The state of Virginia is rich in athletic history. The Hampton Roads area has produced not only some of the best talent to come out of the Commonwealth, but some of the best athletes in their respective sport’s history. Along with the many accolades some of these area athletes hold, they also have a place in the history books when it comes to African-American athletes.
The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Portsmouth recognizes these athletic accomplishments while displaying some memorabilia from their achievements. The VSHFM also offers an opportunity to learn about, and be interactive, with Virginia’s sports history. Here are some of athletes from Hampton Roads that many regard as some of the greatest athletes in their respective sports.
Angela Hucles – Virginia Beach – Soccer – Class of 2015 – The leading scorer in Norfolk Academy history was named a Parade High School All-American. During her four years at the University of Virginia, she was an All-American and on the all-ACC team every year. Scoring 59 goals, she is UVA’s all-time leading scorer in women’s soccer. Hucles won two Olympic Gold Medals, made two World Cup appearances and scored a total of 13 goals for the US Women’s Soccer Team from 2002-2009. She retired internationally and professionally in 2009. Hucles currently serves as the president of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Alonzo Mourning – Chesapeake – Basketball – Class of 2010 – “Zo” as he is known, graduated from Indian River High School where he lead the Braves to a state title. Mourning was the National Player of the Year in high school, and went on to play at Georgetown University where he was an All-American. He was selected 2nd overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice, was named to the All-NBA Team in 1999. Zo was also a 7-time NBA All-Star, and won an NBA Championship as a member of the Miami Heat in 2006.
Bruce Smith – Norfolk – Football – Class of 2005 – A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Smith played his college football in-state at Virginia Tech. In 1985, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the defensive lineman of the year and was named an All-American. The 1st pick in the 1985 NFL Draft of the Buffalo Bills, Bruce was named the league’s MVP in 1987 and 1997, and was voted the Defensive Player of the Year 4-times. Smith played in four Super Bowls and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Dwight Stephenson – Hampton – Football – Class of 1999 – The Hampton High School grad went on to play for legendary college football coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. The Miami Dolphins selected Stephenson in the 2nd round of the 1980 NFL Draft. He played in two Super Bowls in 1982 and 1984, and was the AFC Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1986. Stephenson was a five-time Pro Bowler and in 1994 was named to the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll. Despite a short career, Stephenson was ranked 84th on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Kenny Easley Jr. – Chesapeake – Football – Class of 1998 – The Oscar Smith High School grad was the first player in Virginia state history to rush and pass for over a 1,000 yards in a season. The 3-time All-American at UCLA was drafted in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Easley was the AFL Rookie of the Year in 1981 and the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1984. Injuries would end his career early, but in 2002 the Seahawks inducted him into their Ring of Honor. Easley was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
LaTasha Colander-Clark – Portsmouth – Track & Field – Class of 2014 – The Woodrow Wilson High School grad won 14 ACC individual titles at the University of North Carolina. Colander-Clark was also an All-American that helped lead the Tar Heels to eight ACC team titles. She was a member of both the 2000 and 2004 United States Olympic Teams. At the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia, she and won a Gold Medal as part of the 4 x 400 meter relay team that also holds the world record time in the event.
Photos: Memorabilia from Hampton Roads athletes at the VSFHM
Lawrence Taylor – Williamsburg – Football – Class of 2003 – If you are a football fan then you certainly are familiar with the man they call “LT”. Known as one of the greatest linebackers to play the game, LT started his march towards football history on the fields of Lafayette High School. LT would then go on to earn All-American honors at UNC, and was then drafted by the New York Giants 2nd overall in 1981. He was named the league’s MVP in 1986 and was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. Taylor played all of his 13 seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, and ranks second all-time in quarterback sacks. LT was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Marty Miller – Norfolk- Baseball – Class of 2014 – Miller is considered the greatest ambassador in the history Norfolk State University athletics. The Danville native came to play baseball for the Spartans in 1965. Miller was the first-ever Spartan to be named to the College Baseball All-American Team. After serving in the Army following his playing days, he was named the head baseball coach at NSU. Miller coached the Spartans for 32 years winning 17 conference titles. In 2005, he was named the Athletic Director and is still serves in that position. Miller is a member of the CIAA Hall of Fame, Norfolk State’s Hall of Fame and NSU’s baseball field is named after him.
Parnell Whitaker – Norfolk – Boxing – Class of 2011 – The boxer known as “Sweet Pea” started his amateur career at 9-years-old. During his amateur career, “Sweet Pea” won a Gold Medal at the 1983 Pan American Games and at the 1984 Olympic Games. Whitaker’s 20-year professional career saw him become the World Champion in four different weight divisions. Ring Magazine named him Fighter of the Year in 1989. Whitaker’s professional record was 41-3-1 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Roger Brown – Newport News – Football – Class of 1997 – Brown played his college football at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore where he earned All-American honors. He was then drafted in the 4th of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, and was selected to the All-Pro team his rookie year in 1960. When Brown played he weighted over 300 pounds, the biggest player of the 1960’s-1970’s era. Brown played for the Rams following the Lions, and was a part of the “Fearsome Foursome” along with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy. He was named to six Pro Bowl teams and a total of nine All-Pro teams. Following football, Brown served on numerous charity and service committees and became a successful restaurateur. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.