CLASS OF 2019
As a two-sport Phenom in basketball and track and field, Brenda Cliette-Thomas is arguably the top female athlete to ever come out of Macon’s Northeast High School. She led the Lady Raiders to a pair of state championships in both basketball and track and field. She was the first female to win Macon Telegraph Athlete of the Year (Selby Buck) award. Her gifted talents and accomplishments earned her a scholarship to Florida State University where she continued to excel in two sports. In her freshman basketball campaign, she averaged 13.5 points and 9 rebounds per game leading FSU to 24 wins and their first ever NCAA Women’s Tournament appearance. In 1984, she helped lead FSU to an outdoor national track title. Cliette-Thomas won Gold Medals at the World University games, the Goodwill Games and U.S. Olympic Festival, capped by selection to the U.S. Olympic Team as an alternate in 200 meters. She is a member of the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame as well as the Macon Sports Hall of Fame.
CALVIN JOHNSON, JR.
“Megatron” was the name given to Tyrone, Georgia native Calvin Johnson, because of his freakish talents on the football field. At Sandy Creek High School in 2004, Johnson was ranked the best prep player in Georgia. Calvin stayed close to home signing with Georgia Tech where he re-wrote the record book. He hauled in 178 receptions for almost 3000 yards with 28 touchdowns. A two-time All- American, Johnson was three time first-team All-Conference. The Detroit Lions made him the number two overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He quickly established himself as one of the league’s top receivers as a first team All Pro performer. He also made 6 Pro Bowl’s and holds four NFL records including the single-season mark for receiving yards with 1,964, previously held by Jerry Rice. Amazingly, Johnson would play his entire 9-year NFL career with the Lions. He retired following the 2015 season with over 700 career receptions, over 11,000 receiving yards, and 83 touchdowns. Calvin is also a member of the College football Hall of Fame and the Georgia Tech Hall Of Fame.
ERNIE JOHNSON, JR.
Ernie Johnson, Junior, known simply as E.J. to many of his friends and colleagues, is THE face of Turner Sports on TNT & TBS. As the son of another Hall Of Fame inductee, former Braves announcer Ernie Johnson Senior, E.J. was perhaps destined for a career in the broadcast industry. Since joining Turner, Johnson has showcased his incredible versatility. He’s done play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves, Major League Baseball Playoffs, Wimbledon coverage, the Olympics, just to name a few…quite a resume alone. But he’s probably best known for his work as a studio host for his network’s coverage of the NBA and NCAA March Madness. With familiar sidekicks Kenny, Charles, and Shaq, E.J. is the one that steers the ship and makes sure everything runs smoothly. All-in-all, Ernie has claimed 3 Emmy Awards as Best Studio Host, and E.J. joins his father Ernie Senior becoming only the second father-son duo to become members of the Hall.
THOMAS S. "T" McFERRIN
Success and Thomas McFerrin, “T” as he was known to most, are one in the same when discussing high school football in the State of Georgia. In a 38-year coaching career, which included 34 in the Peach State, he was the head man at 8 different Schools and produced winners at every stop. In 1968 at just 26, McFerrin secured his first head job at Lithonia. From Lithonia it was on to Forest Park for one season, then 7 years at Peachtree, one at Southeast Whitfield, four with the Tucker Tigers, another 7 at Elbert County, 7 more at South Gwinnett before concluding his career with a four-year stint at Jefferson. McFerrin is the only coach to lead four different GHSA schools to the state finals, two of which claimed titles: Elbert County in 1995 and Jefferson, in McFerrin’s final game, in 2012. His 317 wins and 79% winning percentage ranks him among the state’s top 20 coaches with at least 100 victories.
The small town of Sandersville has produced some of Georgia’s top football players over the years, including linebacker Takeo Spikes. In 1994 he helped Washington County to a State championship as Georgia’s “Mr. Football.” In addition, he earned All-America Honors from both Parade Magazine and USA Today. Spikes decided to play college ball at Auburn University. He was a feared force at linebacker, leading the Tigers defense with 136 tackles in 1997 as Auburn claimed the western division crown. Selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 13th pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, Takeo was about to embark upon a 15 year NFL career. As a restricted free agent, Spikes signed with the Buffalo Bills and made the Pro Bowl in 2003, but injuries would hamper his time in Buffalo and he was eventually traded to Philadelphia. After one season with the Eagles, it was on to San Francisco for three years and then to San Diego for his final 2 seasons. Spikes is one of only 7 linebackers in NFL history to start at least two hundred games.
Under his leadership as CEO, Gary Stokan has positioned the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl game as one of the top bowl games in the nation and part of the prestigious New Year’s Six in the College Football playoffs. Stokan was also an instrumental force in the development of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game held Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. Stokan broke into the sports scene as a college basketball player at NC State back in the mid-70’s. Following his playing days he embarked on a college sports marketing career. In 1998, he became the CEO of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The brand has expanded with the addition of the Kickoff Game and Gary was the driving force behind the formation of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl Golf tournament which provides scholarship money to participating universities. During his 20-year tenure, Peach Bowl, Inc. has generated more than one billion dollars for the city of Atlanta and state of Georgia. Recently, Stokan’s vision led the effort to relocate the College Football Hall of Fame from South Bend to Atlanta. The new facility opened in 2014 and Chick-Fil-A has signed as the title sponsor through the year 2044.
MARK C. TEIXEIRA
Mark Teixeria was an outstanding college player at Georgia Tech and later his Major League career would bring him back to Georgia for a stint with the Atlanta Braves. Mark was ACC Rookie Of The Year in 1999. Then in 2000, Teixeira led the Jackets to the ACC regular season and tournament championships batting .427 with an eye-popping 1.319 On Base Slugging percentage. He was named ACC and National Player of the Year. “Tex”, as he is well-known entered the 2001 Major League draft and was the fifth overall selection of the Texas Rangers. It was the first stop in a 14-year career which included parts of two campaigns with the Braves. In mid-2007, he was traded to Atlanta and played in 54 games. The next season, he appeared in 103 games before being traded in July to the L.A. Angels. All-in-all he played 157 games in a Braves uniform, the equivalent of one full season and he totaled 37 homers and 134 RBI during that stretch. After a brief stay in California, it was on to the Big Apple, where he would play eight seasons with the New York Yankees. In 2009, Mark led the American League in home runs and RBI’s leading the Yanks to the World Series title. Teixeira retired following the 2016 season with 409 career homers, a three time All-Star, 5 time Gold Glove winner and a 3 time silver slugger award winner.
When you talk about great football players in Georgia Bulldogs history, Ben Zambiasi will certainly be in the conversation. Even though he last played for the ‘Dogs in 1977, the Macon native is still the school’s all-time leader in career tackles with 467. The 3-time ALL-SEC Selection was an All-American in 1976 leading the Dogs to the SEC Championship. He served as Georgia Team captain in 1977. Zambiasi was selected in the 10th round of the 1978 NFL draft, but he opted not to join the NFL and made the decision to play professionally in the Canadian Football League. That decision turned out to be a wise one. He was the Eastern Division’s outstanding rookie and went on to spend 10 seasons in the CFL; nine with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and one year with Toronto. While with the ‘Cats he played in 4 Grey Cup games winning the title in 1986. Ben was named a CFL All-Star 8 times, is a member of the Hamilton Walk of Fame, the Tiger Cats Hall of Fame, the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.