Byrne truly head of the class

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2000

If it would have been a heavyweight fight, it would have been stopped in the early part of the first round.

When we first asked readers to vote on the Miss-Lou’s Athlete of the Century last December, the votes began fast and furious for Tony Byrne.

It soon became a one-man race. The battle for second through 10th place was close.

Email newsletter signup

One reason for the runaway was the fact that several folks called or e-mailed in with a single vote for Tony.

Readers were asked to vote on their top six with the top choice getting six votes on down to one.

Actually I said five points at first because I couldn’t keep my original list to five people like I wanted and forgot to change the tabulations.

My top six included Byrne, Fred Foster, Russell Johnson, Joey Porter, Jarrod West and Keith Woodside.

I meant to put former Heisman runner-up Hugh Green in my top six. When my good friend Dr. David Timm told me I left Hugh out altogether that I was flabbergasted.

Hugh brought more attention to Natchez than any other athlete and deserves recognition. He finished fifth in the voting behind Tony, Joey Porter, Perry Lee Dunn and Glenn Harrison.

I told Tony based on the number of votes he received that he should start his own Web site.

As you can tell from the picture on the right, Tony is a good sport in more ways than one.

I want to thank him for his cooperation.

I knew Tony would go along with our idea because he’s the kind of guy who will go along with most anything.

This was definitely beyond the call of duty.

Democrat Managing Editor Kevin Cooper came up with the idea of dressing Tony up in an Olympic-style outfit.

As we walked around Natchez High the day of the shoot we found the podium under the stands and Doc Woods and Wilbert Whitley graciously allowed us to carry it to the middle of the practice football field to pose Tony on.

I don’t know about Kevin, but my back is still feeling the pain.

Mucho thanks also to Democrat Lifestyle editor Christina Hall for fixing Tony up for the picture.

Obviously this list is not scientific proof that Tony is the best athlete of the century.

It was done mostly in fun and to make people think and appreciate the folks who have entertained us on the athletic field for many years.

But I don’t think many people can argue with the top selection, although Joey Porter would be a close second in my book.

Tony did things on the football field and basketball court that would even earn the respect of athletes today.

And even better, Tony was a class guy.

And as classy as people have told me he was back then, I find him to be an even classier person today.

Tony is the epitome of what an student-athlete should be.

Sure, I’d love my 8-year-old son to grow up and be as good an athlete as Tony was.

But I’d be even happier if Jake shows the same type of class and character Tony displays today.

I don’t know many people who don’t call Tony a true friend. And the voting only verifies that.

Congratulations Tony. You are definitely the Champion of Champions.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at