Recently retired NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr., champion golfer Davis Love III and former NC A&T and NC Central football coach Rod Broadway lead a class of 12 new members named to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
The group is a diverse collection of athletes and coaches — along with a conservationist and an artist — representing eight different sports.
Joining Earnhardt, Love and Broadway in this year’s class are former NFL player and sports artist Ernie Barnes, Durham Hillside and North Carolina College football coach Willie Bradshaw, former state game and fish committee chairman Eddie Bridges, former ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan, wrestling coach Steve Gabriel, women’s basketball referee Dee Kantner, former UNC quarterback Paul Miller, sports promoter and state tennis Hall of Famer Neill McGeachy, and multisport coach Thell Overman.
The new Hall of Famers were officially be inducted into the state shrine in a ceremony on May 3 at the Raleigh Convention Center.
Earnhardt is by far the highest-profile member of the incoming class. The Kannapolis native earned his spot in the Hall alongside his late father by winning 26 Cup races, including a pair of Daytona 500s, on his way to becoming the most popular driver on the NASCAR circuit.
Love is also nationally known through his success on the golf course during a career that began as an All-American at UNC. As a professional, the Charlotte native won 21 tournaments, including the 1997 PGA Championship.
Broadway completed a 39-year career as a college football coach in 2017 by leading NC A&T to an undefeated season and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities national championship. In doing so, he became the only coach to win HBCU titles at three different schools. The Oakboro native, who started his football career as a standout defensive lineman at UNC, finished his career with a 125-45 record.
A native of Durham, Barnes played football at what was then known as North Carolina College (now NC Central). After five seasons in the NFL, he became an internationally acclaimed artist known as “America’s Best Painter of Sports.” He did work for the NFL, NBA, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee before his death from leukemia in 2009.
Bradshaw coached football for 15 years at Durham’s Hillside High School before moving on to North Carolina College, where he also served as athletic director.
Bridges has been a leader in the promotion of hunting and fishing in North Carolina, along with a national leader in conservation. Through his work with the state Wildlife Resources commission, he developed the idea of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, a program that has raised more than $110 million to date.
Corrigan served as ACC commissioner from 1987-97 and is recognized as one of the most respected and influential administrators in college sports.
Gabriel, a long-time resident of Boone and former football player at Appalachian State, founded the wrestling program at Appalachian High, where his teams went 140-0 over an amazing 13-year stretch.
Kantner, from Charlotte, has been selected to work every NCAA Tournament since 1992 and has officiated in 22 women’s Final Fours, including 14 national championship games.
Miller was a three-sport star at Ayden High School, leading both his football and basketball teams to undefeated seasons before moving on to UNC, where he led the ACC in total offense as a quarterback in 1971.
McGeachy excelled as an athlete at Statesville High School and Lenoir-Rhyne University, earning induction into the NC Tennis Hall of Fame. He went on to become a successful sports promoter and later, the athletic director at his college alma mater.
Overman a three-sport athlete at Guilford College who became one of the state’s best high school coaches ever over a 40-year career. He posted a record of 278-73-6 in football and 541-118 in baseball mark at Warrenton’s John Graham High and Wallace-Rose Hill High.