After a standout baseball career at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, Ryan Coe went to Middle Georgia, which was then a junior college, but left there after a year and was wondering where to go next.
Coach Steve Longley called him about coming to Cleveland State, and Coe decided to give the Cougars a try.
"That was probably the best decision I ever made," Coe said Saturday at Cleveland Country Club when he was inducted into the Cleveland State Cougar Athletic Hall of Fame along with seven other people.
He had an All-American season for Cleveland State in 1992 and went on to All-America status also and a national championship at Kennesaw State, followed by a professional playing career and success as an assistant coach at KSU. Then he got into scouting and now works the East Coast for the Texas Rangers.
The Dallas, Ga., resident has had seven of his former Kennesaw players and one he scouted, Justin Grimm from the University of Georgia, reach the major leagues.
"Playing for Coach Longley was one of the best experiences of my life," Coe said.
That was kind of a theme of the event, as master of ceremonies Dewayne Williams noted: "parents and coaches."
One set of parents, in fact, stood in at the induction for their son, C.T. Hardison, a Cougars tennis standout in 1989. He's now a company vice president in Kansas City, Mo., living nearby in Kansas, but he sent remarks of appreciation that were read by his father.
Hardison, who played for Bob Taylor, said attending Cleveland State and being part of its sports program was like being in "a neighborhood of friends."
Carla Northcutt-Glick, who works for AT&T and lives in Tullahoma where her husband heads the parks and recreation department, referred to her Lady Cougars basketball coach, Rusty Melvin, as a father figure for the program. She averaged 19.5 points, 5.6 assists and 4.5 steals as a 1993-94 Lady Cougar and went on to play at Mississippi State, but she had chosen not to play her senior season at Grundy County.
"But Rusty stuck with me," she said.
Josh Coley (2001-03) was effusive in his praise for his Cougars golf coach, Jason Sewell, and the seemingly endless drills Sewell demanded. Coley, who had come from Central High in Harrison and now lives in Mount Juliet, said he continued many of the drills as he played for Lee University and then tried pro golf for four years.
Another All-American inductee for baseball, Doug Beard from Rhea County — now living in Knoxville — thanked his Cougars coach, Wayne Norfleet, for the discipline he taught that Beard and his teammates admittedly didn't enjoy at the time. The 1983-84 CSCC slugger went on to play at East Tennessee State.
Haley Carroll played a year of basketball at CSCC but starred in softball and has continued in the sport as a youth team coach and giving pitching and batting lessons. She went to Tennessee Wesleyan from the Lady Cougars and still lives in Athens, where she works for Family and Children's Services.
Tony Fox was inducted for meritorious service for his 36 years working at the community college. He's the custodial maintenance supervisor and oversees the school's athletic facilities, and he got a standing ovation from the CSCC staff members present. He in turn praised the many coaches with whom he's worked for their cooperation.
Fox was the final inductee Saturday. The first one, Bethel Hendricks III, was accompanied by a large group of enthusiastic family and friends. Now a field service representative for Satellites Unlimited in Chattanooga with a son starring in basketball at Baylor, he came to CSCC as a "last-minute" basketball recruit for Roby Phillips with Knoxville teammate Brian Hartsell.
In his 1987-89 career, he became the region-tournament MVP for the Cougars team that went to the national tournament. Then he "sat out a few years" but went to Alabama A&M and earned Division II All-America honorable mention.
One thing he specifically mentioned that Phillips taught was the "secondary break," which he had never heard of.
"But when I saw it, I felt the secondary break was designed for me," he said. "I knew if I beat my teammates down the floor, I'd be the one getting the ball."
He was first a lot, just as he was Saturday.
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.