Daniel Hernandez stood tall and proud with his kids in front of him with Tyler legends on his left and right.
A John Tyler High School soccer star who went on to play professionally in Major League Soccer and Liga MX, Hernandez was part of the inaugural class of the Tyler ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.
Beginning with the Tyler Rose, Earl Campbell, a total of 12 honorees were recognized during halftime of the John Tyler-Robert E. Lee football game Friday on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
“To be in the first-ever class inducted into the hall of game, and to have your name associated with Earl Campbell, no need to say anymore except it is such an honor,” Hernandez said. “I was really proud and honored that Tyler ISD decided to do this.”
Christopher Porter was decked out in an all-blue suit to show appreciation for his daughter, Kristee Porter, a John Tyler volleyball standout and All-American at UCLA, who was one of two women inducted in this class.
“It’s just great,” Porter said. “She was shocked. She never imagined being in any kind of hall of fame. It’s special. You talk about Earl, and you are talking about a legend, and to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Earl Campbell means she must have done something good.”
Also inducted was Dayna Reed Westbrook, a 1987 Robert E. Lee graduate, who earned all-state basketball honors and led the Lady Raiders to a 30-2 season and runner-up in the Class 5A basketball tournament.
“It’s wonderful and I am just overwhelmed in a way about it,” said Ms. Westbrook, now the boys and girls basketball coach at Douglass High School. “I am pleased with the way Mr. (Rodney) Kaspar (TISD athletic director) has handled everything, and I would hope we see more Robert E. Lee players and athletes out here and involved in this, too.”
The 1973 JT state championship football team was the 12th inductee, and several players stood side by side to loud cheers from the JT and Lee fans in attendance.
Herb Bristow, who lives in Waco, said this has been a great opportunity for old teammates and friends to catch up.
“It’s a pretty neat deal to get a phone call from someone I haven’t heard from in a long time and for them to say, ‘Hey, are you going to Tyler?’” Bristow said. “I think it’s a great thing that Tyler ISD has done. We (live) all over (now), and this deal has brought us together. We came together 40 years ago to (win a state title) and this has brought us together again.”
Many players and coaches for the 1973 squad were in attendance.
The architect of John Tyler’s 1994 state championship, Allen Wilson, also is part of the first class. The JT coaching legend said it is a great privilege.
“There is so much rich history in Tyler, especially at John Tyler High School with the great athletes that they’ve had,” Wilson said. “I (am honored to be here) and really appreciate what is going on.”
Wilson also led JT to the 2000 state finals.
Kaspar called the whole evening a success.
“When I first got into this and we announced the class, people told me if we could get 50 percent of the people there, you are doing a good job,” Kaspar said. “I think we got all but three here. We also have probably (13,000) to 14,000 people here for a game. It’s a great turnout and a great reflection on Tyler ISD athletics.”
The Tyler Rose was unable to attend as well as New York Giants defensive back Aaron Ross, but many were in attendance including Billy Hall (former Tyler ISD athletic director and coach) and Charles Milstead (all-state QB and led the Tyler High School Lions to the 1955 state finals).
This year’s class includes:
Earl Campbell: JT Class of 1974; Heisman Trophy winner and All-America at The University of Texas at Austin in 1977; three-time National Football League Most Valuable Player; member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mike Carter: JT Class of 1968; help lead the Lions to back to back state baseball tournaments in 1967 and 1968. He died of a sudden illness after graduation. The baseball stadium where JT, Lee and Tyler Junior College play is named after him. Carter was represented by his mother and brother.
Clifford Gregory: Tyler High School Class of 1931. He was team captain of the 1930 state football champion Lions who defeated Amarillo 25-13 in the final in Fort Worth. He also was all-state. Gregory is deceased but was represented by his wife, two daughters and son.
Billy Hall: Tyler High School Class of 1956. After graduating from Baylor, coached at Robert E. Lee High School and was later TISD athletic director.
Daniel Hernandez: JT Class of 1994. All-state soccer player for the Lions and has played professionally in Major League Soccer and Mexican League.
Charles Milstead: Tyler High School Class of 1956. Led the Lions to the 1955 state title game and was all-state both his junior and senior season. He later starred at Texas A&M and with the Houston Oilers.
Kristee Porter: JT Class of 1998. All-state volleyball standout, All-America at UCLA and played professionally.
Aaron Ross: JT Class of 2001. The all-state defensive back led the Lions to the 2000 state finals. Helped The University of Texas at Austin to the 2005 national championship and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s outstanding defensive back. Won two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants.
Robert Taylor: Emmett Scott High School Class of 1968. An American track and field sprinter, winner of the gold medal in 4x100-meter relay at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. He also won silver in the 100-meter dash. Taylor won the AAU 100-meter championship in 1972. Was an All-American at Texas Southern and later taught in the TISD. Taylor is deceased but he was represented by his daughter and sister.
Dayna Reed Westbrook: Robert E. Lee Class of 1987. All-state basketball player who led the Lady Raiders to a 30-2 mark and the state basketball finals of Class 5A in 1986. Played four years at Stephen F. Austin and is currently head coach of both the boys and girls basketball teams at Douglass High School.
Allen Wilson: Head coach of John Tyler from 1991 to 2001. He led the Lions to the 1994 state championship and returned the Lions to the finals in 2000.
1973 John Tyler High School football team: Coach Corky Nelson led the Lions to the Class 4A championship and a 15-0 record. With such stars as Campbell, Ronnie Lee, Gary Don Johnson, the Campbell twins — Steve and Tim, the Lions were voted the top football team from 1960 to 1985 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine.
Sports Editor Phil Hicks contributed to this report.