Congratulations to the following members of the Inaugural Class of the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame
Nationally, the name Tommy West resonates in the coaching world, but in Gainesville, where West played three sports for the Red Elephants from 1969-1972, he’s known as one of the greatest all-around athletes to ever don the red and white. West earned four letters in three different sports at GHS (football, basketball, and baseball), and thanks to his exploits on the football field, had his No. 12 jersey retired upon graduation. During his football career, the Red Elephants never lost a region game and twice finished as state runners-up, with West earning All-Southern and All-American honors. In basketball, West was a three-time defensive player of the year for Big Red, earning Lanierland MVP in 1972. And in baseball, West was a four-year starter, standout enough to be a fifth-round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs out of high school. West had more than 50 colleges vying for his talents out of high school, he chose the University of Tennessee, where he played football and baseball. He made 32 consecutive starts for the Vols’ football team, and earned All-SEC honors in 1975, before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the diamond, West was a two-year letterman and was named All-SEC in 1974. When his time in Knoxville was up, West turned his attention to coaching, where he became head football coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Clemson, and Memphis. Along with his induction into the Gainesville Athletic Sports Hall of Fame, West is also a member of the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
THOMAS PARIS SR.
It’s a rare feat, earning four letters in one sport, it’s unheard of to earn four letters in four sports, but that’s exactly what Thomas Paris Sr., did during his four years at Gainesville High School (1922-1926). Named the “16-Letter Man,” Paris played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track and field. He quarterbacked the now-known Red Elephants to a 29-0 record in his last three years of high school, serving as captain of the team for two years. Paris also captained the baseball team for two years and the basketball team for three years. It was in track and field, however, that he made his biggest mark, earning a district title in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and a state championship in the hurdles in 1924, running a time that stood as a state record for 25 years. When his illustrious high school career ended, Paris went to to play quarterback at the University of Georgia, starting for the Bulldogs in 1926. He played in the inaugural game at Sanford Stadium in 1929, where the Bulldogs upset Yale 15-0. After graduating from UGA, Paris went on to be actively involved in not only the community that gave him his athletic start, but the college that continued it. He was an integral part in the construction of the Chattahoochee Golf Course – the Red Elephants current home course – in 1958, serving as Greens Chairman. He also served on the University of Georgia’s Athletic Board for many years, starting in 1962, and had a heavy hand in the school hiring a then unknown assistant from Auburn, Vince Dooley. Along with his induction into the Gainesville Athletic Sports Hall of Fame, Paris was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1961.
Despite attending Gainesville High School for only two years (2000-2002), Micah Owings stomp as a Red Elephant athlete is indelible. Owings earned two letters in basketball and baseball, helping Gainesville to two state semifinals on the hardcourt while leading Big Red to back-to-back state titles on the diamond. Owings, who still holds the state home run record having hit 69 over his career (then just one shy of the national record), was named MVP for Gainesville’s baseball team in each of his two years. However, the accolades didn’t end at GHS as he also earned All-Region, All-District, All-State, Georgia State Player of the Year, and All-American honors in 2001 and 2002. As a senior, Owings hit .448 with 25 home runs while going 12-1 on the mound with a 1.03 ERA, 121 strikeouts, and just three walks in 75 innings. A second-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies out of high school, Owings opted for college where he was named to the Freshman All-American team and second-team All-American (2003) out of Georgia Tech. Owings also earned All-ACC honors in 2003 and 2004, was Player of the Year for the ACC in 2004, and an All-American. A transfer for the 2005 season to Tulane didn’t stop the dual-threat hitter and pitcher known for an unwavering work ethic, as Owings was named Conference USA Player of the Year in 2005 while leading the Green Wave to the College World Series. Mirroring the aftermath of his illustrious high school career, Owings was a third-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks after three years in college. On Aug. 18, 2007, Owings became the only pitcher in Major League history to have four hits, four runs, and six RBI in the same game as he led his team to a win against the Atlanta Braves. He earned a Silver Slugger Award that same year. Along with his induction into the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame, Owings was inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Tulane University Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
For generations of Red Elephants, the first name that comes to mind when Gainesville High Football – and the tradition therein – is being discussed, is coach Bobby Gruhn. Before he took the helm of the Gainesville football program in 1963, coach Gruhn had already ingratiated himself in the school and community – and met his wife Jean – serving as a teacher and coach at GHS beginning 1954. From 1963-1992, coach Gruhn put Gainesville football on the proverbial map, amassing a 256-103-5 record with 23 consecutive winning seasons while winning four North Georgia Championships, 19 sub-region titles, and 17 region titles. It should be noted that with Gruhn as head coach, the Red Elephants also made nine trips to the state quarterfinals, 11 state semifinals, and four state finals. While a football state title eluded the legendary coach, golf was a different story as he led the Gainesville boys’ team to three state championships, and was named National Golf Coach of the Year in 1982. The assumption that Gruhn’s coaching prowess stopped on the gridiron and links is mistaken, the man whose name was forever linked to the field on which the Red Elephants play football in 1985, also took two boys’ basketball teams to the state finals. Gruhn’s love of Gainesville and Red Elephants’ athletics ran deep, so much so that building an entire athletics program was just as important to him as building his own good teams: he was named Athletic Director of the Year for the State of Georgia in 1993, one year after retiring as head coach of the football team. Along with his induction in the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame, coach Gruhn was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008, and is a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Greatest of all time is arguable and fleeting, but when it comes to girls’ basketball at Gainesville High School, Tasha Humphrey is simply the greatest to ever wear a Lady Red Elephants’ jersey. Humphrey played for Manson Hill and the girls’ basketball teams from 2001-2004, and spearheaded a run of dominance that included a 114-15 record, three state championships (2001, 2003, 2004), and one state runner-up finish (2002). The team achievements over her four years are staggering, but what Humphrey accomplished individually is what sets her apart: Three-time Miss Georgia basketball (2001, 2003, 2004), Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year (2003, 2004), three-time Parade All-American, 2004 McDonald’s All-American, 2004 WBCA All-American, and 2004 USA Pan-AM Games gold medalist with the 19-under team. When her basketball career at Gainesville was complete, Humphrey landed in the top-three in Lady Red Elephants’ history in scoring (2,663) and rebounding (1,228). Upon graduation, Humphrey attended the University of Georgia to play for legendary coach Andy Landers, and impacted that program much like she did Gainesville’s. In four years for the Lady Bulldogs, Humphrey earned National and SEC Freshman of the Year honors (2005), was a four-time Associated Press All-American and first-team All-SEC performer, and finished her career as the second-leading scorer (2,272) and fourth-leading rebounder (1,080) in Georgia women’s basketball history. Her four-time, first-team All-SEC honors made her one of only three players in league history to be named to the conference’s first team in each of her four seasons. Humphrey was drafted 11th overall in the 2008 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock, playing for Washington and Minnesota as well before retiring from the game. Along with her induction into the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame, Humphrey is a member of the Northeast Georgia Hall of fame and in 2017, was named an SEC Legend.
Gainesville High School has known its fair share of multi-sport athletes, but there aren’t many who can claim to have had the impact that Cris Carpenter had. A star in football, basketball, and baseball for the Red Elephants from 1980-1984, Carpenter led teams to unprecedented, and not-seen-again, heights. As starting quarterback for coach Bobby Gruhn, Carpenter led Gainesville to three state semifinals (1981, 1982, 1983), and one state runner-up finish (1983). He was named an All-State quarterback and punter his senior year. As a starting guard for Jerry Davis and the Gainesville boys’ basketball team, Carpenter was not only named first-team All-State, but helped Gainesville to a state runner-up finish in 1982, and the program’s only state titles in 1983 and 1984. In 1984, Carpenter was voted to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s football and basketball all-star teams and was Georgia State Athlete of the Year. For all he accomplished in football and basketball, it was baseball that was considered Carpenter’s “best sport,” and the one in which he would excel at the next level. A dual-sport athlete at Georgia, Carpenter earned two letters in football as UGA’s first scholarship punter, and earned an All-SEC honor as well (his punting average of 42.8 yards per punt still ranks second in school history). But in baseball, where Carpenter earned three letters, he was a two-time All-American (1986, 1987) led Georgia to its first-ever College World Series appearance in 1987. It was also in 1987 that Carpenter became just the third Bulldog chosen in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft when he was selected 14th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. He still remains the fastest Cardinal in history to make his Major League debut after being drafted (346 days). Carpenter also played for the Florida Marlins and Texas Rangers before retiring. Along with his induction into the Gainesville Athletic Hall of Fame, Carpenter is a member of the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and in 2016, was named an SEC Baseball Legend.
From the humble beginnings of a red-clay, nine-hold pseudo golf course that now resides under Lake Lanier, to golf glory in 1973 at Augusta National, Tommy Aaron’s journey to greatness was self-inspired. A two-sport standout in football and basketball during his time at Gainesville High School (1952-1956), Aaron spent his downtime honing a craft that led to a green jacket by hitting tee shots at New Holland Mill, as Gainesville did not have a suitable golf course, much less a golf team. In 1954, Aaron advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. National Junior Championships and the following year (1955), won a Class A individual state title representing GHS and the first of his three Georgia Opens (1955, 1960, 1975). After high school, Aaron attended the University of Florida where he won the 1957 and 1958 Southeastern Conference individual titles and was runner-up in the 1958 U.S. Amateur. His amateur play, which also included wins in two Georgia Amateurs, two Southeastern Amateurs, and one Western Amateur, earned him the right to represent the United States in the 1959 Walker Cup Match, where the U.S. beat amateur teams from the British Isles. Aaron joined the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour in 1961, and from that time until 1973, he placed in the top-60 on the tour’s list of money earners. Aaron’s first professional victory came in the 1969 Canadian Open, where his eighteen-hole playoff win over Sam Snead earned him a place on his first Ryder Cup team, a team he would make for a second time following his win at The Masters in 1973. During his career, Aaron was the only player to win the Georgia Amateur and Georgia Open in two years, the only native Georgian to win The Masters, and both of his PGA victories (he finished second in 14 tournaments) came in Georgia (he won the 1970 Atlanta Classic). In 1987, Aaron joined the PGA Senior Tour, winning his only tournament at the 1992 Kaanapali Classic in Hawaii. In 2000, at age 63, he became the oldest player to make the 36-hold cut at The Masters. Along with his induction into the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame, Aaron is also a member of the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.
1957 FAIR STREET FOOTBALL
In the late 1950s, Thursday nights at City Park were reserved for the Fair Street Tigers, and the boys put on a show, amassing a 20-game win streak that ran from Oct. 11, 1956 to Nov. 21, 1958. Led by coach Elbert (E.L.) Cabbell, the 1956 and 1957 Tiger teams rose to rarefied air, serving as the only Gainesville football teams to win back-to-back state titles. The 1956 team beat Evans County 27-0 at City Park to capture the Class B crown, while the 1957 team beat Thomasville 13-7 for the Class A title, thanks in large part to a game-winning touchdown by star running back Eugene Carrithers. With captain Cecil Young at quarterback, fellow captain Carrithers, Clifford Stephens, and Ellis Cantrell anchoring the backfield, wide receivers Eddie Strickland and Arthur Moss, and a host of linemen that included Clarance “Big Hanes” Niles, John Keith, William Johnson, and Cluster Smith, the 1956 team outscored opponents 386-44, while the 1957 team outscored its opponents 271-33. The 1957 team went 12-0, avenging its only loss of the 1956 season by defeating Corry High of Greensboro 20-0. Along with being inducted into the Gainesville Athletics Hall of Fame, Fair Street football was honored by the Gainesville City Council in 2015 as they named the athletic field in front of Gainesville Middle School “Elbert L. Cabbell Field,” in honor of the Tigers legendary coach.