VALDOSTA -- College can be one of the first great changes in a person's life.
You're away from home, from family, from friends. It doesn't always work out.
But for four people, Valdosta State became more than a second home. It became a place to excel, especially on the field of athletics.
VSU honored four former student-athletes as the sixth class of the school's athletic hall of fame. The four -- baseball's Mike Jones, basketball's Ray McCully and Janice Washington and football's Keith Moore -- were inducted at a noon luncheon at the University Center.
The hall of fame now has 30 members.
"VSU will always embrace athletics as a lesson in leadership," said school president Dr. Ronald Zaccari, presiding over his first induction luncheon. "By your sacrifices, you have brought distinction to your university and Blazer athletics.
"Thanks to each of you for outstanding contributions to your school's history and its future."
The four didn't always take the most direct route to success at Valdosta State.
Jones came to Valdosta on a basketball scholarship. "Coach (Tommy) Thomas gave me a 30-minute trial," Jones said. "It was a great choice on my behalf to attend Valdosta State.
Jones started his last two years, after giving up basketball. By his senior season, he was an all-America selection, hitting .421 and helping the Blazers to the 1985 national tournament.
Jones' name is still in the Blazer record books, including hits in a game (six) and season (114).
He becomes the eighth baseball player or coach to be inducted.
McCully was in the Marine Corps for four years. One day his team in Albany scrimmaged Valdosta State. Coach Gary Colson saw McCully and offered the point guard a scholarship once his active duty was completed.
He started four years (1962-66), leading his teams to 69 wins. Three won conference titles.
"I couldn't have done it without coaching and strong competition from teammates," said McCully, who took time to honor a number of those in attendance.
McCully has continued to be active in Blazer athletics, helping to start the Colson Scholarship Fund while being active with the Blazer Boosters.
He becomes the sixth men's basketball player or coach to be inducted, including four from the great Rebel days of the 1960s.
Moore was a kicker who had to convince his new teammates that's what he was there to do.
"This has allowed me to think back on four of the best years of my life," he said. "To think about the tremendous education I got and the tremendous people I met."
He remembers watching his teammates, "the real football players," he said, suffer through drills while he retrieved kicked footballs from the ditch south of Reames Field.
But when Moore got his chance, he kicked well. He made 42-of-55 field goals and 76-of-80 extra points as a four-year starter (1983-86). He made a 54-yard field goal his junior year which is still a school record and was the best in the Gulf South Conference for 13 years. Twice he was an all-America pick and is still the second-leading scorer in VSU history.
He becomes the fourth football player to be inducted.
If her family had given into Janice Washington, she'd never been a part of the school's greatest women's basketball team.
"I wasn't used to being away from home.I was a mamma's girl," she said. Early in her freshman year, she's call home crying.
The word from the other end of the phone? "Hang in there," she was told.
And she did. By her senior season (1983-84) she averaged 23.4 points and 11 rebounds. Her team went 30-3, advance to the national semifinals and won 21 straight games.
A four-year letterwinner and two-year starter, Washington is fifth all-time in points scored (1,774) at Valdosta State.
She becomes the seventh women's basketball player or coach to be inducted.
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