PENSACOLA, Fla. (Nov. 7) — Before a sellout crowd of close to 600, the Florida Sports Hall of Fame (FSHOF) welcomed seven new members at its 2018 enshrinement ceremonies held at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola on Wednesday night.
Joining the ranks of the Hall were former WNBA star Michelle Snow, baseball great Gary Sheffield, University of Florida broadcast legend Mick Hubert, Olympic champion sprinter Justin Gatlin, former boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., and former US Open golf champion Jerry Pate. Pete Pihos, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to a pair of NFL championships in the 40s, was inducted posthumously.
“This is an incredibly diverse and accomplished class spanning six different sports,” FSHOF President Barry Smith said. “This group includes world champions, Olympic champions, all-stars, All-Americans and national champions. All have close ties to Florida and are deserving of this recognition.”
Snow played high school basketball at Pensacola Woodham High, where she was Florida’s “Miss Basketball” as a senior. he helped the Tennessee Volunteers to four straight SEC championships and a pair of Final Four appearances before embarking on a decade-long professional career that included both the WNBA and professional leagues in Europe.
Snow credited her family’s weekly basketball games for making her tough enough to play at the highest levels. “We would have extended family dinners every Sunday followed by games, I wanted to play with my uncles and they would only let me play on the condition that I wasn’t allowed to cry if I took an elbow or got knocked down. It made me understand about competition and playing at a higher level.”
She also credited her college coach, the legendary Pat Summit, for her success. “Coach Summit truly made me who I became,” Snow said. “She was demanding but always purpose driven. She truly wanted to make us the best we could be.”
Sheffield grew up in Tampa, where he led his Belmont Heights team to the finals of the Little League World Series. A first round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers, Sheffield enjoyed a 22-year career in the Major Leagues. A nine-time All-Star, Sheffield slugged 509 career home runs and led the Florida Marlins to a World Series Championship in 1997.
Sheffield reminisced about growing up in Tampa. “When I was 11, we played in the Little League World Series. When I was 12 I got kicked off the team. It taught me a lesson that I was not bigger than the team and motivated me to start doing things the right way. I never wanted anything like that to happen again.”
Hubert spent the last 30 years as radio play-by-play announcer of the Florida Gators, where his iconic “Oh My” call has become known to Florida fans everywhere. He was behind the mike calling the action for three national championship football games, two NCAA basketball title games and the Gators’ 2017 College World Series victory.
“Since I was a little kid growing up in the cornfields of Illinois, all I ever wanted to become was a sports play-by-play man,” Huber said. “With the support of guys like David Steele, I was able to get my dream job with the Florida Gators and all I can say is Oh My! Thank you, thank you thank you.”
Gatlin introduced himself to the world at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece where he claimed the title of “world’s fastest human” by winning the 100-meter dash as well as two other medals. In his storied career, Gatlin has won 17 medals in either Olympic or World Championship competition, is a former World Record holder and defeated Usain Bolt to win the 100-meters at the 2017 World Championships.
“Greatness is not the four walls and a roof, it is never the finished building or temple you see. Greatness must be built brick by brick. It must be built one step at a time with passion, with hard work and desire,” Gatlin said in accepting his induction.
Jones Jr. is widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation. He holds the professional record for most consecutive middleweight defenses, has won world championships in multiple weight classes and became the first middleweight to win a heavyweight world championship belt.
“It took a while for me to understand it, but boxing was a platform for me to inspire others,” Jones said. “All my life people would tell me what I could not do or accomplish. It took me a while to understand that I was the only obstacle to my success and it became my mission to show the younger generation that the power to succeed needed to come from within.”
A year after winning the US Amateur, Pate burst on to the professional golf scene by winning the US Open as a PGA Tour rookie in 1976. He would go on to a stellar professional career that included winning the 1982 Players Championship, and has compiled 15 professional wins world-wide.
Pate told the credited legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant for teaching him the importance of treating others with respect. “Coach Bryant insisted that you had to treat the common man well because they were the ones who would help you when you were down,” Pate said.
Pihos was born in Orlando and starred at Indiana University. A war hero, Pihos won both the Bronze and Silver Star for his actions in World War II while serving under George Patton. A nine-year NFL veteran, Pihos was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970.
In addition to the inductees, the Hall presented its annual Fame for Fitness Award to the Southern Youth Sports Association (SYSA) and gave it’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award to former Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.
The SYSA is a grass roots organization dedicated to responding to the academic, physical and social needs of at-risk and under-served children in the Pensacola area. The SYSA becomes the seventh recipient of the FSHOF’s Fame for Fitness Award, which recognizes organizations that exemplify the Hall’s mission to contribute to initiatives for the health, wellness and fitness of the state’s youth.
An assistant coach for more than a quarter century, Andrews was the architect of a Florida State defense that played a major role in what became known as the “Bowden Dynasty,” a period where the Seminoles compiled 14 consecutive national top five finishes.
Four members of the class — Snow, Jones Jr., Gatlin and Pate — either were born or grew up in the Pensacola area, making the location of the enshrinement extra special for those inductees. ￼