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Elites of Hernando High sports honored, but who's missing?

Some selections for the new Hernando High School Sports Hall of Fame nobody can doubt, nobody can question.

Jerome Brown, who went on to become an All-Pro defensive tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles, is at the top of the heap. Bronson Arroyo, with a decade-long Major League Baseball career, a World Series championship and a brand new Gold Glove as the National League's best-fielding pitcher, is up there, too.

And though the reputations of some pre-integration white football players may be suspect, it's pretty clear that Tom Fisher could have played with anybody, in any era. His career and life were cut short by a car wreck in 1966, before his senior year in college, but the 118 tackles he recorded as a junior are still one of the highest single-season totals ever at the University of Tennessee. He was in such high demand after that season, he was drafted early by both the New York Giants and the Houston Oilers.

Bernice Mosby, the girl's basketball career scoring record-holder, went on to star at the University of Florida and Baylor University. Her career as a pro in Europe and with the WNBA is not over yet, she said at Thursday evening's induction dinner at Brooksville's Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

"You haven't heard the last of Bernice Mosby."

Her induction also secured the Brown family's status as the fountainhead of athletic greatness in Hernando County. Since Mosby was the only woman inducted, it's safe to say she's the school's best-ever female athlete. Her grandparents, Willie Brown and his late wife, Annie Bell, were also the parents of Jerome.

The pain endured by Mosby's mother, Gloria Brown — who lost her brother, Jerome, and her 12-year-old son, Gus, in that devastating 1992 car crash — made you feel all the better about the joy she took from the ceremony.

"This is a miracle,'' she said afterward.

Really, there was joy all around, especially because the stars who showed up still looked like stars; Mosby, in glittery heels and designer jeans, was a cosmopolitan breeze blowing into Brooksville; Maulty Moore was recognizable as the 6-foot-5 guy wearing an aqua-blue Miami Dolphins sports coat and two Super Bowl rings; Kevin Fitzpatrick, a discus thrower invited to four Olympic trials, still looked fit enough to maybe pull off a 200-foot heave.

Besides appearing competition-ready himself, the male career basketball scoring record-holder, Jason Sartor, best summed up how an athletic tradition builds in a small town.

When he went to Hernando High sporting events as a boy in the 1980s — and he went to them all the time — he couldn't help but notice the praise heaped on the likes of Brown and his fellow baseball and football star, Eddie Looper.

"I wanted to be one of those guys,'' he said in his induction speech. "I wanted to play in front of big crowds. … I wanted to stand out.''

Is the sports legacy of Brooksville really special? Do people here have any more to brag about than residents of Dade City or Inverness?

Maybe not, but when the selection committee first started meeting several months ago, they faced a dauntingly long list of candidates, including the future professionals churned out by Ernie Chatman's baseball program in the 1980s and 1990s and football stars such as Ricky Feacher, a wide receiver who went on to play nine years in the NFL.

This is the quote on the subject from one committee member, Brooksville chiropractor Don Hensley, slightly amended for family consumption: "There was just a boatload of great athletes.''

Coaches, too, because one of the inductees was Tom Varn, who led a boys baseball team and a girls softball team to state championships and, in 1970, was named the national high school Coach of the Year.

Now that the list is in place, the fun can begin, because it is not sacred. We shouldn't get carried away with idolizing the deeds of teenagers at an institution whose main purpose, after all, is teaching kids, not turning out ballplayers.

So, let's imagine we met for a post-ceremony beer and a bit of amiable second-guessing. My first question is, "Where is John Capel?"

He didn't just go to the 2000 Olympic Trials; he won. True, the dominant sprinters of that era, Maurice Green and Michael Johnson, pulled up with injuries before the finals in Capel's race, the 200-meter dash. But from my provincial viewpoint, it seemed as though neither one of them wanted any part of Capel. And though lots of people remember the misstep that probably cost Capel Olympic gold, too few recall that three years later he won the world championship.

It was great that the committee — former Moton High School football coach Lorenzo Hamilton among them — included Moore as a representative of the county's old, segregated, all-black school. But there were plenty of other stars, and the fact that several of them, including J.P. Inmon, went on to play college ball was even more remarkable for defying expectations.

Moore was so prepared to enter one of the standard careers for young black men in Brooksville in the mid 1960s — working at a rock mine or picking fruit — that when he was offered a scholarship to Bethune-Cookman University, "I really didn't want to go,'' he said.

"But I didn't want anybody telling me I couldn't go.''

One of Moton's best was Hercules Moore, a running back from the mid 1960s, whom Hamilton compared to former Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders.

"He had that kind of shiftiness,'' said Hamilton, who installed running plays called "Hercules right'' and "Hercules left."

And for the "Hercules special,'' Hamilton said, "he'd fake a block, we'd throw him a screen pass, and it was all over.''

Moore, unfortunately, never played in college. He was killed while serving as a Marine in Vietnam.

Here's one other bone to pick, amiably of course, and with recognition that, at this point, other candidates will have to wait for some future year: All the members of the selection committee were male and so were all but one of the first eight inductees.

Considering that Chatman's girls softball teams were as good or better than his boys baseball teams, couldn't the committee have made room for Chrissy Hartley or Kim Olmstead? And if they didn't mind packing the hall with yet another member of the Brown family, they might have considered Mosby's sister, Mabel Brown, who left school before graduating.

"She was stronger and more physical,'' Mosby said. "I still think she was a better basketball player than I was.''

Elites of Hernando High sports honored, but who's missing? 11/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 13, 2010 2:17pm]
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