ABILENE, Texas (News Release) — The 2022 Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame induction class might be called the “Class of State Champions.”
This year’s class won at least 25 high school state championships as players or coaches in four different sports.
This year’s class includes former Cooper and Texas A&M tennis player and former Wylie tennis coach Kathryn Gilreath, former Jayton football standout and current Borden County football coach Trey Richey, former Wylie and Texas A&M golfer Trey Todd, former Cooper and Bryan football coach Merrill Green and former Cooper and University of Texas all-American baseball player David Tollison.
The Impact on the Big Country Award will be given to former Hardin-Simmons University football coach Jimmie Keeling.
The Legacy Award will be shared by the Smith and Galbraith families who played instrumental roles in the rich history of Abilene High football. Family members were key players on the Eagles’ state championship teams in 1928, 1931 and 1956.
This year’s recipients of the Legends Award, who will be inducted posthumously, made their mark in track and field. Elmer Gray of Roscoe was Abilene Christian University’s first participant in the U.S. Olympic Trials, and Jack Patterson of Merkel was a track star at Rice University and later the track coach at the University of Houston, Baylor and the University of Texas.
The newest class means more than 200 athletes, coaches, media and officials have been honored. Their photos and memorabilia can be found in the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame museum, located next to JC Penney in the Mall of Abilene. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Here is a brief biography of each inductee:
Kathryn Scott Gilreath helped Cooper to a three-year record of 57-0 and three consecutive 5A team tennis state championships. She played No.1 singles all four years. In the spring, she was a state quarterfinalist in doubles in 1993, a state semifinalist in doubles in 1994 and a state finalist in doubles in 1995 and 1996. She was individually ranked in the top 10 in Texas and the top 100 nationally as a junior tennis player by the U.S. Tennis Association. Gilreath was a four-year letterman at Texas A&M, winning a Big 12 championship at No. 5 singles in 1998. She became the tennis coach at Wylie in 2002 and led the Bulldogs to 10 Texas Tennis Coaches Association state team titles. She and her mother, former Cooper tennis coach Leanne Scott, are the first mother-daughter combination to be inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.
Trey Richey is the only person to win a six-man football state championship as both a player and a coach. He was the star running back and safety at Jayton where the Jaybirds went undefeated and won back-to-back state six-man football championships in 1984 and 1985. In the 1985 title game, Richey rushed a state championship game record 461 yards and eight touchdowns. After one year at Texas Tech, he transferred to McMurry, where he was a standout defensive back. He had 13 career interceptions at McMurry, including a school-record three in one game. Richey then went into coaching and has spent his career coaching Borden County. He won one state championship as an assistant coach and then led the Coyotes to four more six-man state championships as the head coach.
Trey Todd won back-to-back individual Class 3A state championships in golf at Wylie in 2001 and 2002. He then became a four-year letterman at Texas A&M, where he had two top 10 finishes and eight top 25 finishes. He graduated in 2008 with a master’s degree in accounting and a 3.45 grade-point average. Todd was named Texas A&M’s top scholar athlete for all sports as a senior. Now an accountant in Abilene, he has won two West Texas Amateur championships.
Merrill Green was a star running back and punt returner at the University of Oklahoma in the early 1950s under legendary coach Bud Wilkinson. He coached in college at several stops including Texas Tech and Arkansas before becoming the head coach at Abilene Cooper in 1965. He led the Cougars to the state title game in 1967. Green was the coach of four Big Country Hall of Famers –Jack Mildren, Randy Allen, Jon Harrison and Jon Rhiddlehoover. Following the 1971 season, he moved to Bryan, where the football stadium in now named for him. Green compiled a 198-81 record in 27 seasons at Cooper and Bryan and was named one of the state’s top 100 high school football coaches on the 100 thanniversary of the UIL.
David Tollison was perhaps the best all-around player on Abilene Cooper’s 1987 state championship baseball team. He was 11-1 as a pitcher and batted .417 with seven home runs, 45 RBIs and 19 stolen bases as a senior. He was the winning pitcher in the state championship game and was named the state’s outstanding baseball player. Tollison signed with the University of Texas and was a three-year starter at second base for the Longhorns. He was named first team all-Southwest Conference and second team all-American in 1990, leading the Longhorns with 12 home runs, 21 doubles and 69 RBI while batting .350. He was selected in the sixth round of the MLB draft by the Toronto Blue Jays following his junior year. He played three years in the Toronto organization and another three years in independent pro baseball.
Former Hardin-Simmons coach Jimmie Keeling is the third recipient of the Impact on the Big Country Award. Hundreds of high school football coaches around the state got their start playing for Keeling. After a long high school coaching career that included winning a state championship at Lubbock Estacado in 1968, Keeling was hired to bring football back to Hardin-Simmons in 1990. He led the Cowboys to the national playoffs in 11 of his 21 seasons as the HSU coach. His combined coaching record in high school and college is 368 wins with just 144 losses and11 ties. He has won numerous awards, including induction into the Lubbock ISD Hall of Fame and the Hardin-Simmons Athletic Hall of Fame. A statue of Keeling was unveiled this fall at HSU’s Shelton Stadium.
The Smith family and Galbraith family, who played major roles in Abilene High’s rich football history, will share this year’s Legacy award. Aultman Smith rushed for 252 yards and scored three touchdowns in 1928 as Abilene High beat Port Arthur to win the state championship. He is a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and played football at Texas A&M. Stanley Smith was all-state on the Eagles’ 1931 state championship team and went on to become an all-American at Washington State. He played in the 1935 Rose Bowl. Four Galbraith brothers –Gene, Cecil, Gervis Sr. and R.B. played for Abilene High squads from 1928 to 1937, playing on two state championship teams and appearing in two other state title games. Their sons, Gerald and Gervis Jr. were part of the Team of the Century that won three consecutive state championships from 1954-56.
The two posthumous recipients of the Legends award –Elmer Gray of Roscoe and Jack Patterson of Merkel–made their marks in track and field. Gray was the first Abilene Christian University athlete to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials. He ran the 800 meters in Los Angeles in 1932, finishing fourth and narrowly missing a place on the U.S. team. The track and field stadium at ACU is named for Gray. Patterson won an individual Southwest Conference championship at Rice University in 1939. After coaching at Merkel and San Angelo, he became the first track and field coach at the University of Houston in 1950. In 1956, he moved to Baylor where his teams won three Southwest Conference championships. Patterson left Baylor in 1963 for the University of Texas where he won three more Southwest Conference titles. He returned to Baylor in 1971 as athletic director and is credited for hiring fellow Big Country Athletic Hall of Famer Grant Teaff. Patterson is a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.