What an interesting threesome to be honored Friday night at the Atlanta-Gilmer football game at Rabbit Stadium. A few minutes prior to kickoff (just after 7 P.M.) three former outstanding Atlanta sports figures will be inducted into the Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame (HOF) as the third class, 2018, 2019 and now 2020. The prior two classes have brought eight honorees and this group gives the HOF a total of eleven members. Black granite plaques for each one will go up on the entry wall under the press box at the stadium. Photos of each one and a summary of their achievements are etched on the plaques.
This trio brings a multitude of interesting sports history which continues to amaze at the scope of athletic achievement by natives of Atlanta, Texas. Among their connections are a Super Bowl win, Rocky Mountain plane crash and survival, back up running back behind O.J. Simpson with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, a walk on softball player who became a record setter and captain of her university team in the Southeastern Conference.
The HOF has concentrated their attention on men this year who first drew notice to their athletic ability during their high school years in the 1960’s. Our female selection performed in the early 2000 years. Each one is very deserving to be enshrined in their hometown HOF.
Randy Jackson was a punishing running back for Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington Wolverines in the mid 1960’s. He terrorized opponents while scoring 60 touchdowns in his high school career. Many coaches and players in the area who faced him on the field made a comparison to NFL great Jim Brown. While a Wolverine he played all sports and found time to be a member of the band. Jackson went on to star for the Wichita State Shockers and set rushing records there in the early 1970’s. While there he was involved in a horrible plane crash which killed a number of his teammates.
Flying to a game with Utah State in October 1970 an overloaded team charter plane crashed at 12 thousand feet in the mountains west of Denver. Randy survived the crash along with 7 others. The next season with a young offensive line he set a school rushing mark and led the Missouri Valley Conference. He was then drafted by the Buffalo Bills and found himself as the backup to then NFL great O.J. Simpson. Following were stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49er’s before a knee injury curtailed his pro career. After being engaged to his future wife Gayle Randy went back to Wichita and served many years as a coach in the school system there. He passed away in 2010 and was honored by Wichita State with an endowed scholarship in his name. Certainly an ultimate survivor, Randy Jackson is remembered as one of Atlanta’s finest athletes. Randy’s birthday is on September 11th so what a treat as he is to be honored by the HOF on his birthday night.
Ted Thompson came along at Atlanta High a couple of years later as a bruising running back and linebacker for the Rabbits. His performance earned a scholarship to Southern Methodist University and he quickly became a defensive standout for the Mustangs. He even played on the SMU baseball team after his senior football season. Ted was a team captain for both the Rabbits and Ponies.
He went undrafted by the NFL but was brought on with the Houston Oilers by the legendary coach Bum Phillips who had been a defensive assistant at SMU. Ted earned a spot and became a valuable special teams player putting together a stellar 10-year career as an Oiler. Several years later Thompson became an NFL scout for the Green Bay Packers and then moved on to Seattle where he was more involved with player personnel. He played a big role in the Seahawks 2005 Super Bowl appearance. After the 2005 season a big event took place as Ted was named the General Manager of the Packers. During his time in that lofty position Green Bay won the Super Bowl in 2010. Ted proudly held up the trophy which put him at the height of the football profession. Some of his high school teammates claim that was a dream he had expressed as far back as the early 1970’s. Ted stepped down in 2018 and in 2019 retired back to his hometown. Another literally super sports career earns Ted Thompson induction to our local HOF.
Our women’s honoree in the class of 2020 is DeeDee Henderson. A native of the area near the community of Marietta DeeDee began her love for sports by playing softball in Atlanta as a youngster. She attended our local schools and soon became noticed in softball, volleyball and track.
By the time she graduated from the Lady Rabbs ranks a number of honors had come her way. Henderson was an all state academic selection in softball, earned eleven letters in three sports along with two trips to the State track meet running to two bronze medals. Her dream was to play softball for the LSU Lady Tigers. So she walked on at LSU and four years later had become team captain while setting numerous team and Southeastern Conference records. Her speed on the base paths resulted in a huge number of stolen bases each season during the four years with the Lady Tigers. She also excelled with the bat once hitting safely in 15 straight games. Henderson has gone on to earn a masters degree in health management and now is a Regional Director with a firm in Baton Rouge. DeeDee epitomized desire, discipline and hard work to achieve notable results as an athlete. Her example makes her the third Lady Rabbs inductee to the HOF.