth in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. But Bell and Collins have a history that goes back further than college football.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be inducted with my teammate and friend, Fred Collins, “ Bell said Saturday. “We started playing football together when we were in junior high. We played side by side together at Gulfport High School and all the way through Mississippi State. There were five of us from Gulfport who were starters at Mississippi State.
"It’s a real honor to be here tonight. This a good event and it keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Also inducted Saturday night were Dickie Dunaway, WD Egland, Ricky Floyd, Robert Graham, Doris Henderson, Charles James, Jerry Jenkins, Alan Jones, Kent Jones and Tiffany Travis. Roy Anderson Jr. and Gaston Hewes Sr. were inducted posthumously.
Collins, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards during his career at MSU, said he and Bell have always maintained a close relationship.
“(Bell is) a great player and he’s been like a mentor to me even though I was year ahead of him in school,” Collins said. “Even through it all, we’re still the best of friends to this day.”
The signature win for the 1980 squad came on Nov. 1 when the Bulldogs defeated the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, led by Bear Bryant, 6-3 in Jackson. The win was considered one of the most important in school history until last season when No. 3 MSU defeated No. 2 Auburn in Starkville to receive the number one ranking in the nation. When asked if the 1980 win over Alabama has lost any of its luster, Collins was diplomatic in his answer.
“You know, a win is a win,” he said with a laugh.
Among those in attendance to help celebrate Bell and Collins’ induction were former MSU quarterback John Bond and his favorite target of the era, wide receiver Mardye McDole, who is one of the school’s all-time leading pass receivers. McDole was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in April.
“It’s a great thing to see these guys get inducted,” Bond said. “I had Bill in front of me as my center and Fred behind me as a running back. It’s a big deal and I’m happy for these guys.”
Another former MSU football player was inducted during Saturday’s ceremony, as well.
Coach Ronnie Cuevas, who lettered in football at MSU in 1974-1976, was inducted for his contributions to local sports, including a stint as head football coach of the Gulfport High School Commodores where he amassed a record of 97-51 with 12 consecutive trips to the state playoffs.
However, Cuevas won his first state championship as a coaching assistant at GHS in 1977 with a team that included Bell.
“I coached Bell on the offensive line in high school,” Cuevas said. “We had four offensive lineman that signed with MSU that year.”
MORE HONORS: Longtime Sun Herald sports writer Doug Barber, who retired in late 2014, was honored by the GSHOF as an Outstanding Sports Supporter. Barber wrote thousands of stories about sports in South Mississippi. The family of sports medicine scholarship namesake Ross Langston was also recognized.
Harrison Central Softball Coach Jimmy Parker was honored by the GSHOF as the Female Sports Outstanding Coach. Parker led the Red Rebelettes to the 6A softball title in May. First-year West Harrison Boys Basketball Coach Milton Ray was named Male Sports Outstanding Coach. Ray coached the Hurricanes to the 5A state championship series.
Jazzmun Holmes of Harrison Central was named Outstanding Female Athlete. Holmes has signed to play basketball with MSU. Richaud Floyd of GHS was named Outstanding Male Athlete. Floyd has signed as a wide receiver with the Mizzou Tigers.