Herd of Honor
Hall of Fame Inductees
Deshaun Watson, football
Blake Sims, football
Ed Nivens, football
Bert Doss, football
Reggie Sexton, football
Kingsley Barrett, girls golf
Stephanie Yarem, girls basketball, girls soccer
Larry Dyer, football
Mahogany Hudson, girls basketball
Pat Hennen, girls basketball
Mike Byrd, football
John Rogers, football
Bruce Miller, football
Wayne Vickery, baseball
Manson Hill, girls basketball, girls golf
Jerry Davis, boys basketball
Times were much different when Ed Nivens suited up for the Gainesville High football program in the early 1940s.
Now 90, Nivens dressed out during his playing days with the rest of his 14-player Red Elephants squad at the old Gym of ‘36 downtown, then caught a ride down to where they practiced and played games at City Park Stadium.
However, Nivens, who like the rest of the scarce roster had to play on both sides of the football, made do with what they had.
The 1942 Red Elephants finished the season with a 7-0-1 mark and won the North Georgia Championship. This came at a time when men a few years older were busy courageously defending the United States during World War II.
“We didn’t play a championship game that year because of travel restrictions,” said Nivens, who is the last living member of the ‘42 Red Elephants. “I remember Bainbridge won the South Georgia championship.”
Nivens was one of 16-member class Sunday inducted into the Gainesville High Herd of Honor Hall of Fame at the Collegiate Grill in downtown Gainesville.
The Gainesville High graduates spanned many decades, but highlighted by Clemson University quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was not on hand for the event but had family members attend on his behalf.
As a sophomore in 2015, Watson finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, and guided the Tigers to the national championship game. Former University of Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, who played the position the two years before Watson rose to high school, also was inducted but not on hand.
Sims and Watson played football for Bruce Miller, who is the only active Gainesville coach inducted in this Herd of Honor class. The 28-year head coaching veteran Miller guided the Red Elephants, led by the state’s all-time leading passer Watson, to a Class AAAAA state championship in 2012.
The biggest ovation from former Red Elephants and their families was for former baseball coach Wayne Vickery, who retired as athletic director in 2015.
Known for his humorous quips, Vickery recalled the story of his first practice as the school’s coach when there was a fight between two of his players at home plate. He would go on to coach the Red Elephants to five state championships and a 470-129 overall record.
“I was raised on a farm in Hartwell, and when I came Gainesville, I thought it’s heaven,” said Vickery, who still maintains close ties with the school. “And when (funeral director) Ben Mason comes and picks me up in a hearse, I’ll still be in Gainesville.”
The person with the strongest connection to all the new inductees was former football coach Bobby Gruhn, who died in 1995. Not only did Gruhn coach many of the Gainesville greats honored, but he also kept the pipeline open for other great coaches to come to Gainesville High.
Reggie Sexton, Larry Dyer and Mike Byrd were all running backs who played for Gruhn, and had their names part of Sunday’s ceremony.
Those from the Gainesville High coaching ranks included: Manson Hill, who won a combined six state titles as girls basketball and girls golf coach; Jerry Davis, who won 700 games as boys basketball coach; and Miller, who has made Gainesville one of the most consistently strong programs in the state.
Hill was the coach of three women who graduated from Gainesville High inducted during the ceremony, including Stephanie Yarem and Mahogany Hudson in basketball, and four-time girls golf state champion Kingsley Barrett.