Voices across NC weigh in on 100 in 100 series

Journalists from every corner of the state give some alternate choices for the counties they’ve covered

The Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler says major league pitcher Tony Cloninger’s successful professional career should have given him the top honor in Lincoln County over NC State football player Dennis Byrd. (Robert "Sammy" Houston / AP Photo)

Two weeks ago, we unveiled the final five people in our 100-county quest to name the best athletes from North Carolina, and last week we looked at some of the tough decisions that had to be made along with how the entire list represented the sports and people in N.C. But what else could we have done differently? We asked that question to sportswriters and broadcasters around the state about the picks made in their area

Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler

“I really liked the 100 in 100 and found little to quibble with in the choices for the Charlotte area. I don’t think picking (Stephen) Curry is a case of recency bias — I think he’s the rare athlete who really changed his sport.

“I also agreed with the choices for every nearby surrounding county except one. In Lincoln County, I would have chosen Tony Cloninger over Dennis Byrd. As great as Byrd was for NC State, due to injury he didn’t excel at the highest level of his sport. Cloninger did, winning 113 games over 12 years as a fireballing major-league pitcher (including 24 wins in his best season). He also performed the nearly unheard-of feat of hitting two grand slam homers in the same game in 1966. Plus, Cloninger later became a respected pitching coach for the New York Yankees during the 1990s, winning four World Series rings.”

Fayetteville Observer sportswriter Sammy Batten

“While it’s hard to argue the choice of golfer Raymond Floyd as the top athlete to develop in Cumberland County, a strong case could also have been made for Marvin Powell. A Seventy-First High School graduate, Powell was in the early 1970s recruited to play offensive tackle for national power Southern California, where he was three times named to the All-Pac-8 Conference team and was twice an All-American. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder would be named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. Powell went on to a stellar professional career after being picked fourth overall in the 1997 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.

“In Columbus County, Chester McGlockton was, again, a strong choice. But playing in the same era at Whiteville High School was perhaps the greatest three-sport athlete I’ve ever covered in my 40-plus year career as a sportswriter. Patrick Lennon earned all-state honors in football, basketball and baseball as a senior and was named Male Athlete of the Year in the state by the N.C. High School Athletic Association. He was recruited by several major colleges to play running back in football, but after being taken eighth overall in the 1986 Major League Baseball draft decided to pursue a career on the diamond. Although his professional career doesn’t match McGlockton’s, Lennon remains one of the best athletes ever produced in this state, at least in my opinion.”

Triad Sports Hub radio host Josh Graham

A record-breaking receiver at East Carolina, Vanceboro’s Justin Hardy played six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and is currently a free agent. (John Amis / AP Photo)

“It’s hard to argue with Walt Bellamy, but one of my favorite stories from Craven County is Vanceboro’s Justin Hardy. Coming out of West Craven High School, he had no Division I offers as a quarterback. But his high school coach Kevin Yost did not rest until that changed — calling college coaches day and night until East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill agreed to take Hardy as a receiver. Needless to say, it paid off. Hardy finished his career as the all-time career receptions leader in FBS history and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

“In Granville County, starting Game 7 of the World Series is a pretty big deal and that’s what former South Granville High School standout Matt Harrison did for the Texas Rangers in 2011.”

Brian Hall, co-host of “The Sports Freaks” in Asheville

Choo Choo Justice is the obvious choice for Buncombe County, but there were other good picks as well. It’s a list that includes Roy Williams, Brad Dougherty, Brad Johnson and Henry Logan.

“What other county has a Hall of Fame college basketball coach, NCAA All-American and NBA first overall draft pick, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and one of the greatest scorers in NCAA history who also broke racial barriers?”

Sam Walker of OBX Today

Emanuel Davis was a no-doubter for Dare County. A Grey Cup winner but also because of his story. There really hasn’t been anyone close to what he has done.

“Dennis Anderson for Currituck was not the first person that came to mind, but this is North Carolina. Motorsports is on the same level. Some other choices could have been football players: William Powell, who was the first D1 scholarship athlete, and Ricky Etheridge. Both were teammates at NC State. Or most recently, Kamryn Johnson, who was one of the most dominant volleyball players this part of the state has ever seen and is now a sophomore at Stetson playing beach volleyball.”