GULFPORT - Eleven athletes were inducted into the Gulfport Sports Hall of Fame at the Lyman Community Center on Saturday. Family members, friends, past inductees and aspiring athletes were on hand to celebrate the third class of Hall of Fame inductees.
The 2016 class includes two women and nine men from across the sports of golf, football, baseball, basketball, track, and the coaching realm.
"Gulfport has many great athletes to choose from," Hall of Fame vice president Prince Jones said. "This class is as impressive as the others."
The 2016 Class: Sidney Coleman, Tony Davis, Rhonda Hawthorne, Greg Holmes, Joe Jenkins, Matt Luke, Mary Mills, Doc Rhodes, Robert Russell, Cedric Tillman and Steve Williams.
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Mills, a three-time majors champion in the LPGA, credited Gulfport for providing the foundation for her success as a professional golfer.
"If it wasn't for Gulfport, I don't think that I would have had the courage and stamina to accomplish three majors," Mills said. "It was a great environment to grow up; it was safe. I could walk any place. I use to walk to town. I use to walk to the golf course."
"It was the teachers who encouraged me to be different, because I was. I was a pioneer in women's sports," added Mills who won a total of nine PGA championships. She won eight consecutive Mississippi women's championships beginning at age 14.
Jenkins is the second member of the Jenkins family to be inducted into the Hall, following brother Jerry in the class of 2015. The three-sport athlete played football, basketball and track at Gulfport High. He was a starter on the Class AA state championship basketball team.
"Goes to show that things done in the past comes to light," said Jenkins. "I am so happy that I was chosen. I wouldn't have missed this for anything."
Former Ole Miss football team captain and current assistant football coach for the Rebels, Luke was sentimental about the recognition.
"This is where you're from," Luke said. "This is what shaped you; this is the town where you were raised. My brother played at Gulfport High, and I played at Gulfport High. This was always special to us. My oldest son's name is Harrison - after Harrison County. This is a special place for me. I have a bunch and family and friends coming."
Davis gives credit to the community for his success as a four-time SEC 800-meter gold medal winner. "It really gives me a chance to thank some of the people who have helped me," said Davis. "When I look over my career, I realize that I didn't do it alone. I had a really good coach. My family supported me. My mother and father, I can't say enough about what they did.
"My coach (Bobby Woodworth) drove all the way from Arkansas to be here," said Davis. "He's about to be seventy years old, and he drove alone eight hours to be here. He took me all over the country. We traveled to the junior olympics in Nebraska. We traveled to California and Texas. And he would have taken a camel to take me anywhere in the country to get me to a track meet."
Sun Herald sportswriter James Jones was recognized along with the eleven inductees as an Outstanding Sports Supporter by the GSHOF.
"Anytime to be honored with a talented group of Gulfport athletes, it's a very humbling experience," said Jones. "And for them to recognize my years of service at the Sun Herald, I am grateful and honored."