Meet the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame class of 2022
Ten East Tennessee athletes, coaches, media members and contributors will be inducted into the GKSHOF
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame has selected ten people to induct who have made significant impacts and contributions to East Tennessee sports. Chipper Jones, an eight-time All-Star, the 1999 National League MVP and the 2008 National League Batting Champion, will be the featured speaker at the annual induction ceremony held on August 25 at the Knoxville Convention Center.
All ticket and auction proceeds benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, which serves over 6,700 youth and teens at 20 Club locations in Knox, Blount, Loudon and Anderson Counties. Limited tickets are available.
Willie Poplar - All-Around
Willie Poplar was a stand out football and basketball player, track and field athlete and bowler. He was the first Black athlete at Tennessee School for the Deaf. A two-time deaf Olympian in 1969 and 1973, he finished with a silver medal. He was a national record holder and state record holder in shot put, as well as the state shot put champion. Poplar helped lead Tennessee School for the Deaf as the deaf school national champions in 1968. Poplar was named a deaf All-American that same year.
Joe Hendee - Swimming
Joe Hendee was the longest tenured assistant coach in the history of men’s athletics at the University of Tennessee until his passing from cancer in 2011. The Chattanooga native served as the assistant coach of the men’s swimming and diving teams when the team won three SEC titles and a national championship. He coached three Olympic gold medalists and more than 100 All-America selections.
Hendee coached the Knoxville Racquet Club for 20 summers, where the pool is named in his memory. A passionate supporter, coach and advocate of swimming at all ages and levels and a beloved friend and mentor to many.
Hoyt Carroll - Coaching
Hoyt Carroll was the captain of the undefeated and 1942 state champion Knoxville High School football team. Instead of playing in college right after graduation, Carroll served in the Navy during World War II. After his service he was then was a four-year letterman at Carson-Newman. A star athlete himself, but his time impacting players as a coach is where he shined brightest.
“It wasn’t always all about football. it was about helping young kids find the right way and have fun along the way. He was very supportive of kids playing every sport they could you know, he didn’t ever try to keep his football players from buying other sports and maybe missing winter workout or something like that. If they can play basketball, baseball, running track, whatever, he wanted them to do. Some things that stand out to me about how he just was a great person and always concerned about everybody’s well being,” said Carroll’s son, Chris Carroll.
Coaching and building an entire athletics program as athletics director and head football coach at Holston where he won two championships and earned KIL coach of the year in 1970 after an undefeated season when his son, Chris, played on the team.
“He wasn’t going to catch me loafing or, or catch me breaking team rules or anything like that. I was just there as just another player and he treated me the same as he did everybody else,” said Chris.
Claire Donahue - Swimming
A 2012 Olympic gold medalist, Claire Donahue, swam butterfly on Team U.S.A.’s women’s 400-meter medley relay in London. The Lenior City native also swam the 100-meter butterfly at the London Olympics where she finished 7th at the games. Donahue represented Team U.S.A. internationally at the Pan-American Games, World Championships and Pan-Pacific Games. She is a Western Kentucky University school record holder where she was named Student Athlete of the Year in 2011.
Gordon Heins - Coaching
Gordon Heins was a football player for Central High School but his Hall of Fame worthy career is linked to coaching soccer. He coached club level soccer decades including the head men’s coach at Knoxville Catholic where he lead the team to multiple championships. Heins said the most important wins are the ones away from the game.
“It’s all passion right now, there’s no other reason. I’ve never been paid a penny to be coached, it’s not worth any amount of money someone could pay me,” said Heins.
In 2021 the United Soccer Coaches recognized Heins as a ‘high school coach of significance’ for the state of Tennessee.
“People will ask me if I had a successful season and I’ll look them in the eye and say, ‘I won’t know for 20 years,” he said.
He is now mentoring former University of Tennessee football players make the transition from the playing field to the real world.
Buck Jones - Track & Field
Buck Jones was the public address announcer for nearly all University of Tennessee track and cross country meets from 1982 to 2018.
“It was fun to do many of the track meets in the 80s when many of the football players took part. People know the name Willie Gault and Mike Miller and Sam Graddy, those people were all special,” said Jones.
During his time behind the mic, he called numerous SEC and Big 10 Championship meets, NCAA Regional meets and the 1992 Cross Country Championships.
“I always had an affinity for watching the pole vault because it was exciting. With two Olympic medalists with Tim Mack and Lawrence Johnson, those people were special to me as well,” he said.
Jones won the lifetime achievement award from UT Track and Field in 1995, the Governor’s Award for work with Tennessee Sportsfest and was named an honorary Tennessee letterman in 2005.
“It was a fun deal. I enjoyed every minute of it. Track meets are long, drawn-out affairs. I don’t think I could have gone into a press box and stayed there for 14 hours if it was not something I loved,” said Jones.
Jones spent 25 years as an associate professor of physical education and sport management until he retired. He currently serves as the official scorer for Tennessee basketball as he has done since 2004.
Sharrieffa Barksdale - Track & Field
A standout track star for the Lady Volunteers, Sharrieffa Barksdale was the first female ever to go under 55 seconds in the 400-meter-hurdles. She also held the American Record in that event. The 1984 Olympian finished 9th in the event at the games.
Barksdale represented Team U.S.A. around the world for more then 15 years. She still competes as a Masters athlete and serves as a coach, assistant manager and liaison for Team U.S.A. She even served as the assistant manager for the United States Olympic team in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
As big as her love for the sport is her love for outreach, working with kids. The Harriman native has a street named after her in her hometown. The high school track where she competed is named the “Sharrieffa Barksdale Track.”
Vance Link - Community Contributor
Every spring a new group of sluggers age seven and under takes the fields at Lakeshore and Sequoyah parks to play baseball. For the past 40 years, even as those children have grown up, moved away and come back with children of their own, the man on the pitcher’s mound has been the same. Vance Link began coaching the pee wee league in 1978. He was one of the original commissioners of the now Knox Youth Sports, still pitching more than 80 games a season and has thrown out hundreds of thousands of pitches throughout his career including to baseball legend Todd Helton and former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
Randy Sanders - Coaching
Guiding East Tennessee State University to its best season ever as head coach, Randy Sanders retired in 2021, finishing with a record of 26-17 as the leader of the Buccaneers. Before his time with the Bucs, Coach Sanders was with Florida State University during one of its most successful stretches, earning two ACC titles, an undefeated season and the 2013 BCS National Champions and a Heisman Trophy.
The Morristown native worked as offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky and coached the quarterbacks before his time at FSU. His playing days are rooted in Rocky Top, playing for the Vols from 1984 to 1988 before joining the coaching staff when the Big Orange won four SEC championships and a BCS National Title.
Jimmy Hyams - Media
His voice is perhaps just as familiar to East Tennessee sports fans as the athletes themselves. The sports director for WNML, Jimmy Hyams is the co-host of Sports Talk, Football Finals, the SEC Notebook, Sunday Sports Sound-Off, and is a regular guest on the Sunday morning TV sports show, The Sports Source. He has hosted a golf talk show for 22 years, been named Tennessee Sportswriter of the Year five times and has won more than 50 statewide writing awards. He is the only person in Tennessee to win Sportswriter and Sportscaster of the Year awards.
Hyams got his start in media at 16 years old, when he was named sports editor of his hometown paper, the Natchitoches Times. After his own successful career as an athlete, he has credited his older brothers for teaching him about sports, but said it was his mother, who raised the family on a teacher’s salary after his dad died in a car crash when Hyams was one year old, how to be be a good man.
Hyams serves Knoxville on several committees and was a member of the 2015 Leadership Knoxville class.
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