The third annual Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honored six deserving Gwinnett graduates who excelled as athletes this weekend.
Taking place May 5 at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, this year’s ceremony included a roster of inductees: former Brookwood High School and Falcons placekicker Jason Elam; one-time South Gwinnett and University of Georgia quarterback David Greene; Wesleyan’s longtime basketball coach Jan Azar; and all-around athlete Susan Brandau Hawkins, wrestler Scott Hage, and Coach Karl Bostick, who are all honorees with ties to Parkview.
“We are fortunate to have so many who excelled in sports,” remarked GCPS Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. “We also appreciate what the foundation does to support the school system.”
Jan Azar, introduced by Wesleyan Athletic Director Marc Khedouri, has taken her Lady Wolves to eight state championships and is, as Khedouri noted, “the only coach we’ve had since the school opened 16 years ago.”
Azar is known for her feisty attitude towards officials, which is “no doubt a result of her red hair,” Khedouri said.
Karl Bostick was introduced by GCPS Athletic Director Mike Emery, who said, “Karl was someone I watched and looked up to when I first joined the fellowship of Athletic Directors.”
Bostick in turn thanked Emery, the foundation and his family, especially his two daughters Kelly and Elizabeth, whom he said, “lived and breathed orange in the days when we were all about Parkview.”
Bostick told the crowd that coaching is "not about just the wins, but the process of getting those wins.”
Susan Brandau Hawkins, introduced by Coach Mike Lee, could have, “played baseball anywhere,” he said. “But choose basketball at Duke.”
“Thanks go out to my coaches and my parents,” shared Hawkins, who played at Parkview, “especially my Dad for taking me to the field and making me hit balls down this line then that line!”
Hawkins resides in Nashville, Tenn., and is the “coach of their four children,” commented her husband, Chad.
Scott Hage, also hailing from Parkview, was introduced by Coach Dennis Stromie commenting that, “Scott went on to wrestle in college with a scholarship at a top-20 level, that’s unheard of from a student in Georgia.”
Hage also served in the military for a tour of active duty and now coaches in Clarksburg West Virginia at the high school level. Hage remarked that he was “humbled and honored at being included,” believing, “wrestling is a unique sport that requires skills that apply to success in life.”
David Greene was introduced by former UGA and NFL player, Matt Stinchcomb, and although his younger brother Jon "Versed" Greene in high school (Greene donned a South Gwinnett jersey and Stinchcomb was a Parkview Panther), the two became teammates at the University of Georgia. Today, the three former college stars host a children's charity event each year at UGA called Countdown to Kickoff.
“[He's] a level of excellence as a quarterback but is an even better man,” Stinchcomb said of Greene.
Greene appeared to relish the evening’s festivities with his wife Veronica, their children, his parents and several neighbors.
“I am excited to have so many people here with me today," Greene said. “I remember the first year I made the cut at South Gwinnett and our record was 0-10!"
His career includes a notable start as quarterback for UGA in the Tennessee, "hobnail boot" game, SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2001, and a Sugar Bowl victory in 2002.
Greene was drafted into the NFL in 2005 by the Seattle Seahawks but returned to regular life in 2008 as an insurance partner with Stinchcomb. He resides in Gwinnett.
Jason Elam was introduced by Coach Dave Hunter under whom he played high school football at Brookwood. Elam’s lengthy biography includes being tied with Charles Dempsey and Sebastian Janikowski, who holds the NFL’s record for the longest placekick of 63 yards.
Unable to attend the event because of the distance to travel as well as a grueling travel schedule his ministry work "E-3" requires of him, Elam spoke via video message congratulating the other inductees and encouraging current students to “never give up on their dreams."
Although the foundation specifically wishes the honorees to attend, Elam was excused and was noted as being very deserving.
The inductees who could attend were announced on the field between innings of the Gwinnett Braves game as they fell to Charlotte, under the glow of the super moon, 11 to 2. Fans cheered on their local sports heroes who waved and smiled relishing the evening’s honors.
The 2012 group joins the ranks of former inductees whose banners grace the suite-level hallway at the stadium including 1940s boxer Ezzard Charles, NFL player George Rogers, and 1919 World Series winning catcher, Ivey Wingo.
Foundation President David Seago began the evening by welcoming the inductees and their many guests, family, former players and coaches. Seago reminded those gathered that the foundation is a non-profit, with the goal of benefitting academic initiatives, scholarships and grants.
“Because of cuts in state funding opportunities, the community must step up with support,” noted Aaron Lupoloff one of the foundation’s board members. “Every demographic of student in public schools, black or white, rich or poor, should have the same opportunities to things like Advanced Placement testing whether or not they can afford to pay certain fees.”
The foundation will continue each year to add the names of former students who set an example to the Sports Hall of Fame. Graduates, who, as Mike Emery put it, “not only excel at sports but at life.”