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Your School’s Mount Rushmore?

CoachT-boards inspired debate no easy thing

Albert_DavisFormer Alcoa running back Albert Davis becomes the first African-American athlete to sign scholarship papers with the University of Tennessee in this 1967 photograph. Photo courtesy of Judge David Duggan

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row has long been a valuable resource for anyone interested in prep sports.

It’s also a great place to get a healthy debate going.

The site’s message boards are all on fire of late, with fans asked what four sports figures would adorn their school’s Mount Rushmore when it comes to athletics. (Props to Blount Press Row reader John Morgan for suggesting we take a look.)

It takes some thinking when you consider the hundreds of great athletes who’ve played or coached high school sports in Blount County through the years. With due acknowledgment to the CoachT message board commandoes who got it started, Blount Press Row is interested in your thoughts on the matter as it pertains to Blount County

We’ll go first.

An Alcoa graduate, the choices are stupefying. After a lot of thought and one change, we settled on four unforgettable Tornadoes and, like the CoachT-inspired debate, we’ll tell you why. We ask you do the same for your school.

Keep it clean. Here we go.

Alcoa’s Mount Rushmore
(As selected by BPR editor Stefan Cooper)

Albert Davis – The legendary fullback from the 1960s was more than just a football player. Many, including yours truly, consider Davis the best athlete in school history.

A centerfielder on the baseball team, Davis hit home runs they still talk about, including one mythic shot that can’t possibly be true – but it is. There was a broken window in one of the classrooms to prove it. The Pittsburgh Pirates offered him a contract at a local tryout once — until they found out he was only 14. Davis played basketball at Alcoa until his senior year. The same summer the Pirates tried to sign him, the Harlem Globetrotters offered then rescinded a contract for the same reasons.

David Davis – David became the first black athlete to play in the TSSAA state basketball tournament in the spring of 1965. (Albert became the first black athlete to play in an integrated high school game in Blount County during the 1963 football season.)

As a senior in 1967, David’s shot at the buzzer at the end of three overtimes won one of the most memorable games in state history when tiny Alcoa upset powerhouse Holston and future Tennessee star Jimmy England for that year’s state championship. Played at the University of Tennessee’s Stokely Athletic Center, it remains one of the great games in which a Blount County high school has ever taken part.

Dawn Marsh – There have been countless female athletes of note in Alcoa’s storied history. Marsh ranks with some of the best to ever play there period, regardless of gender.

As a youth, she was the first girl to ever play Little League baseball in Alcoa. When she got to high school, it was mostly hoops, and she was the best. The only time the Lady Tornadoes were ever ranked No. 1 in the state, she was our point guard. (If she hadn’t gotten sick the week of the state tournament, we’d have won it. Easy.) She signed with the Lady Vols and won a national championship. Enough said.

Vernon Osborne – Coach ‘O’ was, is and always will be Alcoa basketball.

The kid from Wallins Creek, Ky., became the basketball coach of the Tornadoes with the 1950 school year. Over the next 39 seasons, Osborne won 869 games, top-10 nationally all-time, to go with two state championships (1959, 1967), two runner-up finishes, 20 district championships, 12 region championships and made 10 state-tournament appearances. Both state titles came in the days before classification.

When Davis hit the shot that beat Holston, the coolest thing was watching him bound his away across the court to find one man: Coach ‘O.’ A World War II bomber pilot, Osborne changed the game.

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