Yet, over time, some have just stood out from the rest. These special individuals have combined their given talents with an uncharted desire to achieve a very high level of success. They have made their mark by getting to that elite level where few have been. These men and women are nearly impossible to replace and have certainly made an impact on those around them.
Ole Miss will be inducting five individuals who fit that mold into its M-Club Athletic Hall of Fame this Saturday at 2:00 p.m., at the Triplett Alumni Center. They include Tony Dees, the late Jeff Hamm, Jimmy Heidel, Alisa Scott, and Chris Snopek. The 2004 class will also be recognized prior to the Ole Miss football season-opener against Memphis at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m.
Tony Dees quickly became one of the most celebrated student-athletes to ever compete in track & field at Ole Miss. Running for longtime head coach Joe Walker, Dees inked his name all over the Rebel record books before departing the Oxford campus in 1985.
* Tony Dees
He went on to run in several international competitions, including the 1992 Olympic Games (Barcelona, Spain) where he captured a silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles. The four-year letterman also competed at the World Track & Field Championships in 1993 (Toronto, Canada and Stuttgart, Germany), 1997 (Paris, France) and 1999 (Seville, Spain). He placed third in the 60-meter hurdles in both `93 and '97 and finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles in `99.
In 1984, Dees was a Southeastern Conference indoor champion in the 55-meter hurdles. He also captured a total of four SEC outdoor titles -- the 110-meter hurdles in 1983 and 1984 and the 200-meter dash in 1983 and 1984.
The Pascagoula, Miss., native still holds Ole Miss indoor school records for the 55-meter hurdles (7.14) and 300-yard dash (29.71). He also established the university's 200-meter outdoor standard (20.54) -- a mark which is holding steady 20 years later. In addition, Dees ran a leg on the Rebels' 1984, record-setting 800-meter relay, which clocked in at 1:22.68.
Over the course of his career, Dees destroyed the school record for number of points scored at the SEC Championship Meet (32 indoor and 48 outdoor for a total of 80 points). Twenty years later, that record is still 13 points ahead of the next-best all-time mark.
"I am really thrilled about being inducted into the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame," Dees said. "This is a great accomplishment and one which ranks at the very top of my list. I'd say it's right up there with the silver medal that I earned in the 1992 Olympics. Throughout the years, there have been a lot of tremendous athletes at Ole Miss and I'm very happy to be recognized as part of that group.
"I will remember a lot of things about my experience at Ole Miss. I would say that college was one of the best times of my life. I feel like, at that time, I was just beginning to scratch the surface with my athletic ability. I received a lot of great coaching from coach (Joe) Walker and his entire staff. I will never forget all of my teammates. I think we really solidified the word `team.' In high school, I did everything on my own and didn't really understand the team concept. By the time I left Ole Miss, I had a true understanding of how a team is suppose to work and saw how several individuals can come together to accomplish bigger goals."
Dees currently works with the track & field program at the University (High) School in Davie, Fla. He resides in Miramar, Fla.
* Jeff Hamm
Looking through the history of Ole Miss athletics, you won't find the name Jeff Hamm associated with any game-winning field goals, buzzer-beating half-court shots or late-inning home runs. But, you will discover a man who made a tremendous impact off the field. A university employee for over 40 years, Hamm truly defined the words "loyalty, dedication and hard work."
The Meridian, Miss., native began his professional association with Ole Miss in 1924 when he became the first general secretary of the alumni association. Hamm continued in that role for 23 years, picking up responsibilities with the athletic department along the way. He wore the title of assistant athletic director from 1938-1945 and assumed the role of athletic department business manager from 1946-1965. Hamm was honored with the title of Business Manager Emeritus upon his retirement in 1965.
Known for his promotional strategies and ticket-sales campaigns, Hamm served on several committees and was affiliated with numerous organizations during his tenure at Ole Miss. He was president of the Southeastern Conference Business Managers Association, an office he won through the vote of his peers. In 1967, Hamm was recognized by the NCAA Business Managers Association with its Distinguished Service Award. The citation read, "in recognition of his meritorious service to college athletics, his leadership and devotion to his country, and the notable example he has set in his personal integrity."
Hamm played an important role in the development of many athletic department policies and was vital in leading several campaigns for the upgrade of Ole Miss' athletic facilities. He oversaw the construction of the old gymnasium and original field house in 1929 in addition to the post-war re-construction of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Miller Hall and the Athletic Office Building.
Hamm worked the 1916 Ole Miss baseball season as a student-manager and graduated from the university in 1917. After graduating, Hamm went off to serve in World War I. He was known as the first Ole Miss man to reach the country of France.
The lifelong contributor to the University of Mississippi passed away Dec. 5, 1973, at the age of 78. Eight other members of his family -- son W. Jeff Hamm, daughter Dorothy Hamm Spencer, grandsons Ernest O. Spencer III, W. Jeff Hamm Jr., Bill Spencer and Al Spencer, granddaughter Suzanne Hamm Anthony and great-grandson Ken Anthony -- have graduated from Ole Miss. His great-granddaughter, Jill Anthony, is expected to earn her degree in 2005.
* Jimmy Heidel
Jimmy Heidel was a three-year letterman in football from 1963-65 and also earmed three letters in track & field from 1964-66. He played for legendary head coach John H. Vaught on the gridiron and competed in short-distance relays for head coach Wesley I. "Doc" Knight.
Pulling double duty in the fall as a quarterback/safety, Heidel helped the Rebels to three consecutive bowl appearances and a Southeastern Conference Championship in 1963. Ole Miss registered a 19-10-3 record (.641 winning pct.) during his three seasons on the varsity team.
In 1963, Ole Miss outscored its opponents, 207-33, on the way to a berth in the Sugar Bowl. The next season, the Rebels blanked three foes en route to a berth in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Then, in 1965, Heidel rushed for 72 yards on 16 carries as Ole Miss posted a 13-7 victory over Auburn in the Liberty Bowl.
As the starting QB his senior campaign, Heidel completed 52-of-95 passes for 586 yards. The Yazoo City, Miss., native combined his passing statistics with 202 net rushing yards that season to lead Ole Miss in total offense with 788 yards. In the spring of 1966, Heidel was invited to play in the last College All-Star game as he and his teammates squared off against the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field in Chicago.
After graduating from Ole Miss, Heidel was drafted by the New York Jets in the third round of the American Football League Draft and by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round of the National Football League Draft. Heidel ended up in St. Louis, where he spent the 1966 season. Then, when the two leagues merged prior to the 1967 season, Heidel was selected by New Orleans in the NFL's Expansion Draft. He started at strong safety for the Saints that next season. Heidel was a member of the New York Jets practice squad for a short time in 1968 before deciding to retire.
In 1994 and again in 2002, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame honored Heidel with its Distinguished American Award for his contributions to amateur football.
"I've earned a lot of awards in my lifetime, but this is the greatest honor that I've ever received," Heidel said. "It will be very exciting to walk in front of today's sold-out crowd and to be honored as a member of the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame. I'm extremely delighted to receive this honor and to be thought of by all of the people at Ole Miss.
"I really had a tremendous experience at Ole Miss. All of the coaches -- John H. Vaught, Frank (Bruiser) Kinard, James (Buster) Poole, John Cain, John (Junie) Hovious, Roland Dale, Ray Poole, J.W. (Wobble) Davidson, Thomas Swayze, Edward Crawford and Billy Mustin -- looked out for the best interest of the student-athletes. They worked hard to make sure that we were prepared, not only for athletic competition, but for going to school and learning how to be a responsible member of society. The coaches all wanted us to be successful athletes, but they were also concerned about us as students and us as people."
Heidel is currently the president of Jimmy Heidel Consultants, an economic development company in Vicksburg, Miss. He and his wife, the former Joanna Poole, have two children -- James Heidel Jr. and Anna Finney Couhig.
* Alisa Scott
Alisa Scott helped contribute to Ole Miss' success in women's basketball during the mid-1980s. She played for Hall of Famer Van Chancellor, who is the winningest coach in Ole Miss and WNBA history. Chancellor led the Houston Comets to four straight WNBA titles from 1997-2000.
Scott is in the midst of her seventh season as an assistant coach on Chancellor's staff in Houston. She has been part of three WNBA Championships (1998, 1999 and 2000) and three WNBA All-Star Games (1999, 2000 and 2001).
Prior to arriving in Houston, Scott spent six years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Old Dominion. She helped the Lady Monarchs to six straight Colonial Athletic Association Championships and six straight NCAA Tournament berths. ODU earned a trip to the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen on two occasions and reached the Final Four in 1997. Five of Scott's former players are now playing professionally in the WNBA.
Scott, who earned four letters at Ole Miss, played on four consecutive NCAA Tournament teams from 1984-87. The Lady Rebels qualified for the Sweet Sixteen in 1986-87 after advancing to the Elite Eight in 1984-85 and 1985-86. During Scott's four seasons in Oxford, the squad posted a 102-22 overall record (.823 winning pct.) and 27-7 mark (.794) in Southeastern Conference play.
Scott is sixth on the university's all-time career scoring list with 1,488 points in 124 career games (12.0 ppg). One of 19 Lady Rebels to reach the 1,000-point plateau, she also ranks among the school's all-time leaders in several other statistical categories. The 5-foot-9 guard/forward places second in career steals (329) and third in single-season thefts (95 in 1984-85). In addition, Scott ties for fourth in career free throws made (325) and seventh for games played in a career (124).
A Vicksburg, Miss., native, Scott was a Kodak All-District selection and first-team All-SEC honoree in 1986-87 after leading the Lady Rebels scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg). Following her collegiate career, Scott played professional basketball in Italy for three years. She was also a member of three USA Basketball teams, including the silver medal-winning 1985 USA World University Games team and the gold medal-winning 1987 Pan American Games squad.
"I was totally shocked when I got the call (about being inducted into the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame)," Scott said. "This is an amazing honor and I feel very overwhelmed to be part of such an elite group. To be honest, being a Hall of Famer is never something I dreamed about. My teammates and I played because we all loved the game so much. We wanted to win every game possible. We had great team chemistry and took pride in being the best team in the state of Mississippi.
"The 1984-85 team was really special. We had 15 players who could've started for just about any other team in the country. It was a joy to play with people like Jennifer Gillom, Eugenia Conner and some of the other great players on that team. It was also an honor to be around Coach (Van) Chancellor and the assistant coaches on a daily basis. I really thought we were going to win it all that year. We were so talented, worked hard, had a great time and were a huge family. Lady Rebel Basketball was like a big sorority. We had terrific leadership and a burning desire to succeed. It's an honor to still keep in contact with some of the great players and coaches from that season. College was a wonderful experience for me and, if I had to do it over again, I'd make the same decision (to attend Ole Miss)."
The youngest of seven children, Scott was named the 1983 Mississippi High School Player of the Year by the Clarion Ledger. In 2001, she was honored by the Mississippi Legislature with an official resolution commending her outstanding achievements.
* Chris Snopek
Spend some time looking through the history section of the Ole Miss baseball media guide and you will quickly become familiar with the name Chris Snopek. A three-year letterman from 1990-92, Snopek played one season for coach Jake Gibbs and two years for coach Don Kessinger before moving on to a four-year Major League Baseball career.
The Cynthiana, Ky., native was originally taken by the Texas Rangers in the 11th round of the 1989 draft after hitting a sizzling .576 with 20 home runs and 73 RBIs as a senior at Harrison County High School. Snopek temporarily put his professional career on hold to pursue his original plan - playing Division I baseball in the Southeastern Conference. He joined the Ole Miss baseball program that next fall.
Over the next three seasons, Snopek filled several pages with his seemingly endless list of collegiate accomplishments and honors. He became the 10th All-American in school history when Baseball America made him a third-team choice in 1992. Snopek was also a marked man in the SEC, picking up first-team honors at third base that same season.
Snopek, who set then-school records with 21 doubles and 62 RBIs in 1992, cracked the Ole Miss Top-10 in a total of five different statistical categories. The right-handed hitter posted a .725 slugging percentage (fifth all-time) and .407 batting average (sixth) during his junior campaign in addition to finishing the season with 133 total bases (10th).
Following his junior campaign in Oxford, Snopek was selected -- for a second time -- in the sixth round of the 1992 draft, this time by the Chicago White Sox. During the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Snopek made minor league stops in South Bend, Ind., Sarasota, Fla., and Birmingham, Ala. In '94, Snopek was a Birmingham teammate of Michael Jordan, who tried professional baseball after winning six NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls.
Snopek made his MLB debut with the ChiSox in 1995. As a rookie, he hit .324 (22-for-68) with one HR and seven RBIs in 22 games. The next season, Snopek was in the opening-day starting line-up alongside MLB All-Stars Robin Ventura (1B), Ozzie Guillen (SS), Bo Jackson (RF), Frank Thomas (DH) and Jack McDowell (RHP). His MLB career spanned over the course of four seasons. After playing 207 games in the Windy City, Snopek was dealt to the Boston Red Sox where he played the final eight games of his MLB career.
"Ole Miss has always been a terrific institution and I knew it was a place where I could get a great education," Snopek said. "From an athletic standpoint, I chose Ole Miss because it was a wonderful opportunity to come south and play in the nation's best baseball conference. It was also ideal to play for a coaching staff which had a lot of professional baseball experience. When I got to campus as a freshman, I really felt like Oxford was where I belonged. The campus was beautiful and the people of Ole Miss really welcomed me. They supported me from the very beginning and stuck with me all the way through.
"I grew so much -- as a person and as an athlete -- during my college years. It was truly a life-altering experience for me. I still keep in contact with many of the wonderful friends who I met in college. I still look at the people of Oxford like a second family. I am very excited and honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. My wife, kids and I are all so happy about being a part of Ole Miss forever."
Snopek is currently the owner and president of the Performance Sports Academy, which has three locations in Mississippi (Flowood, Madison and Tupelo). He and his wife, the former Carla Russell, reside in Madison, Miss., with their three children -- Kate (5), Christopher (3) and Lydia (1).
UM to induct five into Athletic Hall of Fame
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