Olympians, All-Americans, national champions, school career leaders and a Professional Football Hall of Fame coach add considerable grace to SJSU's rich athletic heritage.
"It's something I never anticipated as a student,'' said Walsh, "so it's wonderful to be catching this later in life. I take great pride in the university." And great pride in being a "Spartan legend?'' "This is the end, isn't it?'' quipped Walsh, who turns 74 on Nov. 30. "There isn't a super legend, is there?''
Three Olympians - women's fencer Vinnie Bradford, water polo goalkeeper Steve Hamann and judo star Keith Nakasone - joined Walsh as inductees along with football player Guy Liggins, men's fencer Peter Schifrin, wrestler Eddie Baza and women's basketball player Wanda Thompson.
Baza is one of three two-time wrestling All-Americans at San Jose State. He competed from 126 to 142 pounds, won four Pacific Coast Athletic Association titles, and was named PCAA "Wrestler of the Year'' in 1982.
"It means a lot to get recognized for the things I did,'' Baza said of his induction, "and it felt good to give recognition to the program, which no longer exists.''
Baza ended his SJSU career as the school's leader in wins (133-27-1). "San Jose State really defined my career,'' he said. "Coming out of high school (in Sunnyvale), I didn't place in the state meet. But San Jose State trained year-round. This really helped my focus, and I competed at the NCAA tournament and in international meets.''
Bradford was a four-time All-America fencer, and the first woman to win four U.S. National Championships in epee competition. She was a U.S. Olympian in 1984, the U.S. Fencing Association's "Athlete of the Year'' in 1987, and a U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame inductee in 1999. "San Jose State really took a chance on me,'' she recalled. "I dropped out of high school because I was really frustrated. I was a pre-Title IX child, and all I wanted to do was play sports. I did home schooling. Then Title IX came and San Josi offered me a scholarship. I'm very grateful.''
Proving herself a versatile fencer, Bradford added a national foil championship in 1984 to all her epee honors. She was a member of five U.S. World Fencing teams and an epee bronze winner at the 1987 Pan American Games. "Michael D'Asaro took me a long way,'' she said of her San Jose State coach.
Hamann was the Spartans water polo goalkeeper in 1971 and 1972 after transferring to SJSU from College of San Mateo. He helped lead the Spartans to second- and third-place finishes at the NCAA tournament. "I was kind of a late-bloomer,'' he reflected. "Most of the things I accomplished were done at San Jose State. My coach, Lee Walton, was very instrumental. He put me through the most gruelling workouts. He took me to a place physically and mentally that I didn't think was possible.''
Hamann was rated the top water polo netminder in the world twice during his amateur career. He was goalkeeper for the 1980 Olympic team that didn't compete in the Summer Games in Moscow because of the U.S. boycott. He played on two Pan American Games gold-medal teams in 1979 and 1983.
Liggins was a two-time All-West Coast selection at wide receiver in 1986 and 1987, and the first player in school history to have two 70-reception seasons. He remains SJSU's all-time leader in career receptions with 149.
A transfer from Southwestern College in Los Angeles, Liggins set a regular-season school record in 1986 with 15 catches for 203 yards in the Spartans' memorable 45-41 victory over Fresno State, picked by Sports Illustrated as "college football's game of the year.''
In 1987, Liggins had 77 receptions for a nation-leading 1,208 yards. The Spartans won 20 games, two conference titles and a California Bowl championship during his two-year stay. He died in 1998 of a massive heart attack. He was 31.
Nakasone was the United States' top male judo performer in the 132-pound class in the 1970s. He was "Collegiate Judoist of the Year'' in 1978 and 1979, and a three-time titlist at the national collegiate championships. "I'm not very good with honors,'' he said. "I did the sport because I loved it. I'm just an island boy from Japan who was fortunate to have a successful coach.''
That would be Yosh Uchida, SJSU's legendary judo coach. Under Uchida's guidance, Nakasone was captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team and a gold-medalist at the 1978 Pan American Games. "I'm just one of many great judo players to come out of San Jose State,'' he said. "Going there was the best move of my life.''
Schifrin was a four-time All-American at San Josi State in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a gold-medal winner at the 1979 Pan American Games. Today, he's a sculptor who has exhibited in Boston, San Francisco and San Jose. He has two 24-foot sculptures in the area of San Francisco's Union Square. "They're both life-long lessons in learning,'' he said of fencing and sculpting. "Every lesson I learned in fencing - mind-training, what's important about life, and art form - I've applied to sculpting.'' Schifrin had a 266-35 record at San Jose State, and twice was selected to the U.S. World University Games. He won SJSU's first individual NCAA title in 1982 in the men's epee.
Thompson holds two SJSU records for assists (741) and steals (434). She was a Spartan from 1978 to 1981, and is one of only two women's basketball players at the school to be named all-conference four times. "I was a point guard, and I was the shortest point guard,'' she said. "I was 4' 10" when I got to San Jose State and 5-foot when I left.'' Height wasn't a deterrent in her case. In fact, she played on the boys teams in junior high and at Balboa High School in San Francisco. Then under her floor leadership, SJSU averaged 19 wins a season. "I'm 5' 2" now,'' she said. "I made up for my height in basketball because I was fast. I was surprised to be named (to the SJSU Sports Hall of Fame). But I'm excited about it. It's a special honor.''
Walsh was a football end and boxer at San Jose State in the early 1950s. His greatest success in sports, though, came in coaching as he created one of football's great dynasties with the 49ers in the 1980s. He coached at all three levels in the Bay Area, starting at Washington Union High School in Fremont as a head coach before becoming an assistant at Cal, Stanford and with the Oakland Raiders in 1966.
He assisted at Cincinnati and San Diego in the NFL before getting his first head-coaching job at Stanford in 1977. He was 47. After coaching the 49ers, he was an NFL analayst with NBC-TV for three years, then returned for a second stint at Stanford. After that, he worked in the 49ers front office.
Now he's back at Stanford, serving as special assistant to the athletic director.