Pearl River celebrates induction of 2023 Hall of Famers
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — Pearl River Community College held its annual Athletics Hall of Fame Celebration on Friday. The celebration, presented by Keith's Superstores, began with a sold-out golf tournament at the Bridges Golf Club and ended with an incredible banquet at Hollywood Casino & Resort.
"The Pearl River Community College Athletics Hall of Fame is an event we look forward to every year, and Friday certainly didn't disappoint," Pearl River Director of Athletics Patrick Ochs said. "Friday was a great day from sun-up to sunset with our golf tournament in the morning and banquet in the evening. To see so many people come together to celebrate Pearl River and honor our inductees is one of the highlights of our school year.
"This year, we had the honor of celebrating five championship teams in addition to five deserving individuals. Their speeches are always the best part of the evening as they recall fond memories from their time at The River. When they're on stage, and their families joyfully video their speeches, it really hits home how special Pearl River is to so many generations of families in our community."
Ochs spoke to all of those who helped put together the event and made it a success.
"I want to sincerely thank our committee members and colleagues at the college for their assistance this year. An event this large takes a village," he said. "It wouldn't be possible to host such a grand celebration without multiple departments working together. I can't say enough about the job our marketing department and Foundation do supporting this event. We strive to go the extra mile in everything we do at The River, and on nights like Friday, it's great to see those efforts come to fruition."
The day began with a 9 a.m. tee-time at The Bridges Golf Club. The four-person scramble tournament featured longest drive and closest-to-the-pin competitions. It also included a hole-in-one contest that Paw Paw's Campers and Cars sponsored.
Austin Darden, Reid Walsh, Jason Spence and David Hattaway took home first place. Earning second place were Jamie Brown, Jason Mangum, Chad Lewis and Lake Thoms. Brad Ladner, Carter Nicholson, Eric Ladner and Jesse Walker snatched a third-place finish. Darden won the longest drive competition and Walsh was closest to the pin.
The day wrapped up with the induction of the Class of 2023 Hall of Famers. This year's special class included baseball's Jim Murphy and Dr. Thomas Royals, football's Craig Franklin and women's basketball's Norma Noel. Francis Herrin was presented with the second-ever Spirit of a Wildcat award for his unwavering support of Pearl River athletics.
During the banquet, PRCC honored five Championship winning teams, which included the 2002-03 MACJC Champion men's basketball team, 2002-03 Region 23 Champion women's basketball team, 2012-13 MACJC Champion men's basketball team, 2012-13 MACJC and Region 23 Champion women's soccer team and 2012-13 MACJC and Region 23 Champion men's soccer team.
Craig Franklin talked about what the event and the honor meant to him personally.
"Just to be nominated was a huge honor, but to be selected. I'm not sure if I can describe it in words," he said. "It's probably the biggest honor that I've ever received and it's definitely the one I cherish the most. There are so many incredible players in this Hall of Fame, and to be alongside them is an awesome feeling."
Jim Murphy was excited to have his sons with him as he was enshrined.
"It's really neat to look back that many years when athletics was the pinnacle of everything I was doing. It was what I was all about," he said. "To think about that again and all of the lessons learned is really cool. The biggest thrill is having my two young sons here today. They get to see what was going on with Dad many years ago. We toured the campus today, and I was really impressed with the facilities. It's amazing where they've come. Seeing the charm of Poplarville and Pearl River was amazing. It's a huge honor, and it's neat to have an athletic honor for sure."
Norma Noel only played the game because she loved it, so being recognized was a true honor for her.
"This really means so much to me because I just played the game to play it," she said. "Knowing that people paid attention and wanted to honor me for doing something that I just wanted to do. It means the world to me. It's awesome to bring my kids here and let them see that I did do something back then. I'm so truly blessed for this moment."
Dr. Thomas Royals reflected on why he played and what it means to him now.
"It's truly incredible. When you're playing sports as a teenager, you aren't playing to be recognized," he said. "You're playing because you love it and to have fun with your friends. You have a good team and a good season, and years later, you get a phone call. As you start to think about the honor, you realize it's the cream of the crop. To be recognized as an athlete for doing something that I loved at a school with a rich history of athletics is truly an honor."
Francis Herrin was still shocked to have been chosen.
"I still wonder what I did to really deserve this," he said. "What I do and what I did was never for any type of recognition. I'm happy that someone thought I deserved it and recommended me. I'm very proud of it.
HOW TO NOMINATE
Know someone who's deserving of consideration to be included in the Class of 2024? You can nominate them by visiting PRCCAthletics.com/hof/Hall_of_Fame_nomination_form.