Craig Harris/Macon County Times The 2019 Macon County Sports Hall of Fame inductees are: (from left) Todd Austin, Andrea Butler Mills, Mitzi Blankenship Jones, Don Jent and Buddy Leonard.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

The 2019 Macon County Sports Hall of Fame inductees are: (from left) Todd Austin, Andrea Butler Mills, Mitzi Blankenship Jones, Don Jent and Buddy Leonard.

The 19th class of inductees to the Macon County Sports Hall of Fame looked back on their playing careers during Saturday evening's Macon County Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet, which was held at the Macon County High indoor sports complex.

However, the five new additions spoke far more of the relationships with family, friends, coaches, teachers and teammates than the wins and losses, points and rebounds, touchdowns and tackles, home runs and great catches.

"This is a privilege and an honor," former Red Boiling Springs High three-sport standout Buddy Leonard said. "I want to thank my friends who are here tonight. I have some really good friends."

Leonard was nicknamed Hollywood.

"If you ever watched the movie, 'Remember the Titans,' the character Sunshine is Buddy Leonard made over," Leonard's former teammate, Michael Owens -- who introduced Leonard on Saturday night -- said.

Leonard played from 1983-87. He was an all-district and all-midstate quarterback, an all-district and all-state pitcher/catcher/shortstop, and an all-conference player as a basketball player (scoring more than 1,000 points in his career). He's a member of the Red Boiling Springs Basketball Hall of Fame.

Fellow Red Boiling Springs Basketball Hall of Fame member Kent Smith coached Leonard in multiple sports.

"I talked to Kent Smith at the end of school, and he said, 'Yeah, I've been here 40 years, and he's the best athlete I've seen,' " Owens said.

Leonard added, "Kent Smith ... he coached us in basketball, and he also coached us in football ... he always taught us to play hard and to play for each other, and that's what we did ... we played hard every night we were out there."

Leonard also had a professional baseball tryout scheduled with the New York Mets organization.

"I want to thank my parents," Leonard said. "My dad ... he always taught me that it's not about the game. It's not about you. It's about how you play it and how you respect the game.

"My mom used to take us to all of our games, me and my brother, growing up. She knew nothing about sports. She yelled during the games, and somebody would say, 'Hey, that's the other team.' She didn't know. She didn't care ... she just cared about her kids. She just loved us. She would always tell me that as much as I loved sports, that's not what was going to get me to heaven ... and she reminded me of that all the time. I just thank her for that, and my grandparents also."

The other inductees echoed those sentiments.

"This is a special day," Andrea Butler Mills said. "I feel privileged to be standing here. It's been taking a walk down memory lane."

The addition of the fivesome increased the total in the Macon County Sports Hall of Fame, which began in 2001, to 110 individuals.

"When you look down the list of people who have paved the way, Nera White (a 2001 inductee into the Macon County Sports Hall of Fame) ... to be in a group with that is just unbelievable," Mills said. "Pat Parker (also a 2001 inductee) ... there's so many. I don't take that lightly. I'm honored."

Mills was a two-sport standout at Macon County High from 1988-92, but her earliest sporting experiences came on the softball field.

"As I look back on where I came from, on my roots and the people who surrounded me, the experiences I had were bigger than myself," Mills said. "I can't think of a time when sports wasn't a part of my life.

"I spent a lot of time at the softball field ... when I did start playing, I was in third grade. I started playing softball, in 1983, in the little girls league. Softball was actually my first organized sport. Nera White was the umpire. I had no idea who this lady was, didn't even know the magnitude of what this lady represented. She wanted us to learn the correct way. When I stepped in the batter's box, she'd say, 'Get that bat back. Bend those knees.' She tried to give us things to help us. It was until years later that I understood clearly how big of a deal that was, of what she put into sports worldwide."

Mills was a senior when the Tigerette basketball squad reached the state tournament in 1992. She was a three-time all-district selection as a post player and a 1,000-point scorer.

She began playing volleyball as a freshman at Macon County High, and she was selected as the district most valuable player (MVP) as a senior. She earned a volleyball scholarship to Cumberland University.

Mills was presented for induction by her brother, 2016 inductee Brian Butler.

She currently coaches both junior-high and high-school basketball at East Robertson.

"Coach (Gary) Carter (the former Macon County High head girls basketball coach and a 2003 inductee) and I were talking before this started ... as coach, you see things in totally different ways," Mills said. "Now, I know why he was mad all of those times."

Butler's former teammate, Mitzi Blankenship Jones, was also inducted. Jones -- who played from 1991-95 -- was a three-time all-district selection, the district MVP as a senior and a first-team all-midstate selection in 1995 as well.

Jones helped the program to the state tournament in 1992 and 1994.

"We had a very successful run while I was there," Jones said. "For that, I am thankful.

"I know without a doubt that I would not have been as successful had it not been for my teammates ... I couldn't have done the things I did without them."

Jones went on to play at Belmont University.

She's now an assistant coach at Rockwood High School.

"I don't know that I can thank you all enough for the time you gave to us as players," Jones said to her coaches. "I don't know that I realized that as a player. I realize that now as a coach. And I remember how much I laughed. That speaks volumes.

"I will treasure this for the rest of my life. Thank you for including me in this hall of fame."

Inductee Don Jent played football at Macon County High from 1969-72. Jent -- a starting fullback and linebacker for two seasons -- helped the Tigers to a 28-4 record and playoff appearances in 1970 and 1971, winning the Industrial Bowl in 1971.

"I really never considered myself a good football player," Jent said. "I played on some outstanding football teams."

Jent was an honorable mention all-midstate selection and a two-time all-midstate star of the week.

"Maybe I helped our team win some games," Jent said. "If it wasn't for our whole team, we wouldn't be anything. If one of us wasn't having a good night, somebody else picked it up. We always took care of each other, no matter what it was."

Inductee Todd Austin found himself on some of the biggest of stages following his playing career at Macon County High, which spanned from 1994-98.

Austin made the team at the University of Tennessee as a walk-on and was there for two seasons, and he also played at Cumberland University.

He became a basketball official in 2003, started refereeing college games in 2004, became an official at the Division I level in 2009 and now serves as Southeastern Conference official, having called a game in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.

"I want everybody to know this is truly a big, big honor," Austin said of being inducted. "It's a major, major accomplishment ... this is a big deal."

On the basketball court, Austin was a three-time all-district selection and a third-team all-midstate honoree as a senior.

He was also a two-time all-district honoree for the Tiger baseball team, being named the district's co-MVP after moving to catcher as a senior.

"Just to be nominated is a huge, huge honor ... and just to be nominated the first year I was eligible is not an honor I think I deserve," Austin said.

Macon County Sports Hall of Fame inductees

2001

Nera White

Jimmy Glover

Rudolph Donoho

Barry Flippin, Jr.

Gary Perdue

Wiley Sloan

Vester “Vep” Barton

Pat Parker

Dr. E.K. “Bullie” Bratton

Doyle Cothron

2002

W.P. “Poe” Biles

Wardean Perdue

Herbert Cutrell

Mark Shrum

Hillard Driver

Patricia Smith Brindle

Bobby Gillihan

Brownie Robinson

Bob Kempf

Ralph Howser

2003

Carolyn Hix Blankenship

Collier Hawkins

Roland Kirby

Gary Wright

Bobby “Goosie” Gann

Doyles Gaines

Gary Garter

2004

Bill Jenkins

Norman Perdue

Key Dillard

Billy Reid

Jackie Eller

Hugh “Bug” Howser

Charles Biles

2005

Sherman Jent

Bobby Ballou

Phillip Brockette

Ronald Bergmeier

L.E. Claybourne

2006

Dean Fisher

Roger Russell

Tammy Brawner

Randy Napier

Keith Ballou

Larry White

2007

Royce “Rooster” Stinson

Wanda Jenkins Smith

Ronald Birdwell

H.L. “Doc” Goodall

Clay Phillips

2008

Will Taylor Chamberlain

Glen Harold Donoho

Eddie Goad

Coach Glen Gregory

Rickey Shoulders

2009

Bessie Gregory Ferguson

Jimmy Harp

Bobby Shrum

Randy Tope

Mary Tom Link Walker

2010

Jody Bentley

Charles E. Darnell

Wayne Deering

Billy Wilson McClard

George Shockley

2011

Roger Langford

Rickey Spivey

Joyce Hagan Swindle

Tonya Doss Wells

Ophie Darrel White

2012

Donald “Butch” Creek

Dwayne Deering

Glen Gattis

Jeff Gregory

Tony Woosley

2013

Coach Beverly Shoulders

Cynthia “Sis” Newberry Denton

Chris Phillips

Coach Mike Prock

Jeff Wheeley

2014

Billy “Skipper” Carter

Shawn Carter

Ronnie Donoho

Troy and Cathy Johnson

Thomas Mowell

Randy Williamson

2015

Kelly Carter Carnahan

Bobby Huffines

Jay Murray

Hayden Shrum

Jimmy Wheeley

2016

Tillman Boren

Brian Butler

Pat Dyer

Doris Kirby Jenkins

Claudette Langford Peters

2017

Benny White

Gayle Doss Holliman

Joe Dickens

Thomas Colter

Mickey Ballou

2018

Jeff Beam

Bill Carr

Mike “Bullwhip” McClard

Joey Tuck

2019

Todd Austin

Don Jent

Buddy Leonard

Mitzi Blankenship Jones

Andrea Butler Mills