22 UGA, 8 Tech players make Georgia High School Football HOF

Credit: Nick Arroyo / AJC File

Credit: Nick Arroyo / AJC File

Twenty-two former Georgia players and eight from Georgia Tech made the 40-player 2023 induction class for the Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame.

The class, released Friday morning by Hall of Fame founder Score Atlanta, will be inducted Oct. 21 at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta.

The lead vote-getters were Dan Reeves, the former Atlanta Falcons coach who starred as a quarterback for Americus High, and Jon Stinchcomb, a former Parkview, Georgia and NFL offensive lineman. Each got 81.6% of the vote from the hall’s 38 board members.

Next in the voting was Jamal Lewis, a former AJC Super 11 running back from Douglass in Atlanta. Lewis went on to stardom at Tennessee and in the NFL with the Ravens. He got 76.3% of the vote. There were 100 players on the ballot.

“If this was the Baseball Hall of Fame where you have to get 75% of the votes, only three players would have made it this year,’' Hall of Fame executive director I.J. Rosenberg said. “That tells you something about how spread out the talent is and has been for many years in the state of Georgia.’’

Stinchcomb, a four-year starter in high school and in college, leads a vast University of Georgia contingent that includes current offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, a standout quarterback at Thomasville and Georgia in the 1990s, and former Georgia head coach Ray Goff, once a Moultrie quarterback and the 1976 SEC offensive player of the year.

The Hall of Fame’s new Bulldogs cover nearly 100 years from the 1920s with Vernon “Catfish” Smith of Macon’s Lanier High to 2012 SEC defensive player of the year Jarvis Jones of Carver-Columbus. Only 13 Georgia players made the inaugural class last year.

Georgia Tech’s eight new inductees are headlined by Pepper Rodgers, a 1950s quarterback and 1970s head coach who will be joined in the Hall of Fame by three of his former Tech players -- Lucius Sanford of West Fulton, Eddie Lee Ivery of Thomson and Mackel Harris of Americus. Rodgers, who passed away in 2020, was the quarterback on Brown’s 1949 Class 2A championship team and tossed three touchdowns passes in the title game.

Other Tech players to be honored will be Billy Lothridge of Gainesville, John Davis of Gilmer and cousins Pat Swilling and Ken Swilling of Stephens County.

The Swillings’ northeast Georgia alma mater is one of four high schools that got two players elected this year. The others were Americus (Reeves, Harris), Cartersville (Keith Henderson, Ronnie Brown) and Lanier (Smith, Billy Henderson).

Tennessee was the only other college with multiple players. Those are ex-teammates Lewis and Deon Grant of Josey. They were members of the Volunteers’ 1998 national championship.

Fourteen of the new Hall of Famers won state championships in high school. They are Rodgers (1949 Brown), Ernie Green (1956 Spencer), Bruce Bennett (1960-61 Valdosta), Anthony Flanagan (1973 Southwest Atlanta), Harris (1974-75 Americus), Al Pinkins (1989 Mitchell-Baker), Marcus Stroud (1993 Brooks County), Deon Grant (1995 Josey), Quincy Carter (1995 Southwest DeKalb), Stinchcomb (1997 Parkview), Reggie Brown (1998 Carrollton), Charles Johnson (2003 Hawkinsville) and Jones (2007 Carver-Columbus).

Twenty-seven of the 40 are from outside of metro Atlanta, a point of pride for Rosenberg.

“Every corner of the state is being represented,’' Rosenberg said. “For years those down south have felt at times ignored and that Atlanta and the metro is treated kindlier in general when it comes to high school sports. Not here.”

The 40-player class follows the inaugural class of 45 inducted last fall. The first group included nine Pro Football Hall of Famers and former Georgia and Johnson County star Herschel Walker, the only unanimous selection.

The 2023 Hall of Fame class:

Pos. Player High school Senior season Category College
EVernon "Catfish" SmithLanier-Macon1927Pre-1948Georgia
BBill HartmanGeorgia Military Prep1933Pre-1948Georgia
BBilly HendersonLanier-Macon1945Pre-1948Georgia
QBPepper RodgersBrown19491948-59Georgia Tech
QBBilly LothridgeGainesville19591948-59Georgia Tech
QBDan ReevesAmericus19601960sSouth Carolina
QBBruce BennettValdosta19611960sFlorida
QB/DBBuzy RosenbergNorthside-Atlanta19681960sGeorgia
BErnie GreenSpencer1957GIALouisville
DLJulius AdamsBallard-Hudson1965GIATexas Southern
QBRay GoffMoultrie19721970sGeorgia
QBAnthony FlanaganSouthwest Atlanta19731970sGeorgia
LBLucius SanfordWest Fulton19731970sGeorgia Tech
RBEddie Lee IveryThomson19741970sGeorgia Tech
LBMackel HarrisAmericus19751970sGeorgia Tech
OL/LBRay DonaldsonEast Rome19751970sGeorgia
QB/DBScott WoernerJonesboro19761970sGeorgia
TE/LGuy McIntyreThomasville19781970sGeorgia
LB/DBPat SwillingStephens County19811980sGeorgia Tech
OLJohn DavisGilmer19821980sGeorgia Tech
RBKeith HendersonCartersville19841980sGeorgia
LB/DBKen SwillingStephens County19871980sGeorgia Tech
QBAl PinkinsMitchell-Baker19901990sDNP
LBRandall GodfreyLowndes19911990sGeorgia
TE/OLAdam MeadowsMcEachern19911990sGeorgia
OLJeff SaturdayShamrock19921990sNorth Carolina
QBMike BoboThomasville19921990sGeorgia
DLMarcus StroudBrooks County19941990sGeorgia
DBDeon GrantJosey19961990sTennessee
OLJeff BackusNorcross19951990sMichigan
QBQuincy CarterSouthwest DeKalb19951990sGeorgia
RBJamal LewisDouglass19961990sTennessee
RB/DLCharles GrantMiller County19971990sGeorgia
OLJon StinchcombParkview19971990sGeorgia
WRReggie BrownCarrollton19981990sGeorgia
RBRonnie BrownCartersville19991990sAuburn
QBD.J. ShockleyNorth Clayton20002000sGeorgia
DLCharles JohnsonHawkinsville20032000sGeorgia
LBRennie CurranBrookwood20062000sGeorgia
LBJarvis JonesCarver-Columbus20082000sGeorgia