The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame's selection committee announced this morning the nominees for its induction class of 2016 and, as is often the case, there's a pretty strong Bulldog contingent on the list.
Current UGA golf coach Chris Haack made the cut for his two decades at the helm of the Bulldog program. In that time Haack has won the only two national titles in Bulldog history, seven SEC championships, and forty-four total tournament victories. He's also mentored and developed a phalanx of Bulldog golfers who have gone on to exceptional careers on the PGA Tour.
Another Bulldog golfer, Macon native Peter Persons is on the list following a career that saw him earn a runner-up finish in the 1985 U.S. Amateur, a win in the 1985 SEC Championship, and a professional career that included a PGA Tour win and a top 20 finish in the 1991 U.S. Open.
Current Bulldog defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, an Atlanta native, won the Outland and Lombardi Trophies during an All-American career at Auburn. He has since atoned for that poor matriculation choice by becoming one of the most perennially effective position coaches in college football, sending literally dozens of his charges on to the NFL.
Valdosta's Ben Zambiasi was a stalwart on Georgia defenses from 1974 to 1977 before being drafted by the Chicago Bears. Zambiasi never caught on in the NFL, but he did have a successful career in Canada, where he was a six-time CFL All-Star, was the league's best defensive player in 1979, and was inducted into the Canadian football hall of fame in 2004.
Tennis player Mikael Pernfors was born in Sweden but left his mark in Athens as a dominant collegian, winning back-to-back NCAA singles titles in 1984 and 1985. He then enjoyed a successful professional career which saw him reach the finals of the French Open while winning several other pro tournaments. In 1986 he reached a ranking of 10th in the world and counts career victories over the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, and Boris Becker.
Finally, Hines Ward distinguished himself at running back, wide receiver, and quarterback for the Bulldogs during an All-SEC career before becoming one of the premier players in Pittsburgh Steelers history during a 14 year NFL career. He retired as a four time Pro Bowl selection, two time Super Bowl champion, and the Steelers' career leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. While he's not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (or eligible since he retired in 2011), I expect he'll waltz into it in the next few years.
Next the Hall's Honors Court will meet in September to select the 2016 class of inductees from among the finalists (36 in all). The 2016 Georgia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held in Macon on Saturday, February 27, 2016.