Joe Burns among 30 named to Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame

May 24—ATLANTA — Former Thomas County Central running back Joe Burns was among 30 elected into the third Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame class announced this week.

A four-time Player of the Year on Associated Press and Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-State lists, Burns' Yellow Jackets teams went 29-1 and won two titles for Ed Pilcher his junior and senior seasons, the lone loss to Colquitt County. Burns turned in 5,006 rushing yards for his high school days and an average yards per carry of 9.3. No slouch in other roles, he returned four kicks for touchdowns and had 68 total touchdowns.

At Georgia Tech, Burns was named first team All-ACC in 2001 and had 2,634 career rushing yards. Though undrafted, Burns played four NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

Other Southern Georgia players making the Class of 2024 are George Atkinson (Sol C. Johnson), Thomas Davis (Randolph-Clay), Lauren Hargrove (Fitzgerald), Tommy Hart (Ballard-Hudson), Len Hauss (Wayne County), Kent Hill (Americus), Leonard Pope (Americus), Demaryius Thomas (West Laurens) and Ben Zambiasi (Mount de Sales).

Valdosta State was the collegiate home of another selection, Jessie Tuggle.

An all-time great for the Atlanta Falcons, then-Valdosta State College signed Tuggle out of Griffin High for VSC's second ever season playing football. With the Blazers, Tuggle was named All-America as a senior. He was inducted into the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. Tuggle's No. 88 is retired by VSU.

Undrafted out of Valdosta State, the Falcons signed Tuggle, where all he did was lead the NFL in total tackles four times and make five Pro Bowls. Tuggle played in Atlanta's first Super Bowl appearance. He was in the inaugural class of Atlanta's Ring of Honor.

Hargrove earned Wigwam Wiseman All-American in 1948 at Fitzgerald, scoring more than 60 touchdowns as a Purple Hurricane. Until recently, the 1948 team was the only football state champion in Fitzgerald history.

From Fitzgerald, Hargrove landed at the University of Georgia, where he set a then-school record with 167 rushing yards in a single game. Green Bay selected him in the eighth round NFL Draft pick in 1953 — No. 92 overall — but he did not play professionally.

Pope, a notable tight end at Georgia, played for current Tiftarea Academy head coach Erik Soliday on Soliday's two state champion teams at Americus. He scored 11 touchdowns over seven NFL seasons.

Selections cover a variety of eras in Georgia football, with the oldest honoree being Everett Strupper, whose senior season at Riverside Military was 1913. Four players will be inducted from the Georgia Interscholastic Association, which fielded all-Black teams from 1948-70.

Others making the Class of 2024 are: Tray Blackmon (LaGrange), Jeff Bower (Roswell), Frank Broyles (Decatur), Edgar Chandler (Cedartown), Jonathan Dwyer (Kell), David Greene (South Gwinnett), Terry Harvey (Dacula), Silas Jamison (Washington, Atlanta), Alfred Jenkins (Hogansville), Homer Jordan (Cedar Shoals), Robert Lavette (Cartersville), Hutson Mason (Lassiter), Bill Mayo (Dalton), Jerry Mays (Thomson), Alec Ogletree (Newnan), Jack Pitts (Trinity), David Rocker (Fulton) and Andy Spiva (Chamblee).

This year's Hall of Fame ceremony will be Oct. 26 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Score Atlanta administers the Hall of Fame.

Becky Taylor is a member of the Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame committee.