Gary Adams Inducted Into ASHOF
“Our small, wonderful state has produced some of the greatest athletes in the world, and tonight we have the opportunity to induct nine more into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame,” master of ceremonies Chuck Barrett noted Friday evening as the ASHOF prepared to welcome the members of the class of 2019. Among them was Piggott area native, and former Mohawk and Razorback football standout, Gary Adams. A long time member of the board of directors of the ASHOF, and former president, Adams was elected late last year thanks to overwhelming support from his home town. Friday night a large group of Piggott faithful, including current and former Mohawk football players, were on hand as he was honored.
Although he had been nominated before, a grassroots effort by Joe Cole garnered enough votes for Adams to be named to this year's class, as he was recipient of an honor long overdue.
“Our first inductee for tonight, for him it all began in Piggott, Ark., and if you're wanting to rob the bank in Piggott tonight's your night, because everybody's here,” Barrett joked as Adams was introduced to a strong ovation by the Mohawk faithful.
The 900-plus in attendance at the Arkansas State Convention Center were then treated to a video history of Adams' career, which including his time as both a Mohawk, a member of the “Shoat” team for the Hogs and as a Razorback.
His time at PHS was documented, as he guided the Mohawks to 23 straight wins and was named All-State. Of course, he also doubled as a defensive back and once had five interceptions in a single game. He went to the UofA in the fall of 1965, joining fellow Mohawk Tommy Dixon who had redshirted the previous year. He also ran track at PHS and at Arkansas.
Moving to defense his sophomore season, Adams helped the Hogs to an 8-2 record and a top 10 ranking. Despite a lackluster junior season, which saw the Hogs go 4-5-1, the team rebounded for Adams' senior campaign and finished at 10-1. This also earned them a trip to the Sugar Bowl, where they beat Georgia 16-2. Afterward, Adams was off to Tampa to play in the All-Star game—coached by the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Adams led the SWC in interceptions in 1966 with seven, and is still tied for second place in season interceptions in Razorback history. Two of the picks in 1966 were in the fourth quarter against Texas, helping secure a 12-7 Arkansas win over their long-time rivals.
Adams was also a kickoff returner for the Hogs his second year, earning him postseason honors. He added punt returning as a junior and senior, and led the team in both in 1967 and 1968. His 10.31 yards per punt return still ranks among the best in Razorback history.
His senior year at Fayetteville, Gary was named defensive captain. He ended his time with 13 interceptions, second to only Steve Atwater's 14, and was a letterman as a sophomore, junior and senior. He was also named All-Southwest Conference all three seasons, and was an Honorable Mention All American as a sophomore.
During his time as a Razorback, the team compiled a record of 22-8-1 and tied for the SWC title.
He was drafted in the 12th round of the NFL draft in 1969, and played for the Philadelphia Eagles two years. Adams was also named to the Razorback's 1960s All-Decade team, and was inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 2011.
Adams and his wife Gail have been married 47 years and they have three daughters and 13 grandchildren, all of whom regularly visit Piggott.
Following his introduction, Barrett inquired about those who had been a strong influence on Adams during his earlier years. “My parents, Charlie and Ruby Adams,” he responded. “They were farmers up in Northeast Arkansas and lived about eight miles out in the country. And, they sacrificed an awful lot for me. They made sure I was at all the practices I needed to be—football, basketball, baseball or track, it didn't make any difference, they had me there. And, another place they had me every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night was the Thornton Street Church of Christ—and I appreciate them for that.”
Adams noted he was the youngest of four, with three older sisters. “Two of them are here tonight, and I appreciate my family being here tonight, it means so much to me.”
Adams also related his time playing for Mohawk Coach Carl “Zig” Williams, who led the squad to the winning streak. “There were a couple of guys who were not really part of the team, but they were our water boys,” he explained. “And, I've always loved the water boys, because during those two-a-days you needed someone to come and bring you water. And, George Wellman and Lanny Winberry were ours. And, Lanny Winberry is here tonight, he flew all the way in from Sacramento, Calif., to be here. He was our water boy and equipment manager, thank you Lanny.”
Adams also spoke of the time spent playing with former Mohawk Dixon, as the two were regulars in the Razorback defensive backfield. He also pointed to many mentors he had in his life, and related the story of his time in the NFL—and his decision to move into the world of business.
Afterward, he was asked about the large contingent of past and current Piggott residents who were on hand for the ceremony, and occupied several tables.
“It all started a few years back when Joe Cole, a local attorney, started this effort to get me elected,” he explained. “And, as a result a lot of folks from Piggott joined the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. But, that's not all, we've got members of the senior high football team here tonight. Not only did they support me, my biological family supported me, my church family supported me, my work family and my golf buddies supported me. Chuck, that's kind of how the nine of us all got in here, and I want to congratulate the other inductees also.”
Among those on hand in addition to Cole, Dixon and Lanny Winberry, included former players Jimmy Johnson, Ed Winberry, Kerry Winberry and Steve Champ. Over a dozen current Mohawk players and coaches were also in attendance, along with ASHOF inductee Coach Don Campbell, thanks to local support-which included a table secured by Piggott State Bank.
Adams was inducted along with eight others, among them former Razorback Coach Houston Nutt, Jr., former Razorback, and Malvern, running back Madre Hill, long time Malvern Coach Dave Alpe, rodeo star Denny Flynn, basketball great Jim King, tennis star Richard Akel, basketball player and coach Sherry Raney White and football administrator Jerry Jones, Jr.