4th football HOF class inducted
Players and coaches inducted into the Andalusia High School Hall of Fame expressed their appreciation to the community that supported them and lessons learned on the field that have helped them in the game of life.
“To all the football players who are here tonight, I’d just like to tell you, you learn some great lessons out there,” said Kyle Gantt, who was a three-year starter at fullback and linebacker, later played at the University of Southern Mississippi and went on to a successful coaching career. “Football is a game you cannot play forever, but the lessons you learn last forever.”
Gantt played for fellow inductee Coach Doug Barfield both in high school and at USM.
“Coach Barfield used to tell me, in order to play, you’ve gotta have three things,” he said, listing skills, knowledge and want-to.
“You can have skill and knowledge and not be successful,” he said. “It’s all about the desire. And that carries over into the business world.”
Of Gantt, Barfield quipped, “I’d have probably played him at tackle if he’d weighed that much then.”
Barfield coached at Andalusia High School in 1966-67, following head coach Shelby Searcy, a 2012 HOF inductee. He went on to become an assistant and later head football coach at Auburn University, before returning to high school athletics.
“I was grateful to come and coach here in this time and era,” Barfield said, adding that he had great support from the community.
“There are a lot of people I shall never forget,” he said. “Mr. Ed Dannelly, for one.
Dannelly was the long-time editor and publisher of The Star-News.
“He was a play-by-play guy,” Barfield recalled. “He always made you feel good, even if it didn’t turn out so well. I remember we went to Selma, and they had just beat Lanier. Nobody thought we could beat them.
“Mr. Lanier wrote that up like it was the Super Bowl,” he said.
He included Dr. Cumbie, and Bill Palmer, “the Co-cola man,” to his list of supporters.
“I love Andalusia,” he said. “It was a great place to live, and a great school system.”
Doug Collins, who was a member of the 1976 and 1977 state championship teams, went on to play offensive lineman for the University of Alabama, and is now addressed as “Lt. Col. Collins,” talked about Andalusia’s reputation.
“When I was at Alabama, Coach Bryant had a nickname for me,” he recalled. “He didn’t reserve it just for me. But often times he’d call me ‘turd.’ Like ‘Somebody get that turd Collins out a there. He doesn’t know that the rest of us are doing out there.
“Then I’d walk off the practice field, look up at the tower, and he’d give me that look like I had soiled myself,” he recalled.
Collins recalled a Sunday afternoon when Bryant was doing the Golden Flake show and was naming the players being red-shirted. He gave long descriptions about the first player. Then Collins’ picture went up on the screen.
“The Golden Flake man said, ‘That’s Doug Collins.’
“Coach Bryant said, ‘Yep. He’s from that bunch down there in Andalusia.’
“The Golden Flake man then talked about Coach Sharpe’s winning record, the ’77 team, the winning streak and how good Andalusia football was. Then my picture was gone and up came Jeremiah Castille.
“Coach Bryant wasn’t talking about me,” Collins told the crowd. “He was talking about you. The Quarterback Club, the alumni, and Coach Don Sharpe. ‘He’s from that bunch down in Andalusia.’
“Even all these years later, it makes me feel good,” Collins said. “It’s an honor tonight, to still part of that bunch from Andalusia.”
Ashton Wells Sr. played running back and defensive back on AHS’s 1958 state championship football team. He was in the first recruiting class signed by Coach Bryant at Alabama, where a knee injury sidelined him in football, but he went on to a successful college baseball career.
Wells said one of the most important lessons he learned from Bryant was off the field. After he was hurt, he said, he remained close to the football field.
“If we weren’t practicing, that’s where I would be,” he said. “Late in the season, I was over there late in the afternoon hanging around.
“Coach Bryant came in and said, ‘Ashton, do you know that walk-on place kicker we’ve got?’
“I said, ‘Yes sir, I do.’
“Coach said, ‘He and his wife live in those duplexes behind the baseball field. I would like for you to go down there and find them. I’m gonna take him and his wife on a trip to Miami.’
“I knew he would never play a down of football,” Wells recalled. “So I took off immediately to go down there and find them.”
Wells said after knocking on the wrong apartment door two or three times, he found them. And about the time he knocked on the door, a car drove up.
“I looked and Coach Bryant was getting out of the car,” Wells recalled. “He walked over there, and just as he stepped up, guy’s wife stepped out.
“He said to her, ‘Hello. I’m Paul Bryant and I coach the Alabama football team. We want to invite your husband and you to go with us this weekend to Miami.’
“She stood there, and when she recovered, she said, ‘Yes, sir, Coach. I know who you are and we’d be overjoyed.’ ”
Bryant then gave her some instructions, said goodbye, put his hat back on and stepped off the porch.
“I had not said a word,” Wells said. “I was just standing there looking at lady on the porch.”
But he learned something.
“Everybody in Alabama and probably elsewhere knew who Coach Bryant was,” Wells said. “But he did not assume that she did. What I learned that day was that if Coach Bryant felt like courtesy and humility were important to him, maybe they oughta be important to me.”
1977 Class 3A state championship football team
Coach Don Sharpe made acceptance remarks for his team that went 14-0, scored a total of 422 points in a 14-game season, averaging 30.1 points per game, and gave up only 52 points the entire season. Five of their games, including the championship one, were shutouts.
“The seniors on this team persevered three years under the most strict, demanding coaches who ever set foot on the face of thiis earth … in their opinions,” Sharpe quipped.
“They lost to Athens in the state final in ’75, tied Athens in our stadium in ’76, and the next year, they won the state championship.
Sharpe credited the hard work of his team in the off-season for their success.
“This was the most outstanding defensive team I’ve ever coached,” Sharpe said. “And the largest guy on defense weighed 176 pounds.’
Sharpe recalled that in the week before the championship game against Walter Welborn High School, the coaches and defensive players were watching film and figured out how one player was giving away the plays.
“So we got up a group of signals and the defensive ends could see the signals,” Sharpe recalled. “We just worked on their hineys. They couldn’t get back on the line of scrimmage. It was so bad, we hurt that guy giving us the key.
“The players looked us and said, ‘Now what do we do?’
“They took the ball down field, in six plays, down to about the 10- yard line. The player that was giving away the plays came jogging back on the field, and all of our players clapped. Everybody in the stadium thought they sere a bunch of good sports.”
Andalusia went on to win the championship, 7-0.
“Afterwards, their coach said, ‘Coach, I have never underestimated a defensive team that badly in my whole life.’ ”
Sharpe said that years later, he finally shared the story with the Walter Welborn coach.
“He couldn’t believe it,” Sharpe said.
“I can tell you right now this group of seniors and the guys that came after them were the most dedicated players I’ve ever coached,” Sharpe said. “They stayed with it, worked hard, came back for more and they stayed out of trouble. This day and time, that’s very important.”