NCSHOF inducts new class after year’s wait

After being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the 11-person class — featuring Debbie Antonelli, Mack Brown and Julius Peppers — was enshrined

The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame enshrined 11 new members last week. (Photo by Brett Friedlander / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Mack Brown has been inducted into several halls of fame during his long, successful career as a college football coach. This one, he said, was the most special because of who he went in beside him.

In 1997, Brown recruited Julius Peppers to play at North Carolina, beginning a career that saw Peppers excel on both the football field and basketball court. Friday, their paths crossed again as the newest members of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

The current Tar Heels coach and the former Tar Heels star were part of an 11-person class whose induction into the state shrine was delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s the coolest thing in the world to be able to watch these young people whom you have been involved in their lives get married, have children and become very successful,” Brown said at a press conference before the induction ceremony at Raleigh Convention Center. “To watch them give back to the community and then come back and be around them to see the lives that they have built for themselves, that’s the real reward for coaching.”

The rest of this year’s class included NC State basketball star and ESPN analyst Debbie Antonelli, longtime UNC track and cross-country coach Dennis Craddock, Burlington high school team doctor Charles Kernodle Jr., Greensboro high school basketball coach Mac Morris, Boston Red Sox World Series champion Trot Nixon, Wolfpack Club director Bobby Purcell, Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose, sportswriter Tim Stevens and Chicago Bears defensive back Donnell Woolford.

Former Wake Forest and NBA star Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues was also elected, but his induction was deferred until 2022 because he was unable to attend Friday’s ceremony.

While Brown was responsible for bringing Peppers to Chapel Hill after a standout career at Southern Nash High School, he never got to coach him at UNC. He left to take the job coaching at Texas before his star recruit played his first game in Carolina Blue.

Despite that disconnect, the two men have maintained a strong bond that goes beyond athletics.

“He’s a big part of the reason I became a Tar Heel, so to go in alongside him is something I never expected but I’m grateful for,” Peppers said. “I never played for him, but I stayed in touch with him, and I was excited that he was coming back (to UNC).”

As much star power as this year’s class has, with nationally recognized names such as Peppers, Brown, Nixon, Woolford and Antonelli, the most intriguing member is perhaps the least known of the group.

Kernodle never distinguished himself on the playing field, but because of his contributions, a countless number of others had the opportunity to do so.

For more than 70 years, he served as the team doctor for the Burlington Williams High School football team, riding the team bus to games to look after athletes until after his 100th birthday. In 2007, the football field at the school was named in his honor.

Kernodle also helped with the football and basketball teams at Elon, his undergraduate alma mater.

The Elon graduate died last September and was one of two new Hall of Famers who were inducted posthumously.

The other was Craddock, who earned 31 ACC Coach of the Year awards and whose 45 conference championships are the most in any sport in the history of the league.

Morris compiled a 456-151 record and three 4A state championships as the basketball coach at Greensboro’s Page High. He also served as co-executive director of the North Carolina Coaches Association.

Purcell, who started his career at State as an assistant football coach, oversaw the construction of the Murphy Football Center and Vaughn Towers at Carter-Finley Stadium, as well as the funding of nearly 300 athletic scholarships annually.

Rose was just the third female athletic director at a Division I school when she was hired by Charlotte. She served for 28 years, leading the 49ers’ program through a period of significant expansion, including the addition of football.

Stevens reported on state high school sports for the Raleigh News & Observer for 48 years. The NCHSAA’s media award is named in his honor.

Brown has 253 wins and counting to go along with a national championship at Texas, Peppers won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best college defensive player in 2001 before going on to the NFL, where he recorded 159.5 sacks for the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

Nixon was a two-sport star at New Hanover High in Wilmington who went on to hit .274 with 137 homers in 12 major league seasons. He was a member of the Red Sox team that rallied from a 3-0 playoff deficit to beat the New York Yankees on the way to the 2006 World Series championship.

Woolford played three sports at Douglas Byrd High in Fayetteville, earned All-American honors twice at Clemson and ranks third in Bears history with 32 career interceptions.

Antonelli was a starting forward for the Wolfpack from 1982-86, leading the team to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. After graduation, she went on to become an Emmy Award winner and one of the most respected men’s and women’s basketball analysts on television.