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Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame nod catches Rick Byrd by surprise

Posted Oct 04 2012 3:11am

Rick Byrd became suspicious Tuesday after being greeted in the parking lot of the Vanderbilt Legends Golf Course by a fellow who congratulated him with a hearty handshake and a big smile.

The Belmont basketball coach was puzzled. He thought he was there to play a round of golf with the inductees for the 2013 Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

He didn’t know who was being inducted, but with his five handicap, Byrd gets invited to lots of these types of outings when golf is involved.

After entering the Legends Club and sensing that too many of his friends were too tight-lipped and avoiding eye contact, Byrd started to think it wasn’t his mad skill on the links that led to him being invited.

He suspected he might actually be one of the inductees.

“There were a couple of people who probably said more than they needed to,” Byrd said. “Even then I was only hopeful; I didn’t know for sure.”

Having the element of surprise spoiled did nothing to take away the honor and appreciation Byrd felt when Hope Hines, former WTVF-5 sports anchor and master of ceremonies, announced his name along with 10 others.

“This is kind of it for me, it really means a lot,” said Byrd, who has accumulated 637 career victories and ranks eighth among active NCAA Division I coaches in wins. “I’ve coached and played my whole life in Tennessee, so if there is one Hall of Fame that I treasure the most, this is it.”

Joining Byrd in the 2013 class are former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, Vanderbilt basketball star John Ed Miller, Tennessee Vols Trey Teague and Larry Seivers, Middle Tennessee State quarterback Kelly Holcomb, Memphis basketball star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, UT Martin basketball standout Leonard Hamilton and Carson-Newman basketball player and coach Chris Jones.

Inducted posthumously will be longtime Nashville television and radio broadcaster Bob Bell and Morristown’s Ermal Allen, a multisport athlete at Kentucky who followed Bear Bryant as the Wildcats’ football coach.

Wycheck knew only two key facts about Tennessee when he signed with the Houston Oilers in 1996 and then found out the franchise was moving to Nashville.

“Being from the Northeast (Philadelphia), I just knew about the Vols and that Nashville was Music City,” Wycheck said.

It was the Music City Miracle play that became a highlight of Wycheck’s eight-year career with the Titans. He caught the kickoff on the play and tossed the ball to Kevin Dyson, who scored the winning touchdown against Buffalo in the playoffs in 2000.

“I believe Tennessee is now my home,” Wycheck said. “I’ll never forget my roots, but I now call Tennessee my home, and that makes this a really special honor.”

The announcement of Wycheck and most of the others being in the induction class was made prior to Tuesday.

The only inductee other than Byrd who was supposed to be caught off guard was Miller — and he was.

“I’m not a golfer, but I was told I had been nominated for the Hall of Fame a while back and they said they weren’t going to have a vote until today,” said Miller, who was captain of Vanderbilt’s first team to win the regular-season basketball championship, in 1965. “They said, ‘Why don’t you come eat lunch with us even though you don’t play golf. So here I am, and I’m surprised and I’m honored. I never would have expected it.”

Miller also received the Hall’s Lifetime Achievement award.

The class will be inducted at the Hall of Fame’s awards banquet and ceremony on May 4 at the Renaissance Hotel.

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