Oct. 24—ATLANTA — Moultrie's Ray Goff was one of 40 names inducted Saturday into the Class of 2023 for the Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the second year a ceremony was held.
Southwest Georgia was represented well in the 40. Besides Goff, area honorees were Mike Bobo and Guy McIntyre (both Thomasville High), Randall Godfrey (Lowndes), Bruce Bennett (Valdosta), Marcus Stroud (Brooks County), Al Pinkins (Mitchell-Baker), Charles Grant (Miller County), Charles Johnson (Hawkinsville) and Mackel Harris and Dan Reeves (both Americus).
Nearly all of the living inductees were able to be there in person for the ceremony, held once again at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame. Pinkins, now an assistant basketball coach at Ole Miss, was unable to be there because of a scrimmage game and sent in a video.
Bobo, current offensive coordinator for the University of Georgia, spoke none of the current college Bulldogs, or his playing days with them. Instead, he talked about the state's talent on the gridiron.
"How about Georgia high school football?," said Bobo. Looking at the list of inductees, Bobo mentioned Keith Henderson and Ray Donaldson as those he admired as a kid. Moving to Thomasville, it was Pinkins.
"I wore (No.) 14 because of Al Pinkins," he said. "Unbelievable — High school football."
Bobo thanked his father, George Bobo, who was his high school coach at Thomasville, and said many of his high school teammates were in attendance. Seeing others in Atlanta moved him. "DJ Shockley came up tonight," Bobo said. Shockley is another member of the Class of 2023. "I broke down in tears seeing him. Rennie Curran, Jarvis Jones, Marcus Stroud, Charles Johnson. High school sports in Georgia is where it's at."
As a THS Bulldog, Bobo was the USA Today Georgia Player of the Year. He was UGA's starting quarterback during his four-year career at the university. Besides his time in Athens, Bobo was also former head coach at Colorado State.
Thomasville High's second inductee this year, McIntyre, spoke soon after Bobo.
Asked how his time in Thomasville prepared him for life beyond the Rose City, McIntyre said, "I had some great coaches. One of the greatest coaches is Coach James Bryant. He coached my mom, he coached Charlie Ward's dad, and he was very, very instrumental in my life." Bryant coached at Douglass and later at Thomasville High.
With Thomasville, McIntyre was an All-American. At Georgia, he played offensive tackle and was a member of the 1980 national championship team. A third round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, he played for three Super Bowl champions and was named to five Pro Bowls over his 13 years in the NFL.
McIntyre also had many of his former high school teammates in attendance, and mentioned GHSA executive director Robin Hines, who had a long history of being an assistant coach in the state.
Godfrey is the first Lowndes player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was asked about how his days as a Viking shaped him.
"It's just the community," Godfrey said. "There is nothing like the Winnersville Classic," he said, mentioning Stan Rome and Buck Belue. "Just to represent our city is unbelievable. "When you get 10[,000] to 15,000 fans in a stadium on Friday night, it gives you chill bumps." Those games, Godfrey said, kept them motivated.
"There is nothing like coming from Lowndes County, that community, and how they embrace football," he said. Godfrey said his mother died recently. "She's been with me a long time," he said.
With the Vikings, Godfrey was a Super 11 Atlanta Journal-Constitution player and a USA All-American pick. As a true freshman, he led the Georgia Bulldogs in tackles and later made two All-SEC teams. He was a second round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1996 and played in the NFL for 12 years for five teams. Godfrey was second team All-Pro in 2000. He's been involved with several charitable organizations.
Goff did not speak onstage. He was awarded his jacket, plaque and medallion at his seat. Bennett, who passed in 2021, was represented at the ceremony by family.
After playing on both sides of the ball for Moultrie (becoming the first Packer to ever throw for 300 yards in a game), Goff became the SEC's Offensive Player of the Year while quarterbacking Georgia and helped lead the Bulldogs to the Sugar Bowl. He became Georgia's head coach in 1989, replacing legendary Vince Dooley, and went 46-34-1.
Bennett was under center for Valdosta during one of its most successful runs, winning state championships in 1960 and 1961. Bennett earned All-State and All-American honors.
He played safety for Florida, featuring on two All-America teams and was later named to the Gators' Athletic Hall of Fame. Undrafted by NFL teams, Bennett played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League and was a multiple time All-Star in that league. He won the Grey Cup with Saskatchewan in 1966.
There were plenty of highlights from other inductees.
After reading off Buzy Rosenberg's post-football accomplishments — which included a win on American Gladiators in his 40s — Rosenberg was challenged to do push-ups on stage. Rosenberg effortlessly did so.
Jeff Saturday was kidded about his jump from coaching high school football at Dacula's Hebron Christian to his brief stint with the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Grant brought two of his former coaches to the stage with him, Alan Ingram and Tim Martin.
"I didn't have a father in my life," Grant explained. "My mama was the best role model I know and she gave me everything I had. I appreciate her for that." Grant said he had many mentors in life, including Takeo Spikes, who was inducted in 2022.
Grant said he wanted to give his coaches flowers for their role in his life. Ingram, he said, has worked with many kids. "I don't think he gets the blessing he deserves," said Grant. "I want to thank you for teaching me to walk as a man and always move forward in life, no matter what the situation is."
Martin, he said, woke him up very early every day and make him run three miles. Grant said his mother did not have a car. "Coach Tim taught me how to drive. Coach Tim taught me how to walk, talk like a man. How to stand for family principles and morals."
"I want to give both of you a rose, and tell you that I love you," Grant said. "Welcome to the Georgia High School Hall of Fame."
Many others spoke of the impact of their community, many echoing that it took that village to make them the players and men they became.
Also honored was Raymond "Tweet" Williams, believed to be the oldest living coach to have won a state championship. Williams, who recently turned 97, led the (now-defunct) Turner Wolves to the 1954 GIA Class AA state crown.
Inductees came from all eras of Georgia high school football, from before the GHSA recognized state gridiron champions in 1947 (expanding in 1948 to all classifications). Two players were inducted from the Georgia Interscholastic Association, which served athletes at segregated African American high schools from 1948-70.
Many players had active cheering sections from them, with especially big groups representing Spencer High School (for Ernie Green) and the former Southwest High of Atlanta, for the late Anthony Flanagan. Players currently active on teams from Sumter County and Cartersville were in attendance as well. Sumter's head coach, Will Rogers, accepted the award for Reeves.
The full list of inductees were Julius Adams (Ballard-Hudson), Jeff Backus (Norcross), Bennett (Valdosta), Bobo (Thomasville), Reggie Brown (Carrollton), Ronnie Brown (Cartersville), Quincy Carter (Southwest DeKalb), Curran (Brookwood), John Davis (Gilmer), Donaldson (East Rome), Flanagan (Southwest), Godfrey (Lownes), Goff (Moultrie), Charles Grant (Miller County), Deon Grant (T.W. Josey), Green (Spencer), Harris (Americus), Bill Hartman Sr. (Georgia Military Prep), Billy Henderson (Lanier, Macon), Keith Henderson (Cartersville), Eddie Lee Ivery (Thomson), Johnson (Hawkinsville), Jones (Carver, Columbus), Jamal Lewis (Douglass), Billy Lothridge (Gainesville), McIntyre (Thomasville), Adam Meadows (McEachern), Pinkins (Mitchell-Baker), Reeves (Americus), Pepper Rodgers (Brown), Rosenberg (Northside, Atlanta), Lucius Stanford (West Fulton), Saturday (Shamrock), Shockley (North Clayton), Vernon "Catfish" Smith (Lanier, Macon), Jon Stinchcomb (Parkview), Stroud (Brooks County), Ken Swilling (Stephens County), Pat Swilling (Stephens County), Scott Woerner (Jonesboro)