Wiggins to be inducted into 2015 AHS Hall of Fame class

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mark Wiggins (10) stands next to coach Don Sharpe and other teammates.

Mark Wiggins (10) stands next to coach Don Sharpe and other teammates.

Andalusia’s Mark “Byrd” Wiggins will be inducted into the 2015 Andalusia High School football Hall of Fame class in August.

Wiggins lettered three seasons for the Andalusia Bulldogs from 1971 until 1973, and held a remarkable 26-3-1 record as quarterback for the Bulldogs.

During the 1971 season, Wiggins was the second string quarterback until midway through the third game when he became the starting quarterback. The Bulldogs were 1-1-1 after that third game. Wiggins then led the Bulldogs to seven straight wins, and cemented himself as a true leader.

Teammates said after Wiggins took over at quarterback and Sam Johnson moved to tight end, that the two had such a connection that it helped land Johnson a scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Mark was always a tremendous person and a tremendous leader,” Wiggins’ AHS teammate Lucky Cope said. “He led by example, and just always did things the right way. When he came into the huddle he took charge, and every one listened to him. He was the kind of guy that you would run through a wall for. He is an outstanding individual, and he continued that into his work career.”

Wiggins helped lead the Bulldogs to an undefeated regular season in 1973, which was the first undefeated season at Andalusia since 1958.

In 1973, Wiggins also guided the Bulldogs into the state championship at Legion Field in Birmingham against John Carroll High School.

During the 1973 season with Wiggins at quarterback, the Bulldogs scored a whopping 414 points in 12 games for an average of 34.5 points per game.

For his efforts, Wiggins was named to the All South Alabama Conference team and was an All-State honorable mention by the Birmingham News. Wiggins received both of those honors in the 1972 season as well.

In 1973, Wiggins was also selected as a permanent team captain by his teammates.

Wiggins mother had been battling cancer during the 1973 season, and as Wiggins and the Bulldogs prepared for the state championship his mother was getting weaker.

When the team left for Birmingham they knew Wiggins’ mother wouldn’t make it much longer, but decided that if she were to pass before the game that they wouldn’t inform Wiggins until after the game.

An hour or so into the bus ride to Birmingham, Wiggins mother passed away and the bus was pulled over by an Alabama State Trooper near Greenville. There the trooper informed Wiggins of his mother’s passing.

“On the way to the state championship, troopers pulled over the whole convoy and told Mark that his mother had passed,” Wiggin’s AHS teammate Andrew Carroll said. “And he played in the game. One thing I will always remember about Mark was his courage and dedication.”

Former teammates of Wiggins said that the news of his mother’s passing was extremely hard on him, but that he still wanted to play in the state championship.

Wiggins and the Bulldogs fought hard, but John Carroll, who was playing in its home stadium, was able to top the Bulldogs in the state championship game.

After graduating in 1974, Wiggins received a four-year scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi to play football. Wiggins injured his back shortly after going to Southern Mississippi, and wasn’t able to play.

Earlier this year, after going to the doctor, Wiggins was diagnosed with sarcomatoid carcinoma of salivary gland origin, which is a type of cancer.

Wiggins underwent surgery to have the tumor removed on July 2.

Beginning in August, Wiggins will begin a treatment regimen of proton radiation therapy combined with induction chemotherapy. The two will run simultaneously with chemo one day and radiation five days a week. The treatments will run approximately six weeks.

For those wishing to keep up with Wiggins’ journey, follow his blog at www.caringbridge.com.