Five athletes and a state-winning basketball team were inducted into the Liberty County Hall of Fame Thursday.
The ceremony took place in the John McIver Center at the Liberty County Community Complex.
Former Bradwell athletes Rickey Fabian, Ulrick John, Alfred Lester, James Watson Jr. and Artis Lee Morrison were inducted, as were the 2008 state basketball champions First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
“Who would think that I would be standing here coming from a dirt road in Riceboro,” Darrell West, the Highlanders’ head coach in 2008.
He was joined at the ceremony by assistant coach David Linderman and players Joey Bell, T.A. Alston, AJ Ansley and Mike Brown.
West said the team started as six players from the middle school team. That grew into a varsity team made up mostly of eighth graders. In 2008 their toughest opponent was Bethesda Academy. The Blazers were 2-1 against FPCA as the teams met for the state title at Georgia College and State University. FPCA won the barn-burner 54-49. Bell put up 23 points. That season the Highlanders went 25-4 overall and 14-2 in their region.
“When a group of people can get together for a common goal…it didn’t matter about race or color or who was the best player…the goal was to win state,” West said, noting they didn’t have a senior on the 2008 team.
Gary Gilliard introduced Fabian, saying he was one of the best athletes he’s ever known.
“He was good y’all,” Gillard said.
Fabian said he has many fond memories of playing football at Bradwell and one from a Liberty County Recreation Department team.
“I was 13 years old and the quarterback of the Chargers…and my team got beat 99-0. Charles (Shuman) didn’t have mercy rules back then,” he said. “I almost quit football for good. I decided I would never let a team I was on get beaten like that again.”
Fabian went on to play at BI and Albany State under a full scholarship.
“I would like to sincerely thank everyone here tonight,” Fabian said. “And the Liberty Count Athletic Hall of Fame folks for thinking of me for this wonderful recognition.
Kenneth Howard introduced his friend “Jimbo” Watson, who was unable to attend.
“First let me sincerely thank the Liberty County Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame Committee for electing me… It is with great honor to accept the induction,” Watson wrote in a letter that Howard read.
“For decades there have been many tremendous athletes who have come from this small coastal county in South Georgia… Many times over the years we faced competition from towns and counties much larger than we were and more times than not we kicked their butts.”
Morrison also thanked the committee and family for their support.
“With this induction I’ve had to update the short list of great events in my life,” he said. “My adoption in 1965, my marriage, the births of my children, my deacon’s ordination in 1987, finding my birth family in 2013 and 2014 and Dec. 8, 2016 induction into the Liberty County Hall of Fame.”
Lester said he was honored to be inducted and that despite living in Virginia, returning to Liberty County is coming home.
He thanked friends and family, some who drove from Delaware to see him be inducted.
Ulrick John was not able to attend. The Arizona Cardinals tackle was preparing for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. He gave his thanks via a video file and said being inducted was unexpected and surreal.
“I want to thank you all so much for this amazing honor,” He said, adding he owes a lot to former Bradwell coach Jim Walsh. “I guess when I was a freshman he saw something in me.”
The inductees’ athletic biographies were printed in the Nov. 27, issue of the Courier and are available online at: coastalcourier.com/section/3/article/84321/