Brandon High wrestling coach Russ Cozart said he remembers watching the likes of former Ray Fred McGriff, Florida State Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning on television.
"They were the guys that motivated me to be somebody," Cozart said.
Now Cozart will join the trio as part of the 13-member 2012 Florida Sports Hall of Fame class, to be enshrined March 20. McGriff, Vince Coleman and surfer Kelly Slater were elected last year but couldn't attend, so they'll be inducted this year. Cozart, 58, who led the Eagles on the legendary streak of 459 consecutive dual meet victories (1974-2008), was caught by surprise.
"It's a very big honor," he said. "I was completely floored."
The class, announced Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, also includes golfer Gary Koch (a Tampa resident), Florida Atlantic softball coach Joan Joyce, and Roland Martin, the first fisherman elected.
"If you look at the economic impact fishing has in Florida, and if you look at the number of Floridians who enjoy that sport, we thought it was high time that someone of Roland's stature be inducted," Hall of Fame president Rick Dantzler said.
Pole vaulter Dave Roberts, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas football coach George Smith, former Dolphins safety Dick Anderson and former Raiders lineman Henry Lawrence rounded out the list. Former Buc Ryan Nece won the "Fame for Fitness Award."
The group will be honored before the March 19 Lightning game and enshrined the next day at Mainsail Suites. The Hall of Fame has 205 members; their memorabilia is displayed at the Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale. Inductees must be born in the state or make their athletic mark in Florida.
"It's very humbling," Cozart said. "I've been in it for a while, and it encourages me to stay in it."