Another Big Three Enter Atlanta Athletics HOF
By Gordon Pynes
Prior to kickoff this Friday night (Sept. 24th) three of Atlanta’s most prominent athletes from the past will be enshrined in the Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame (HOF). This trio will enter as the Class of 2021 and be the fourth Group selected for the HOF. The Rabbits begin their District 6A -3A Division I play hosting the White Oak Roughnecks.
Three former Rabbit greats will have their pictures and athletic achievements etched on black granite plaques to be mounted on the left stadium wall as you enter under the press box. As the HOF was begun in 2018 there are already eleven plaques that adorn the wall under the Atlanta Athletics banner. The two men represent the 1970’s when they wore the maroon and white while the female entry starred in the first years of the 21st century.
Shortly after the integration of Booker T. Washington High School and Atlanta High in 1970, Marcus Hatley came in from Douglassville. He had not had the chance to play junior high football but quickly took to the sport. Mobile and tall Marcus was put at Tight End where he was outstanding. As a Rabbit he earned All Northeast Texas honors and in 1973 was team Co-Captain with former Mayor Keith Crow. With the end of each football season Hatley moved on to the basketball court under Coach George Frost. He excelled and led the 1974 Rabbits to the State basketball tournament for only the second time in school history. His court honors included All Tourney and a selection to the Coaches All-Star game. Football would earn him a scholarship with Tulsa University where he twice earned All Missouri Valley selection at tight end. From there it was on to the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. The misfortune of a knee injury cut short his pro career. Marcus served many years in the Dallas area as a deputy sheriff. Atlanta now recognizes him as one of its all-time sports greats.
As Hatley graduated, a speedster from the Shiloh community showed up at Atlanta High. Phillip Epps brought a small frame but lightning speed to Rabbit sports. He excelled as a pass receiver, kick returner and free safety in football. His speed terrified Rabb opponents and would lead the team to the second round of the state playoffs. Chosen team captain he would also be an All Northeast Texas pick. The Shiloh swifty was a speed burner on the track. He won numerous sprint victories in East Texas setting a school record in the 200 meters that still stands.
That speed earned Phillip a spot with the Texas Christian (TCU) Horned Frogs. They let him play football and run track which brought big dividends in each sport. An outstanding receiver and kick returner he also found time to win the Southwest Conference 200 meter race. As a world class sprinter Epps caught the eye of Green Bay Packers coach Bart Starr. Joining the Pack he would play eight seasons and conclude a brillant NFL career with the New York Jets. He also earned the title of the NFL’s Fastest Man. Already a member the TCU Hall of Fame, he now joins the Rabbit Hall. He served as a Tarrant County probation officer for many years after concluding his football days.
The Class of 2021 welcomes its female pick in Ashlee Anderson who starred as a Lady Rabb in 2001-2004. Ashlee made an instant impact in three sports as a freshman. She would go on to earn four letters each in Volleyball, Basketball and Softball. A team leader from her first year Ashlee would lead the basketball team to the playoffs earning a selection to the Coaches All Star game. Excelling in both volleyball and as the Lady Rabb softball team shortstop, Anderson’s all round play on the basketball court led to interest from numerous college teams. She accepted an offer to play roundball at Tulsa for the Golden Hurricanes. After a coaching change following her first year she moved closer to home playing for Kilgore College. Finishing a business degree at Stephen F. Austin Ashlee took a job with the Bank of America in Plano. She now heads a team of loan auditors with that firm. With her love for basketball she began officiating the game and for a number of years blew the whistle at high school games in the Dallas area. Now Ashlee Anderson takes her place as an honored Lady Rabb in the Atlanta Athletics HOF.
The Hall of Fame honors Atlanta’s great athletes. The Black Granite plaques are expensive and we must keep the HOF going through donations from the Atlanta public. Normally we have a supper for family and friends of the inductees but due to Covid we have had to cancel last year and this year. The HOF is designed to recognize our towns’ sports tradition and carry it on with each future group of Rabbit athletes. Donations can be made to Atlanta Athletics HOF at P.O. Box 637 - Atlanta, Tx 75551.