The Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame inducted its newest members on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, honoring a group of student-athletes who have made significant contributions to the Jackets’ athletic program.
Tennis player Kevin King, shot put and discus star Steve Marcelle, golfer James White, softball player Hope Rush, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and baseball pitcher Mark Pope were inducted into the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023.
Football standouts Andrew Gardner and Joshua Nesbitt, tennis player Guillermo Gomez, head basketball coach Paul Hewitt, first baseman Whitney (Haller) Stripling, high hurdler Shantia Moss and diver Evan Stowers were inducted into the Hall of Fame’s class of 2022.
The induction ceremony took place at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center in Tech Square, with both classes also being recognized at halftime of the Jackets’ football game against Boston College.
The event celebrated the inductees’ accomplishments and acted as a reminder of the rich tradition of Tech athletics.
Andy Demetra, who fans may recognize as “the Voice of the Jackets,” began the ceremony with warm opening remarks. To quiet the audience, he asked the crowd, “what’s the good word?”
“You probably last heard me losing my mind, losing my voice on that touchdown catch in the final second versus Miami. I will try to keep the octaves down in my voice tonight, but this is a celebratory moment, so no guarantees. … Like always, our group this year includes school record holders, [Atlantic Coast Conference, or] ACC champions, All-Americans, Academic All-Americans [and] student-athletes who collectively represented the best of the best, both on the Flats and beyond,” Demetra said.
After a short break for dinner, Director of Tech Athletics J Batt gave some additional remarks before the ceremony commenced. Reaching his one-year anniversary at the Flats, he remarked that this would be one
of his last “first” events.
“The tradition of excellence that is Tech Athletics is the foundation on which all of our future successes will be built. We remind our student-athletes, whether it’s with images, names on the rafters, names on the football stadium [or] names on the locker rooms, of just the quality of student-athletes and people that came before them. … Being a part of this group and this athletic program is certainly an exceptional honor,” said Batt.
Demetra then introduced each inductee, and afterwards, they had a chance to give a three-minute speech after accepting their Hall of Fame plaque.
Hewitt, one of the 2023 inductees, was Tech’s head basketball coach from 2000 to 2011. During his tenure at the Institute, he brought the Jackets to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament five times, including a national championship and two ACC championships. He is widely revered for restoring the Tech basketball team to their former glory of the 1980s.
“When I got here, I found out how special the place was, and the people who helped build the program … played a huge role in any type of success I was able to enjoy here at Georgia Tech,” said Hewitt.
All of the inductees reflected on how much time has passed since their careers at the Institute and spoke with reverence and gratitude on how Tech’s environment helped develop their character. In 2010 and 2011, King and fellow inductee Gomez helped lead the men’s tennis team to the NCAA championship. King is now a coach for the team, and a day prior to the ceremony, he and his wife had their first child.
“I want to start out by giving a huge shoutout to my wife Caroline. We just had our first kid yesterday. … Also, Georgia Tech Athletic Association, everyone involved, the support staff — being on the coaching side of things now, I really understand how much gets done behind the scenes to support the athletes here, and I couldn’t have done what I did without you guys. I appreciate all the support you’re still giving everyone today,” said King.
Athletics also posthumously inducted Thomas, a wide receiver for the Jackets from 2007 to 2009. Thomas ranks among the Jackets’ all-time leaders in career receiving yards and career receptions. After college, he advanced to the National Football League (NFL) for 10 seasons under the Denver Broncos, the Houston Texans and the New York Jets. Morgan Burnett, a former teammate, NFL player and 2020 Hall of Fame Member, accepted the award on Thomas’ behalf. He not only spoke to Thomas’ outstanding talent during his career as a student-athlete but also his outstanding character.
“I thank God every day that I had the opportunity to have a relationship with Demaryius Thomas, but around [Tech] we call him ‘Bay Bay.’ … I want to take this time to just shine a light on Bay Bay. He was a great person, a great man [and] a loving man. We all knew the athlete he was on the field, but once you peel back the layers and get to know him as a person, you’d understand the outstanding humanitarian he was. The type of guy who would take the shirt off of his back and give it to a complete stranger if they needed it,” said Burnett.
Eligible student-athletes, veterans and staff are nominated based on selective criteria that the Hall of Fame Committee establishes. Once they are nominated, the committee selects the top six voted members from each class.
As of last Friday, each athelete’s name has gained their place among a prestigious list of Tech legends. They will now be permanently enshrined for their actions and quality of character they continue to exhibit.