Byrne voted Athlete of Century

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2000

Like one of his patented runs from scrimmage or fast break baskets, Tony Byrne was named Miss-Lou Athlete of the Century in a runaway.

Byrne received a more substantial number of votes than the 51 other former and even current athletes receiving votes.

&uot;This is quite an honor,&uot; Byrne said Friday from his office at Ketco. &uot;I’d like to thank all of the people who voted for me. It’s a tremendous feeling. I’m surprised people remembered that long ago. A lot of people didn’t even know I was a mayor here (from 1968-88). There are a lot of great athletes who came through from around here. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I couldn’t have done what I did.&uot;

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What Byrne did is become the only person to win a scoring title in football and basketball in the former Big Eight Conference, which was comprised of all of the big schools in Mississippi.

In 1953, Byrne tallied 192 points, scoring a record 32 touchdowns as a senior.

In 1954, as a senior, Byrne led Natchez to its second straight league championship, scoring a record 716 points.

Byrne finished with 1,259 points, in voting done with six points going to a first place vote down to one for a sixth place vote.

Of the 214 votes he received, 201 were first place votes.

&uot;Tony had a lot of compassion and character,&uot; said Eloise Read, a former classmate of Byrne at Natchez High who was one of many just voting for Byrne. &uot;He never tried to outshow anybody. It didn’t make a difference where you were brought up, the top of the hill or the bottom of the hill, Tony treated everybody the same. And he was a great athlete.&uot;

Finishing second to Byrne was former South Natchez standout Joey Porter, who garnered 150 points, while former Natchez High star running back Perry Lee Dunn had 146 points.

&uot;That’s a great honor,&uot; Porter said. &uot;I’m a little flabbergasted.&uot;

Porter played football, basketball and baseball at Natchez High and South Natchez from 1969-72.

Porter was nifty at running the Notre Dame Box from his tailback position in leading the Colonels to the state championship game in 1971.

Porter helped lead South Natchez to a 9-1 season his junior year (’71) and 10-1 as a senior.

Porter helped the Colonels to the state championship in baseball in 1973. He still holds the high school record for most consecutive innings without giving up a run at 80 and most consecutive shutout games at 11.

Porter had an overall record of 20-3 at South Natchez in three seasons, going 11-1 his senior year. He was a member of the Delta State team that finished third in the Division II College World Series.

Glenn Harrison, who was a standout athlete at Adams County Christian School, was fourth with 83 points.

Former Heisman runner-up Hugh Green garnered 45 points to finish fifth.

Fred Foster, a standout athlete at Natchez High who earned six letters at Delta State, was sixth with 40 points.

Former Delta State swimmer Marilyn Truly, the only female to receive votes, was seventh with 38 votes.

In eighth place was Louie Brown with 28 points, while Keith Woodside and Allen Mardis finished with 25 points each to finish out the top 10.

Fifty-two different athletes received votes.

Other notables receiving at least 20 votes are Allen Brown, Doug Brown, Gerald Vaught, Will McRaney Jr., Chris Hutchins, Paige Cothren and Jarrod West.’

Editor’s note: Beginning Sunday, the top three finishers will be profiled over the next three days starting with Byrne.