The leading vote-getter, Walker, was no surprise. The former University of Georgia running back set state single-season and career rushing records at Johnson County and led his team to the 1979 Class A championship.
Walker joined two other Heisman Trophy winners voted in – George Rogers of Duluth and South Carolina and Charlie Ward of Thomas County Central and Florida State. A fourth Heisman winner from Georgia, Auburn’s Cam Newton of Westlake, was not eligible because he is an active NFL player.
Walker was the only candidate to receive more than 90% of votes from the Hall’s 35-member voting board. Finishing immediately behind Walker were Ward, Francoeur, Garrison Hearst of Lincoln County and Stan Rome of Valdosta. Full voting totals were not released.
Three pairs of inductees were high school teammates. Simmons, a defensive lineman, and James Brooks, a running back, were senior superstars on Warner Robins’ 1976 Class 3A champion that some consider Georgia’s best team in history. Chip Kell, a lineman who would become an All-American at Tennessee, and Dudish played together on powerful Avondale teams, though one year apart.
Washington County’s Takeo Spikes and Terrence Edwards intersected for one championship season in 1994, though Edwards was a little-used freshman then. But in 1996 and 1997, Edwards would lead Washington County to consecutive Class 2A titles as a quarterback before becoming a star wide receiver at Georgia and in the CFL.
Two other high schools were represented with two players, though they were not teammates. They are Valdosta quarterback Buck Belue and tight end Rome and Parkview offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb and Francoeur.
Three players were voted in from the old Georgia Interscholastic Association, which governed athletics for Black high schools through 1970. Those were Otis Sistrunk of Spencer, Clarence Scott of Trinity in Decatur and Emerson Boozer of Laney. All three had long NFL careers.
The most long-ago player selected was Bob McWhorter, who prepped at Gordon Institute in Barnesville through the 1909 season, then became an instant star at Georgia, the school’s first All-American. Clint Castleberry of Boys High and George Maloof of Marist, who would play at Georgia Tech, played in leather helmets in the 1940s.
The most recent player was Berry, a high school quarterback and defensive back who was the AJC’s 2006 all-classification player of the year before going on to Tennessee and a nine-year NFL career.
The college with the most players voted in was Georgia (13) followed by Georgia Tech (six), Auburn (four), Florida State (two) and Tennessee (two). Twenty-one of the 36 won state titles. Nineteen of the 36 played outside of metro Atlanta.
Score Atlanta, a marketing company, announced the formation of the non-profit Hall of Fame in February. The Hall’s board members include current and former coaches, former players, school administrators and media members.
In June, the board settled on a 100-player ballot and divided the candidates into eight eras from pre-1950 to post-2000. Each voter had to select 36 players overall with at least two from each era, and each era was guaranteed at least two spots in the final class. As it turned out, each era got at least three players in. Hall rules also required that candidates be eight years removed from high school and retired from all levels of football.
“I think it says something about the sheer number of great high school players in Georgia when only one player (Walker) was on every ballot,’’ Hall of Fame executive director I.J. Rosenberg said. “Now comes the fun part, celebrating this first class.”
The induction will take place Oct. 22 at the College Football Hall of Fame. Tickets will be made available to the public.
Here are the 45 scheduled for induction:
HB - Clint Castleberry, Boys (1941)
HB - Bob McWhorter, Gordon Institute (1909)
E - George Maloof, Marist (1947)
L - Bill Curry, College Park (1959)
L - Pat Dye, Richmond Academy (1956)
QB - Stan Gann, Northside-Atlanta (1957)
RB/LB - Larry Morris, Decatur (1950)
QB - Charlie Dudish, Avondale (1967)
QB - Andy Johnson, Athens (1969)
L - Chip Kell, Avondale (1966)
L - Bill Stanfill, Cairo (1964)
RB - Emerson Boozer, Laney (1961)
DB - Clarence Scott, Trinity (1966)
L - Otis Sistrunk, Spencer (1964)
RB - William Andrews, Thomasville (1974)
!B - Buck Belue, Valdosta (1977)
RB - James Brooks, Warner Robins (1976)
LB - Larry Kinnebrew, East Rome(1977)
RB - George Rogers, Duluth (1976)
TE - Stan Rome, Valdosta (1973)
LB - Ron Simmons, Warner Robins (1976)
RB - Herschel Walker, Johnson County (1979)
WR - Andre Hastings, Morrow (1989)
RB - Garrison Hearst, Lincoln County (1989)
DL - Tracy Rocker, Fulton (1983)
QB - Charlie Ward, Thomas County Central (1987)
QB - Terrence Edwards, Washington County (1997)
LB - Takeo Spikes, Washington County (1994)
OL - Matt Stinchcomb, Parkview (1994)
QB - Hines Ward, Forest Park (1993)
QB - Eric Zeier, Marietta (1990)
QB/DB - Eric Berry, Creekside (2006)
WR/DB - Jeff Francoeur, Parkview (2001)
LB/FB - David Pollack, Shiloh (2000)
RB - Darius Walker, Buford (2003)
RB - Monte Williams, Commerce (2000)
Pro Football Hall of Fame
DB - Champ Bailey, Charlton County (1995)
WR/DB - Mel Blount, Lyons Industrial (1965)
DL - Richard Dent, Murphy (1978)
QB/P - Ray Guy, Thomson (1968)
WR - Calvin Johnson, Sandy Creek (2003)
L - Jim Parker, Ballard-Hudson (1952)
E - Shannon Sharpe, Glenville (1985)
QB - Fran Tarkenton, Athens (1956)
L - Rayfield Wright, Fairmont (1963)