Pioneers, opportunists and multi-taskers made up the eight alumni inducted Saturday into the University of Central Arkansas Spots Hall of Fame.
Their college playing careers stretched from the early 1950s to the late 1980s, and numerous championships were results of their performances on playing fields. Their games were under banners of Arkansas State Teachers College, State College of Arkansas and UCA.
At a banquet in the UCA Student Center’s ballroom, football player John Cameron recalled coming to UCA days after the high school all-star game as a linebacker and running back. After a few days of practice, UCA coach Harold Horton called Cameron into his office and told him that he was moving to tight end.
It was a good transition. Cameron played on teams that won four conference championships and that were twice national champions after ties in title games in 1984 and 1985. Horton recently said of Cameron. “There were none better than John Cameron at tight end.”
Anita Curry Wilson came to UCA in 1976 to play on the school’s first women’s basketball in 44 years. She said, “I had to go from 3-on-3 basketball in high school to full court here. Rita Daniel was our coach just one year, but that first season we went to the national playoffs.” She led in both scoring and rebounding as a post player all four of her years as a Sugar Bear.
David Evans was one of a lengthy series of standout defensive backs at UCA Under coach Ken Stephens, he was a safety alongside Charlie Strong, now head coach at the University of Louisville. Evans also was a leading sprinter on Bear track teams before going to professional football for a number of seasons.
Mickey Johnson, who is ill, was represented at the induction by daughter Wendy Taylor. She read a statement form him in which he said, “UCA was pivotal in my life.” Johnson, leading basketball scorer for SCA in 1966 and 1967, went on to a long and productive coaching career, mostly at Fort Smith Southside High School.
George Jones came out of Warren High School to win 12 letters at ASTC in basketball, baseball and golf. He told of beginning his coaching career at Conway High School where his players included several future doctors. He had tenures in both high school and college coaching.
J.E. Lawrence was a football quarterback for ASTC in the early 1950s. He followed his high school coach, Jim Coleman, from an undefeated Harrison High team to ASTC, and was the conference’s top passer his freshman season. Lawrence said at the induction, “ASTC provided me with a 42-year career in education.” He has been a high school coach, teacher and administrator.
John Robinson was a record-setting basketball scorer at ASTC and also lettered in track. He was instrumental in the Bears defeating archrival Arkansas Tech 5 of 6 games in his career after Tech had dominated play for many years. He said, “Coach (Cecil)) Garrison told me my first year that I needed to shoot more.” Robinson obliged him.
Bill Shimek won 10 letters in football basketball and baseball at ASTC, and Harold Horton was his high school coach after Bald Knob. Shimek went on to high school coaching then was a football assistant at the University of Oklahoma.
Verlon Spencer came to UCA as a football quarterback only to meet Randy Huffstickler, who was en route to setting many records at the position as a Bear. Coach Ken Stephens moved Spencer to the defensive backfield, and he wound up his college career as an all-conference player on a 11-1 team under Harold Horton in 1983.