Glory Days

Local Athletes Wax Nostalgic on Their Impressive High School Careers & the Positive Impact of Sports in Their Lives

Glory days: a time in someone’s life that is remembered for great success. For the following men, athletic success defined their high school experience – they set school records, earned state titles, and ultimately led their teammates to victory. But success didn’t stop there. Remarkable collegiate careers, rewarding professions, and growing families followed, with the lessons learned from their high school days touching every facet of their lives. Here, six athletes share their fondest memories from their time on the field, mat, or court … and how sports shaped them into the men they are today.

By Mary Beth Wallace | Photography by Lanewood Studio

Eric Voges

 

Eric Voges

McCallie School, Class of 1981

Sport: Tennis

 

Eric Voges has been playing tennis since he was 4 years old – and he’s still serving up shots. While a student at McCallie School, Voges was a leadership award recipient, a TSSAA state doubles champion two years running, a Chattanooga Rotary singles champion, and MVP his senior year. After playing tennis all four years at the University of Tennessee, he returned to his high school alma mater as the head varsity tennis coach. He now serves as director of tennis
operations, and in this role, he’s using his experience and expertise to mold young players into outstanding citizens and athletes.

 

Q. Who was your high school tennis coach, and what impact did he have on you?

A. My coach was John Strang, who gave me the nickname “Big E” because I was small. His impact on me was a lot more about life than tennis. Coach Strang taught me how to meet success and failure with the same attitude. His humor and ability to make you feel good still live with me today.

 

Q. What is your fondest memory from playing tennis?

A. The relationships, no doubt. At the time you don’t realize it, but as a coach now and as a former player, the relationships you make while playing your sport stay with you a lifetime.

 

Q. How did tennis shape you into the man you are today?

A. In tennis, you are out on the court by yourself, no coaches, no referees, just you. So, you have to be a problem solver and work through doubt, insecurities, frustration, anger, winning, choking, and nerves all on your own. I learned how to set goals and work toward them. I also had to make the decision early on if I was going to play fair or cheat. You’re responsible for calling your own lines, so you have to be prepared to make the right decision.

 

Q. What advice would you give today’s high school athletes?

A. I use tennis as a vehicle to teach athletes about life. I would say train very hard, and don’t be afraid to go after your goals. I also remind them that they can go a lot further being part of a team than they can thinking and acting like an individual.

 

As a tennis player, I was known for being elusive and consistent. I wasn’t very physical, so I had to use my brain and persistence a lot. I won more games with my brain than my body.”

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Ed Hammonds

 

Ed Hammonds

Howard High School, Class of 1968

Sports: Track & Field, Football

 

For Ed “Buddy” Hammonds, speed was the name of the game. This track star was the 100-yard dash state champion for two straight years, and in 1968, his senior year at Howard High School, he set the state record at 9.7 seconds. His collegiate career was equally as impressive, and Hammonds seemed bound for the 1972 Olympics – until a pulled hamstring benched him from the trials. Never one to quit, though, Hammonds was competing, and winning, the very next year. He’s since been honored by the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame and the M Club Hall of Fame at the University of Memphis.

 

Q. What was your favorite thing about track?

A. I loved to compete. And I loved that no matter the outcome of any one race, you always had the opportunity to come back and take things to the next level. With track, you’re running against the same athletes multiple times a year. You might beat me one day, but I can work harder and beat you tomorrow. 

 

Q. Did you continue to run track after high school?

A. Yes, I got a track scholarship to Memphis State University. I competed all four years of college and was a two-time NCAA National Champion in the 100-yard dash. My best time was 9.4 seconds. I was also on the Memphis State championship team for the 440-yard relay. I got to travel and compete all over the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa – all these places I would never have had a chance to go in my life if it weren’t for track. 

 

Q. What is the greatest lesson track taught you?

A. Don’t give up. Continue to fight. Defeat is just a mindset – I absolutely believe that. The only time I felt like I lost a race was when I thought another individual was better than I was, and my performance reflected that. Even though you may admire someone, or find them superior, you can’t let it stop you from doing your best.

 

Q. What advice would you give today’s high school athletes?

A. To be a good athlete, you have to have the heart and the dedication. Your coaches will provide the training for you – it’s up to you to provide the rest.

 

Track allowed me many opportunities – to see the world, to become friends with my competitors. I owe so much to this sport.”

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Chris Mullin

 

Chris Mullin

Notre Dame High School, Class of 1985

Sport: Wrestling

 

If you are familiar with Notre Dame athletics, chances are you’ve heard of the “Wrestling Mullins” dynasty. While in high school, Chris Mullin wrestled under his older brother, John, who served as assistant coach. He went undefeated two seasons and earned Tennessee’s “Most Outstanding Wrestler” two years in a row. Mullin continued his wrestling career at the University of Tennessee before switching gears and pursuing a career in medicine. He’s passed down his wisdom, and his athleticism, to sons Packie and Lucas, who have become wrestling state champions in their own right.

 

Q. What is your fondest memory from wrestling?

A. In high school, it was the state tournament my senior year – just being able to finish out on a high note, plus I got to watch my friends win championships too. Then later in life, wrestling became a true family affair. My fondest memories have been watching my two sons and my nephew wrestle for Notre Dame and win their own state championships. And my daughters and nieces, they’ve all been managers for the team.

 

Q. What were you known for on the wrestling mat?

A. I might have had a little bit of a mean streak at the time [laughs]. I was actually known for my takedowns, which is when you take your opponent off their feet. I was pretty intense.

 

Q. What is the greatest lesson wrestling taught you?

A. Wrestling really taught me work ethic and how hard you have to work to be successful. That same work ethic carried me through the long hours and late nights of medical school and residency and even now, as an obstetrician. Wrestling also taught me how to stay calm and cool under significant pressure, which I still find helpful to this day.

 

Q. What advice would you give today’s high school athletes?

A. Competing in a sport is something that you do that helps you reach your potential as an individual; it’s a tool to prepare you for your future life. The sport you compete in is not who you are.

 

“I couldn’t begin to imagine what I would be like if I hadn’t wrestled for 16 years of my life.”

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Jimmy Wigfall

 

Jimmy Wigfall

South Pittsburg High School, Class of 1970

Sports: Football, Basketball

 

Jimmy Wigfall is a legend – literally. Dubbed “The Legend” for his stellar career as a tailback for the South Pittsburg Pirates, Wigfall was notorious for his speed and elusiveness on the football field. Not only did it earn him All-Tri-State honors and “Player of the Week” recognitions, Wigfall’s talents contributed to the Pirates’ undefeated 1969 season. Although he turned down his football scholarship to pursue the military at the age of 18, Wigfall’s love for the sport still runs deep. He’s now a regular on Friday nights at Beene Stadium.

 

Q. What is your fondest memory from playing football?

A. I’ll never forget coming from behind to win over Jasper and earn our trip to the state playoffs. Jasper was South Pittsburg’s big rival, and we were down 22-8 at the half. The locker room was sort of somber as the coaches – Don Grider, Sam Brooks, and Hoot Gibson – tried to form a game plan. I’ll never forget when Phil Beene, our principal and former coach, came to that locker room and stood there in his trench coat. He just stood there and glared – never said a word! It was all the motivation we needed for the second half. The final score was 28-22.

 

Q. What were your goals as a high school athlete? Did you achieve them?

A. I wanted to go undefeated with my team – and we achieved that. Then, once we realized the TSSAA was creating a playoff system for the very first time, we wanted to win it all. Our ’69 team was the first to win the Class A state championship.

 

Q. What is the greatest lesson football taught you?

A. It’s more than just one lesson. Football taught me to be fair, to make good decisions, and to do what’s right. You have to try to be humble, whether you’re winning or losing. I don’t like to lose, but when it happened, I saw it as an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I could always work harder for the next time.

 

Q. What advice would you give today’s high school athletes?

A. Work hard, be a team player, never quit, and listen to your coaches. If you do those four things, you’ll go far as an athlete.

 

Football gave me discipline. I’m very disciplined in what I’m doing, always planning ahead. When you don’t come prepared to win, you lose.”

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Chris White

 

Chris White

Bradley Central High School, Class of 1981

Sports: Football, Basketball, Golf, Track & Field

 

A multi-sport athlete, Chris White was known for two things: his competitive drive and his height (measuring in at 6-foot-4). He was an All-State football player, led the basketball team in scoring, and received Mr. Bear at Bradley Central High School – the top award given to a male athlete. White’s discipline and skill earned him a position on the University of Tennessee’s football team, where he was named All-American in 1985. He then went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks and the European Football League in Italy before settling down in Cleveland. His three children, Alex, Lorenzo, and Isabella, are now carrying on their father’s athletic legacy.

 

Q. What is your fondest memory from playing sports?

A. With football it was beating our rivals, Red Bank and Cleveland, my senior year and being able to go to the playoffs. Back then, they just took one team to the playoffs, so it was a really big deal – the entire city shut down.

 

Q. What were your goals as a high school athlete? Did you achieve them?

A. I always wanted to play quarterback at the University of Tennessee. And I did – I played one series as a freshman against Memphis. I ran the ball and lost four yards – I’m in the record books! After that, I got moved to defensive back. But I did fulfill my goal.

 

Q. How did athletics shape you into the man you are today?

A. I remember playing football against Red Bank. We were ranked No. 1 in the state at the time. I ran the wrong direction on an option play, and then I pitched it and we lost the game. I remember playing basketball in a packed gym at Howard on Friday night. The ball is thrown to me, and I’m posting up Reggie White – the best athlete to come out of Chattanooga. I also remember riding my bike to the practice field in the summer, in 90-degree heat. I’m the only person on the field preparing for August. The way I dealt with the failure, the competition, and the preparation shaped me into the person I am now.

 

Q. What advice would you give today’s high school athletes?

A. If you put the same amount of time in your education as you do sports, how smart would you be? Try to maintain a good balance between athletics and your education.

 

The single greatest lesson my athletic career taught me is this: Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough.”

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Lee Dyer

 

Lee Dyer

Baylor School, Class of 1977

Sports: Baseball, Football, Swimming, Wrestling, Basketball, Track & Field

 

You could say that Lee Dyer has mastered the fine art of
multitasking. His freshman year at Baylor, Dyer spread his time between not two, not three, but six sports. He eventually
whittled the list down to baseball, football, and swimming, and he lettered multiple years in all three sports. His senior year, he was captain of the baseball and football teams, an All-City performer in baseball, and the recipient of the Alexander Guerry Leadership Award, Ted Nelson Best Athlete Award, and Tommy Mullican Award – Baylor’s most prestigious athletic honors. Fast-forward four decades, and Dyer is still multitasking. He’s now balancing his faith, family (including two sons, also Baylor grads), work, and an enduring career as a football official.

 

Q. What was your favorite thing about playing sports in high school?

A. Definitely the camaraderie and the friendships I built with my teammates and coaches. To this day, these men are some of my closest friends. We’ve kept in touch through phone calls, reunions, and fundraising efforts for Baylor.

 

Q. Who were your coaches, and what impact did they have on you?

A. I had a lot of coaches [laughs], but two that stand out are Luke Worsham and Gene Etter. These guys basically pushed me every day – not only on the field, but off the field as well. They instilled in me principles like teamwork, preparation, and sacrifice.

 

Q. Did you continue to play sports after high school?

A. I had offers to play football and baseball at different schools. I ultimately chose to play baseball at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and I was an outfielder all four years there. That’s when I got into officiating, and that career has continued to this day. I began officiating high school sports, then I moved on to the Southern Conference, then the SEC, and now the NFL.

 

Q. What advice would you give today’s high school athletes?

A. First, play more than one sport if you’re given the opportunity. It helps break up the monotony so that you don’t burn out. Second, work hard to balance sports with academics. And third, once you stop playing, find ways to give back to your sport. I’d really encourage former athletes to get involved in officiating; it’s very rewarding, and we need officials right now in all sports.

 

I’ll never forget my senior season of baseball. In the district tournament, I hit four home runs in four consecutive games – two of those were grand slams!”

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