Hall of Fame ceremony was a treat for this sports fan

Sunday, October 26, 2003

As a lifelong sports fan -- maybe fanatic would be a better term -- I have always looked up to and admired top-level athletes.

That's why I was like a kid in a candy store Saturday afternoon attending Southeast Missouri State University's second annual Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It was a rare opportunity for me -- I also had the chance last year during Southeast's inaugural induction ceremony -- to mingle and rub elbows with some of the school's all-time great athletes, who also just happen to be totally classy people.

There was Kermit "Moose" Meystedt, a basketball standout who dominated defenders in the mid-1960s. The local product who starred at Central High School once scored 52 points in a game for the Indians -- a school record that still stands.

There was Walter Smallwood, a speedy running back who sprinted away from the opposition in the mid-to-late 1960s, setting school records for touchdowns in a game (5), season (16) and career (38) that still stand. I interviewed him in Carbondale, Ill., in 1994 after his career rushing yardage mark was broken by Kelvin Anderson against SIU. Walter, who also starred in track at Southeast, seemed genuinely happy that "Earthquake" had surpassed his record, which says a lot about him.

There was Curtis Williams, another Central High School product who shined in basketball and track in the mid-1960s and was the first African-American student-athlete at Southeast.

And there were many others who have been mentioned in articles during the past several days. I tried to talk to as many as I could and listened intently to all of those in attendance as they addressed the impressive gathering at the Show Me Center.

The school is to be commended for holding a classy reception and induction ceremony for the second year in a row. Special kudos to Rich Eichhorst, Hall of Fame committee chairman, and financial contributor John Bierk. Those two have been largely responsible for making the Hall of Fame a reality. Also props to Ron Hines, who contributes plenty of time toward the event and served as Saturday's master of ceremonies.

All in all, I had a blast hanging with and interviewing those elite athletes, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. I hope to have the privilege for many years to come.

The opening week of district play for area high school football teams featured some interesting results, not the least of which was Central's 44-19 demolition of visiting Sikeston.

That Central beat Sikeston was not at all surprising. But the margin of victory certainly was, given the way the Tigers had been struggling in recent weeks. Most people expected a close game and quite a few would probably not have been surprised had the Bulldogs prevailed.

By virtue of Poplar Bluff's undefeated season so far, the Mules just might have replaced Central as the Class 4, District 1 favorite.

But the Tigers proved against Sikeston that they are not likely to give up their three-year hold on the district title without a major fight. Central's game at Poplar Bluff on the final date of the regular season is shaping up as a titanic struggle.

And how about Jackson and St. Vincent, to name just two other local winners of district openers.

Jackson looked all but beaten at Parkway Central, trailing 28-6 midway through the fourth quarter. But an amazing comeback netted a stirring 34-28 victory that figures to keep the Indians in the district race until the end.

St. Vincent pulled off a major upset, stunning state-ranked Hayti 27-0 on the road. St. Vincent now has a clear path to the playoffs.

You've got to hand it to Missouri's football team. The Tigers looked pretty down and out after being humbled at Kansas a few weeks ago.

But the Tigers have bounced back in a big way, posting impressive wins over Nebraska and Texas Tech while losing only to Oklahoma since that setback to the Jayhawks.

Saturday's 62-31 blistering of potent Texas Tech -- led by quarterback Brad Smith's unbelievable day that featured 291 rushing yards and a school-record five touchdowns -- made the Tigers eligible for a bowl game for the first time under coach Gary Pinkel.

And at 6-2 with several winnable games remaining, the Tigers might just end up having quite a season.

The Rams passed a major test and continued to impress by rolling past the Packers last Sunday.

All right, we know that St. Louis is really good at home because that's where all four of its wins have come this year. What we still don't know is whether the Rams are any good on the road, because that's where both their losses have been.

But Rams' fans will find out soon enough about what direction this promising season might take. St. Louis plays four of its next five games away from home, beginning today with a test against the struggling but desperate Steelers, who don't figure to succumb easily.

One more NFL thought:

It remains to be seen just how many games the Cowboys will wind up winning, but at 5-1 already -- they won five games in each of the past three seasons -- Bill Parcells continues to stamp himself as one of the elite coaches in any sport.

And not only has Parcells got the Cowboys playing great, he's all of a sudden helped transform Quincy Carter from an also-ran into one of the league's premier quarterbacks, which is pretty amazing in itself.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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