Sylvester Croom, Steve Shaw Inducted Into Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

Tyler Martin

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame 52nd Annual Induction Ceremony was forced to go virtual on Saturday night. 

Given the circumstances, it was still a night to remember for the ASHOF's new members. 

The 2020 inductees included former University of Alabama football player and coach Slyvester Croom, Auburn running back Ronnie Brown, paralympian Doug Kennedy, baseball coach Q.V Lowe, football coach Woody McCorvey, New York Yankees legend Jorge  Posada, basketball coach Duane Reboul, and football official Steve Shaw. 

Croom, a Tuscaloosa native, who played under Paul W. Bryant from 1972-1974 as an offensive lineman, also coached at the Capstone as an assistant from 1976-1986. 

After years of being an assistant at the NFL level, Croom got his chance in 2004 to become the Southeastern Conference's first African-American head coach, when he took over at Mississippi State. 

During his speech, Croom made an emphasis to thank Bryant for giving him a chance to play at the college level and others, who pushed him to achieve greatness at every stop along his coaching career, which lasted more than 40 years. 

"I am honored to be a member of the 2020 induction class into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame," Croom said. "I would like to thank the people who supported my nomination and the selection committee for adding my name to the distinguished list of Alabama sports figures.

"Congratulations to all the members of this class. A lot of people helped make this moment possible. I want to thank my family and friends as well as players and coaches I have been associated with throughout my career. 

"I specifically want to thank a few people who directly affected my life throughout my career. I want to express my deepest appreciation for my mother, Louise Croom, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I know it was not easy for you to juggle multiple roles as mother, pastor's wife, coach's wife, school teacher, and personal chauffeur. Thanks most of all for your prayers. 

"Though my father, Reverend Sylvester Croom, is no longer with us, the example he set as a man of character, faith, strength, and humlity still lives in my heart today. Coach Bryant told me, 'If I ever turned out to be half the man he was, then I would be okay.' Of course, it was the only time Coach Bryant was okay with me grading 50 percent. 

"Coach Bryant never gave up on me and I appreciated that. I went to Alabama to be a tight end and I never caught a pass. So, Coach Bryant put the ball in my hands every snap by moving me to center. I am very glad that he did.

"I would like to thank a mentor and good friend of mine, Mill Jackson, who once, in response to my frustration at the lack of opportunities and advancement in the NFL, stated these words, 'It is better to be prepared and not have the opportunity than to not be prepared and have the opportunity.' Little did he know, these words would change my life. 

"Coach Bobby Ross. I am very thankful for him for giving me the opportunity to coordinate a NFL offense, despite the fact that very few men of color were hired for that position. His leadership style and attention to detail were traits I tried to emulate when I became a head coach. 

"I want to thank Dr. Charles Lee and Larry Templeton for hiring me at Mississippi State University. I will always cherish my time as a member of the Bulldogs family. I would like to thank the coaches and the players who were a part of those Mississippi State teams. I am proud to be your coach. 

"I would like to thank my daughter Jennifer, who has brought me great joy throughout her life. I am proud of the women she has become and the family she is creating with Ire and our granddaughter Rye. 

"Last, I want to thank my wife, Jeri, for the kindness, class, and courage that she has displayed over our 48-year journey. Every challenge we have faced, she has met it with determination, optimism, and love. I will love you always dear. 

"My greatest joy in coaching has been seeing many of my young players rise from difficult situations to become successful family men. To those youngsters today, who are currently engaged in a personal struggle to succeed, I leave these words from former Morehouse College president Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, 'He who starts behind in the great race of life must always remain behind or run faster than the man in front. Do not ever quit. Just keep on running."

One of the Alabama alumni who was honored on Saturday evening was Shaw, who is the National Coordinator of Officials for the College Football Officiating Board. He has officiated many SEC and national championship games and recently served as the SEC's Coordinator of Football Officials until January of this year. 

"As I stand here tonight, I am so very grateful and I really represent every football official in this state, who has donned the black and white stripes," Shaw said. "For my final thank you of the night, I want to thank the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame selection committee for having the courage to put a referee in the hall. If you think about it, it makes sense. With all this talent in this hall of fame, we need somebody to make it fair." 

Lastly, former Crimson Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle was named the inaugural Starr-Sullivan Achievement Award recipient, a honor that recognizes a former collegiate quarterback who exhibits exemplary character and has made a significant contribution in his community. 

Croyle is currently the Executive Director of Big Oak Ranch that was founded by his father, John, and exists to serve orphaned, abused, abandoned and neglected children. 

The award is named after former Alabama and Auburn signal callers, Bart Starr and Pat Sullivan. 

"I am truly humbled to be chosen by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Board and the families of both, Bart Starr and Pat Sullivan," Croyle said. "To know the life and the legacy of Bart Starr and Pat Sullivan is truly a blessing I will carry for the rest of my life. The standard of which these men carried themselves on the field, but more importantly, off the field, is a legacy that we should, not only admire, but we should try to emulate for our own. 

"With that, I humbly receive this honor on behalf of the heroes in my own life. To my wife Kelly, who is my greatest earthly treasure and has always pushed me to use football as my platform, not my identity. To my sons, Sawyer and Luke, who teach me how to be a better man every day. To my parents, who told me to shoot for the stars and never settle for anything less. 

"To my teammates and coaches along the way who taught me how to lead and lead authentically. To the children at Big Oak Ranch, past, present, and future, who have taught me more about love, forgiveness, and perseverance than I will ever teach them. Last, but certainly not least, thank you to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave his life so I could have mine. 

"To all of them and all of you, I say thank you."   

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