It’s a special night for everyone.
Family, friends, teammates, coaches and fans gather to honor the latest inductees to the William and Mary Athletic Hall of Fame.
Stories pass back and forth across tables. Thanking, ribbing, crying, laughing. It’s all fair game.
The 2008 Hall of Fame class is seven-deep and boasts one of the College’s most recognizable alumni in All-NFL safety Darren Sharper ’97. However, this class also includes other All-Americans, conference players of the year and even national players of the year.
Every inductee understood the excellent athletic backgrounds of the other new members, and each was quick to praise the class at the ceremony Saturday night.
“You think about all the student-athletes that come through William and Mary, and to be selected to go into the Hall of Fame is truly special,” Sharper said.
Sharper joined Josh Beyer ’97, Waughn Hughes ’97, Thomas Jasper ’71, Natalie Neaton Smith ’96, Jennifer Noble Smith ’90 and David Williams ’92 as the latest members.
Smith earned the national player of the year award in 1995 as a striker for Head Coach John Daly’s women’s soccer club.
Williams received gymnastics’ Nissen Award — comparable with football’s Heisman Trophy — after his stellar senior season on the pommel horse.
Beyer, whose tenure at the College intersected with Sharper, was a two-time All-American on the offensive line for the Tribe.
Hughes led the nation in scoring as a senior forward for the College’s men’s soccer team.
“It’s an amazing honor, especially going in with such a talented class and a lot of friends that I was fortunate enough to know and keep in touch with,” Hughes said.
Though he played only two seasons for the Tribe’s basketball team, Jasper left a lasting impact and garnered the Southern Conference Player of the Year award as a senior.
Smith served as the backbone of a College volleyball squad that won four straight CAA titles, setting long-held assist records as an ace setter.
And Sharper’s athletic presence in the defensive backfield led him to two All-American honors and four NFL Pro-Bowl selections.
And as teammates, coaches, friends and family introduced the class, the audience gained a better sense of who the inductees were.
Everyone knew the stats, the honors and the distinctions that solidified each athlete’s selection, but not many people knew that Smith shattered a goalie’s hand at the age of seven with a tremendous blast that foreshadowed her rise to national prominence on the pitch.
Nor did many know the impact that Williams had on his teammates’ academic performance as he showed them that being athletic and intelligent were complementary.
Each inductee obviously had athletic successes, but the relationships they formed with teammates and coaches were what really showed through.
“Throughout my whole career [Daly] was just so instrumental in everything that I did and helping me become a better player, recruiting me and getting me here and making my career as great as it was while I was here,” Smith said.
Approximately 50 former football players returned to see Beyer and Sharper inducted.
“It means more to me that everybody’s together than anything,” Beyer said. “That’s what excites me and that’s why I’m here.”
E-mail Andrew Pike at [email protected]