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Eight join Hernando High School Sports Hall of Fame

Ernie Chatman is a Hernando High graduate who made his mark as a longtime coach.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2009)

Ernie Chatman is a Hernando High graduate who made his mark as a longtime coach.

BROOKSVILLE — The long and storied history of Hernando High School includes many years of athletic success.

To remember and honor those achievements — particularly some of the people who were responsible for them — the alumni and administration felt it was fitting to start a Sports Hall of Fame, which happened last year.

The inaugural class of eight included Leopard legends such as recent pro basketball star Bernice Mosby, the late pro football great Jerome Brown and current Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo.

A year later, Hernando has selected and announced its second group of honorees, and once again it includes eight elite athletes who made significant contributions to the school and its sports program.

Three former pro football players are among the eight to go in this year. The other five include a legendary high school coach, a former baseball player known for his historic play more than 40 years ago, a slugging pro baseball player, a college football player and coach, and a college basketball standout.

The school had its Sports Hall of Fame banquet Thursday evening at Michael A. Imhoff Gymnasium, and the eight former athletes will also be honored at halftime of tonight's football game between the Leopards and visiting Mitchell High at Tom Fisher Stadium.

The honorees

Ernie Chatman is a 1967 Hernando graduate who has maintained close ties to the school. Chatman has coached the Leopards baseball, softball, basketball, track and cross-country programs. He has also lent his expertise as the head coach of Saint Leo University's baseball team.

Chatman is an athlete as well. He has run 77 marathons, at least one in every state. As a coach, he led the 1997 boys cross-country team to the state title, one of only eight in county history from any high school in any sport. He was also the coach of the 1993 baseball team that tied the school record for single-season victories (30).

Since leaving Hernando, he has taken the Hernando Christian Academy softball program under his wing, leading the team to three consecutive trips to the state final four.

Chatman remembers almost all of the exploits of his fellow Hall of Fame classmates and is touched to be part of the elite group.

"It's a humbling experience," he said. "To be going in (to the Hall of Fame) as a part of community that you've been a part of for more than 50 years, it's something special."

Fred Abbott, a 1969 Hernando graduate, was heavily pursued out of high school after playing on the offensive and defensive lines in football. As a linebacker, he did not dress his freshman season for the University of Florida, but eventually went on to become a Gators captain.

After college, Abbott was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He had a solid pro career, playing for the Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins. He was able to learn from some of the best minds in the sport, playing for pro football Hall of Famers Bud Grant and Don Shula.

Abbott was honored as an inductee into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.

Ricky Feacher was not highly recruited out of Hernando, but the football wide receiver was offered a scholarship by Mississippi Valley State University, eventually known for producing the legendary Jerry Rice. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in 1976, but he was released and picked up by the Cleveland Browns in his first season.

The 1972 Hernando graduate went on to a nine-year pro career, playing in 125 games, catching 115 passes and scoring 15 touchdowns.

• Another less recruited talent was George Floyd. A 1978 Hernando graduate, the safety went on to play at Eastern Kentucky University and became an all-American. His jarring hits and ball-hawking interceptions gained him induction into the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

The New York Jets selected Floyd in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL draft. He went on to play three seasons for the Jets. He played in 15 games, starting two.

Buster McGee was a talented baseball shortstop who graduated the same year as Chatman, which happened to be the season that Tom Varn led the Leopards to their lone baseball state title — 1967. McGee played an instrumental role, hitting a triple and scoring the go-ahead run in the 2-1 championship game win.

• Another baseball player doesn't have memories of a state title to fall back on, but 1988 Hernando graduate Tyrone Woods may be the second-most successful pro to come through the school, next to Arroyo. After his prep career, Woods was drafted by the Montreal Expos and was a late bloomer.

He bounced around, unable to find an opportunity in the major leagues, but Woods didn't give up on his dream. In 1998, he signed with the Korean League's Doosan Bears and set the league record with 42 home runs in a single season. Five seasons later, he moved to the Japanese Central League and continued to mash the ball.

In 2006, Woods placed second in the most valuable player voting to future MLB star and then-teammate Kosuke Fukodome. Before retiring in 2008, the first baseman hit 538 professional home runs.

• The oldest inductee is former Florida State University defensive tackle Frank Vohun. Remembered best on the football field for his plays during the school's rivalry games with Florida from 1967 to 1969, the 1966 Hernando graduate went on to a long coaching career in the sport.

"I think people always had high hopes for Frank, even when he was younger," Chatman said. "When he went on to the Seminoles and really helped push that program into prominence, it was exciting for the whole community."

Vohun amassed more than 200 victories as a high school coach in Georgia and Washington, D.C., and also coached at the University of West Georgia from 1985 to 1988.

• The most recent graduate being inducted this year is 1990 alum Kristi Poore. While at Hernando, Poore set numerous girls basketball records, and only Mosby has surpassed her in points scored.

Poore went on the University of South Florida, where she had a successful career. She still ranks 10th all time on USF's rebounding list (603) and 16th in games played.

Hernando High School Sports Hall of Fame

Class of 2011

Fred Abbott: Former linebacker and captain for Florida, Florida Hall of Fame member (1985)

Ernie Chatman: Longtime coach in multiple sports, state coaching Hall of Fame member (2004)

Ricky Feacher: Former NFL wide receiver (Cleveland Browns)

George Floyd: Former NFL safety (N.Y. Jets), National College Football Hall of Fame member (1999)

Buster McGee: Standout shortstop on the 1967 Hernando baseball state championship team

Kristi Poore: Second in scoring for Hernando girls' basketball, 10th in rebounding at USF all-time (603)

Frank Vohun: Former Florida State defensive lineman, former head coach at West Georgia

Tyrone Woods: Holds Korean League record for single-season home runs (42), 538 career pro home runs

Eight join Hernando High School Sports Hall of Fame 11/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2011 7:45pm]
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