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Legendary ASU football coach Hamp Smith: Hall of Fame induction is an honor

Smith is inducted into the SIAC Hall of Fame

Former Albany State football coach Hamp Smith talks at Wednesday’s SIAC Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Smith was one of 15 former coaches, players and administrators inducted into the conference’s Hall of Fame this year. (Special photo)

Former Albany State football coach Hamp Smith talks at Wednesday’s SIAC Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Smith was one of 15 former coaches, players and administrators inducted into the conference’s Hall of Fame this year. (Special photo)

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Former Albany State football coach Hamp Smith, right, poses with SIAC commissioner Gregory Moore after being inducted into the conference’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. (Special photo)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Former Albany State football coach Hamp Smith still doesn’t know who nominated him to be inducted into the SIAC Hall of Fame last week.

But judging by the amount of lives he touched during his 23 years as head coach of the Rams, there could have been thousands who made the recommendation.

The much-loved and much-respected former coach was one of 15 legends to make up the conference’s first Hall of Fame class in 14 years, which was officially inducted Wednesday as part of the SIAC Centennial Hall of Fame Gala in Birmingham, Ala.

Other inductees included MLB Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, former NFL stars and Fort Valley State grads Tyrone Poole and linebacker Greg Lloyd, former Temple basketball coach John Cheyney and legendary Alabama A&M coach Betty Austin.

Smith fit right in among the legends.

“It makes you feel good that people still realize some of the accomplishments I made,” Smith said. “But like I said at the banquet, I won 170 games but really the players are the ones who won the games. I am just the one who guided them.”

Several of Smith’s former players attended Wednesday’s ceremony, including current Rams coach Mike White, who took over the Rams after Smith retired in 1999.

“When you talk about the history of Albany State football, it starts with him,” said White, who was joined in Birmingham by ASU assistant coaches Rickey Alexander, Dan Land and Anthony Kelly — all former Rams who played under Smith. “A lot of what we do and know comes from him.”

During Smith’s two-plus decades at Albany State he won nine SIAC championships — third-most in the history of the SIAC — and finished with a record of 170-83-4. He also won the SIAC Coach of the Year award in 1984, ’86, ’93, ’94 and ’96 and won 30-straight conference games from 1992-95.

Smith also coached at Mississippi Valley State (1959-62, 1979-80), Johnson High School (1962-69), Tennessee State (1969-71) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (1977-79) and is a member of the SWAC Hall of Fame.

During his time at ASU, Smith sent several players to the NFL and recruited some of the top teams in all of Division II.

“I had some great individual players,” he said. “Some of them were even-tempered and some were high-strung. You had to balance it all out to be successful on the football field. That’s always what I tried to do, to have some balance.”

The Hall of Fame class also included Lonnie Bartley (Fort Valley St.), Clemon Johnson (Florida A&M), Willie Galimor (Florida A&M), William Nicks (Morris Brown), Don Clendenon (Morehouse), Harold Ellis (Morehouse) and Samuel Goodwin (South Carolina State), but the biggest name of the group was Dawson, a baseball legend who won the NL Rookie of the Year with the Montreal Expos in 1977 and the NL Most Valuable Player with the Chicago Cubs in 1987.

“Andre Dawson is looking good,” said Smith, who had a chance to speak with Dawson on Wednesday. “He looks like he could play now. He’s slim and trim.”

Dawson spoke during the ceremony and called it an honor to be included in the 2014 class.

“I went to school with the idea of getting my education and not being on a scholarship,” Dawson said on Wednesday. “Going out for the football team and eventually being given a scholarship, making the starting lineup as a freshman. I owe a lot to my college days, as far as, when I look back on growing up being a young man. That was the reason I played the game. To be honored … that makes it that much more enjoyable.”