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Grambling Legends to induct third class into Sports Hall of Fame
The Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame will induct its third class of honorees during a gala ceremony to be held Saturday, July 16, at the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center on the campus of Grambling State University.
This year’s honorees include former NFL Pro Bowl MVP James “Shack” Harris, former Super Bowl champions Gary “Big Hands” Johnson and Everson Walls, former NBA champion Larry Wright and Douglas Porter, already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Some biographical details on this year’s class of inductees follow:
JAMES “SHACK” HARRIS (football) – A senior personnel executive for the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the Monroe, Louisiana, native led Grambling to SWAC championships in each of his four years as quarterback and was named MVP of the 1967 Orange Blossom Classic. Drafted by the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, he would become the first black player to start a season at quarterback, the first to start a conference championship game and the first to be named MVP of the Pro Bowl over the course of a career that also included stops with the Rams and Chargers.
TASHA HOLLIS (women’s basketball) – A standout at Grambling from 1988-91, the Mobile, Alabama, native scored a total of 2,058 points. She boasted a career shot percentage of 58 percent, and a free-throw average of 64 percent. That included scoring in double figures 75 times in 85 games played. The Lady Tigers, under fellow Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame coach Pat Bibbs, claimed the SWAC regular-season and tournament titles in 1988-89. Hollis also notched double figures in rebounds in 69 career games, and had 140 blocked shots and 142 steals.
DELLES HOWELL (football) – Famously started at Grambling as a freshman cornerback, then in the NFL as a rookie. The Monroe, Louisiana, native starred on a trio of Southwestern Athletic Conference title teams for fellow Grambling Legends Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson, then for the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets in a six-season NFL career – collecting 17 career interceptions. He has found a second calling in the ministry, serving as pastor of New Light Baptist Church in northeastern Louisiana.
JAMES “HOUND” HUNTER (football) – Drafted 10th overall out of Grambling, where the two-time All-SWAC corner claimed a league championship in 1974, Hunter led the NFL’s Detroit Lions in interceptions in 1976-77 and in 1980, eventually logging 27 career picks. Hunter was runner-up for NFL defensive rookie of the year before a neck injury in the early 1980s shortened a promising pro career. He died of an apparent heart attack in 2010; Hunter was just 56.
GARY “BIG HANDS” JOHNSON (football) – A three-time All-SWAC defensive tackle, the Shreveport, Louisiana, helped Grambling to a trio of conference titles before becoming the first pick of the 1975 draft for San Diego, playing for the Chargers until a 1984 trade to San Francisco – where he won a Super Bowl. Johnson made the Pro Bowl in each of the 1980-83 campaign, setting a 17 ½ sack season record for San Diego that still stands. Johnson died in August 2010 at age 57, having never recovered from a stroke he suffered the previous July.
JAMES JONES (basketball) – Averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds a night over 104 career games, as fellow Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame coach Fred Hobdy led the Tigers to three SWAC championships, then was selected 13th overall by the Baltimore Bullets in the 1967 NBA Draft. He finished as one of the old ABA’s all-time leaders in every category, becoming just the second in league history to score more than 2,000 points in one season. Jones played seven years in the ABA and then three with the NBA’s Washington Bullets.
FRANK LEWIS (football) – Part of the Pittsburgh Steelers first two Super Bowl-winning squads, Lewis helped Grambling to a SWAC crown and then led the league in scoring over his final two seasons. A two-time all-conference wingback, he finished with 42 career touchdowns at Grambling, then had nearly 400 receptions and 40 touchdowns in the NFL. Later an all-pro with the Buffalo Bills, Lewis was the first player in league history to gain 100 yards in receiving in postseason games for two different clubs. He is employed in workforce development in south Louisiana.
EVERSON WALLS (football) – An all-conference selection for the SWAC champion Tigers, Walls led the nation in interceptions in 1980 – setting a school record that still stands. He then played 14 NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, leading the league in picks in both 1982 and 1985, earning All-Pro honors three times and a Super Bowl after the 1990 season with the Giants. The Texas native works as a businessman in Dallas.
FRANK GARNETT (baseball) – A New Orleans native, Garnett was a three-sport letterman and a state champion in both baseball and basketball at St. Augustine High. He then served as a team captain on the 1962-63 Grambling baseball teams, as the Tigers advanced to the national NAIA baseball tournament for the third of what would be four times between 1961-67. He was named all-conference in each of his four years on campus – once at first base, twice at third base and once a shortstop – and earned first-team All-America honors in 1963. Garnett, later a longtime Los Angeles area educator, then signed a baseball contract with the Washington Senators, and played seven seasons of minor league baseball.
ALEX PERO (baseball) – In 1962-63, Pero had a staggering 0.00 ERA to help Grambling to the national NAIA baseball tournament. Grambling led the nation in ERA that season, and the team would earn NAIA berths four times between 1961-67 under fellow Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame coach R.W.E. Jones. In 1965, Pero set a Division II mark for strikeouts per nine innings amongst 50-game starters that to this day remains second all time. He played for three seasons in the minor leagues. Pero passed in 2009 at age 65.
ROBERT WOODS (track and field; football) – A two-sport star, Woods left Grambling in 1978 with a SWAC championship and all-conference honors as an undersized but unstoppable wingback for fellow Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson. He was the Bayou Classic MVP of 1977, then was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in ’78. Woods played two seasons in the NFL. Now executive director of a residential treatment center for adolescents in Houston, Texas, he has worked in the mental health field for more than 20 years.
LARRY WRIGHT (basketball) – Wright, of Richwood, Louisiana, helped Grambling to the 1976 league tournament championship and then led the Washington Bullets to an NBA title in 1978. A former head basketball coach for the Tigers, Wright was a two-time all-conference selection, a two time NCAA small college All-American and the SWAC player of the year in 1975-76. Later, Wright was a celebrated player overseas, earning MVP honors as Roma claimed its first-ever European title. He currently serves as an associate high school principal in northeastern Louisiana.
AL DENNIS JR. (pre-1960 honoree) – A New Orleans native and World War II veteran, the late Dennis was one of Grambling’s most celebrated early football captains. Playing from 1946-49, he was a two-time All-America blocker for future College Hall of Famer Paul “Tank” Younger. In 1968, he would become the first African-American to receive a master’s degree in health and physical education from Northwestern State University in Louisiana. He coached and taught for more than 45 years, notably at Brown High in Springhill, Louisiana.
DOUGLAS PORTER (contributor) – A former assistant at Grambling under Eddie Robinson, Porter was a head coach at FCS programs Mississippi Valley State (1961-65) and Howard (1974-78) and finally at Division II Fort Valley State (1979-94), earning induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. He has remained a trusted advisor for every coach to have succeeded Robinson, and was instrumental in the efforts to construct a museum in Robinson’s honor on the Grambling campus.
By Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame