Catawba adds six to Sports Hall of Fame
By Mike London
The Catawba Sports Hall of Fame inducted six new members, including a pair of kickers, in ceremonies held Saturday afternoon at the Abernethy Physical Education Center.
“Two placekickers on the same day?” roared new inductee Tom Sexton. “That has to be a first for any Hall of Fame anywhere.”
Sexton, a kicking wonder in the 1970s, entered the Hall alongside 1980s booter Randy Brown, who broke many of Sexton’s school records.
All-time Catawba sacks leader Todd Lipe and basketball All-American Marvin Moore joined the Hall with emotional, heartfelt speeches. Lipe, who stole the show with his humor, playfully tossed Moore a handful of Kleenex to help him persevere.
Selena Wilkes Tory, a volleyball All-American who is Catawba’s all-time leader in service aces, was the last to speak. Henry Bernhardt, a Catawba graduate and avid Indians fan who founded the Chiefs Club and was instrumental in forming the Sports Hall of Fame, led off the program.
Bernhardt explained that in the 1970s there was serious discussion about de-emphasizing football at Catawba, maybe doing away with it completely.
The C.H.I.E.F.S. (Catawba Hundreds In Each Football Season) Club was his solution to a financial crisis. Decades later, Catawba football remains the centerpiece of a thriving athletic program, and the Chiefs are now 532 strong.
“Thank goodness no Catawba team ever had to rely on my athletic talents,” Bernhardt said, drawing chuckles.
His contributions as a Tribe supporter for 70 years still make him a worthy Hall addition.
Tory turned down a full ride at Maryland to play volleyball for the Indians and was one of the top setters in school history. An amazing all-round athlete, she also made contributions to basketball and softball teams. She was a good enough golfer to play professionally, but Catawba didn’t have a women’s golf team when she was on campus.
Moore came from the humblest roots of all the new inductees. He was raised in Hertford County in a household short on material extras but long on spiritual strength. His mother was the most important person in his success story.
“Every day is Mother’s Day for me,” Moore said.
It didn’t take Moore as long to get ready for church as his sisters so he used that time to shoot a worn-out basketball at a rim with no net.
Practice paid off. He became a SAC Player of the Year for coach Jim Baker. He averaged 21.7 points a game in 1999 and ranks third all-time in the SAC with 522 assists. Professor Karl Hales introduced Moore with a long recitation of Moore’s numbing career numbers.
“I’m listening to all that and thinking, ‘Wow, who is that dude?” Moore joked.
Now an assistant principal at Dole Elementary as well as a Catawba assistant, Moore offered a modest explanation for his tall stack of assists.
“My teammate Terrence Hamilton could jump very high and had very good hands,” he said. “He made a lot of bad passes look good.”
Lipe has been part of a football team since he was in second grade. Even though the gridiron has been his permanent passion, he’s now a respected social studies teacher as well as head football coach at Rose High in Greenville, N.C.
No one who knew Lipe when he was an indifferent student at East Rowan could have predicted he’d become an energetic educator, but Catawba gave him an opportunity to discover he possessed talents beyond crushing quarterbacks.
Lipe explained that when he arrived at Catawba as one of 107 freshman football candidates he was under the radar and on “double-secret probation” because of a checkered academic history.
He developed into a pass-rushing machine for the football team, returning from a blown-out knee to make All-America twice. He registered 29 sacks, but his “sack-dance” was perhaps the most subdued in football history.
“I’d look for my shadow on the ground,” Lipe said. “That was my celebration. I always took pride in being humble. Even now, if one of my players thumps his chest, he’s going to be standing on the sideline next to me.”
As good as he was in football, Lipe is prouder he succeeded academically. He had an interest in history dating back to receiving a book on the Civil War when he was 7. He pursued his degree in that field, rather than P.E., mostly for the challenge. He made the Dean’s List six times.
“It was always in me,” Lipe said.
The kickers also excelled in the classroom. Sexton has been a celebrated teacher of the year as well as a successful soccer, baseball, football and swimming coach at Salisbury High, while Brown is now the mayor of Evesham Township, New Jersey.
Sexton came to Catawba through a fluke chain of events. Former Catawba coach Bill Faircloth was in Florida on a recruiting trip that didn’t pan out. On the way to the airport, he saw the lights of a stadium and stopped in on a whim. He watched Sexton kick a game-winner.
Sexton didn’t cost Catawba an arm and a leg. He got $800 ó $500 to kick footballs, another $300 to play soccer.
Among other things, he kicked five field goals and three PATS in one game against Carson-Newman. He also kicked a record field goal with the unintentional assistance of an offensive guard who moved early, drew a penalty and turned a 48-yard attempt into a 53-yard try.
Brown was asked to walk on by North Carolina and Wake Forest, but he wound up at Catawba despite a disastrous kicking tryout in wintry weather.
“I worked out wearing size 11s, and I wore size 8s,” Brown said. “But Catawba offered $500 and no else offered anything so I said, ‘Hey, I’m down there.’ ”
It was $500 well-spent. Brown ripped the record-book page for Catawba kickers out of the media guide and hung it up next to his bed. The guy he was chasing for just about every mark was Sexton. Brown amassed 40 field goals and 114 extra points. One season, he went a perfect 32-for-32 on PATs.
The kickers met toe-to-toe this weekend for the first time, and Brown offered the wisest words on a day filled with magic, misty eyes and memories.
“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal,” he said.
Six who managed to keep their eyes on the goal joined a select fraternity of 153 on Saturday. Welcoming them were dozens of living legends, including Joe Ferebee, Vern Benson and Sam Moir.