A Collection Of Greatness
By Bill Bunting
There are some who believe that the spirit of an individual is forever etched into the stitches of time at the place where an individual achieves greatness.
Walk into any sports arena in the country and you can almost hear the sounds of pads cracking on the football field, tennis shoes squeaking on the hard court or the distinctive sound of a tennis racket popping as the ball hits the sweet spot for a backhand winner. The roar of the crowd cheering on those athletes who achieved greatness can be heard, though it's almost a whisper tickling the ears.
Each fall, Rebel fans come together to honor individuals whose names and spirits have been stitched into the collective memories of the Rebel faithful and have found their place in the lore of Ole Miss. This season, five more names are added to the M-Club Athletics Hall of Fame as a part of that legacy as Nick Barone, Don Dickson, Clara Jackson, Todd Sandroni and Andre Townsend will join the M-Club Hall of Fame as the 2006 class.
A two-time letterwinner for the Rebels in 1990 and 1991, Nick Barone was a key to building the tradition that is men's tennis at Ole Miss. Ranked as high as No. 5 nationally, Barone advanced to the finals of the 1990 National Clay Court Championships, finishing as the runner-up in the prestigious event.
Barone led the Rebels to a final national ranking of 23rd in 1991 and earned a spot in the NCAA Singles Championship as well as All-SEC honors. Barone was also named an All-American, the third in the history of the program.
Barone, who received his bachelor's degree in Recreation, is the head tennis professional at Grenada Country Club.
"I am honored to have been chosen for such a prestigious award," Barone said. "I am also privileged to be among a class of distinguished athletes. The Induction into the M-Club Athletic Hall of Fame brings back positive memories of my tenure at Ole Miss. I was fortunate to play tennis for a great university where I received a huge amount of support from the institution itself, alumni, athletic department, coach and fans."
Don Dickson spent three years on the gridiron for the Rebels, playing on the offensive line as a guard under legendary head coach John Vaught from 1960-62. During his time on the football field, Dickson was a part of claiming two national championships with the Rebels (1960, 1962). Dickson also helped lead the Rebels to a 29-2-1 record as an integral part of the offensive line.
As a senior in 1962, Dickson was recognized for his part in bringing a third national title to Oxford as he was named a First Team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press and a Second Team All-SEC selection by the UPI. He also helped the Rebels secure their fifth Southeastern Conference championship and posted its first undefeated season as Ole Miss defeated Arkansas 17-13 in the Sugar Bowl to cap the 10-0 season.
Dickson, who resides in Parsons, Tenn., was nominated to the West Tennessee Football Team of the Century.
"It was overwhelming and humbling to hear I had been selected for the M-Club Athletic Hall of Fame," Dickson said. "I never dreamed something like this would happen to me. I guess it finally caught up with me. I am really at a loss for words, but I am honored."
Clara Jackson, a four-year letterwinner (1991-94) with the Lady Rebel basketball team, continued the tradition of excellence on the hard-court under Van Chancellor and still holds several records. During her four years, Jackson helped lead the program to a 92-31 record, three NCAA Tournament appearances and served as co-captain her final two years on the team.
Jackson opened her career with a bang, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors in her first season as well as a spot on the All-SEC second team and All-Freshman team. She followed that up by earning a spot on the All-SEC first team the next three seasons and helped lead the Rebels to an undefeated conference season and the SEC Championship in 1992. Jackson was also named to the SEC All-Tournament Team in 1993.
A quick glance through the record book finds Jackson's name firmly etched in several categories as she holds spots in the top five of career scoring (4th - 1,919 points), career field goals (4th - 789), field goal attempts (3rd - 1,487) and field goal percentage (4th - 53.1 percent).
"It's a great honor to be selected for induction into the M-Club Hall of Fame," Jackson said. "It's not something I had ever imagined for myself, to be sure. I'm really without words. I didn't even know I was up for it, but when I heard I was selected, it was nice to know that someone thinks I did something good for Ole Miss in my time there."
From 1987-1990, Todd Sandroni stalked the football field as a free safety for head coach Billy Brewer, helping lead the Rebels to back-to-back bowl appearances his junior and senior seasons. In 1989 the Rebels defeated Air Force in the Liberty Bowl to post an 8-4 record, while the 1990 Rebels took on Michigan in the Gator Bowl to end a 9-3 year.
A second team All-SEC selection as a freshman in 1987 by the Associated Press, Sandroni was named to the first team as a sophomore in 1988 by vote of the league's coaches. The free safety was also selected as a member of the Ole Miss Team of the Century.
Sandroni excelled in the classroom as well as on the football field. Selected as an Academic All-SEC honoree all four years of his career, Sandroni earned first team Academic All-America honors as a senior. He was also awarded an NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship and was named as the recipient of the CBS/Toyota Leadership Award and the National Association of Collegiate Athletics Director's Award/Disney Scholar Athlete Award.
"I'm honored to be selected to join the M-Club Hall of Fame," Sandroni said. "Ole Miss has a great football history and to be remembered as a part of this program like this is a tremendous honor. I never would have thought I would have been selected for something like this."
Andre Townsend terrorized opposing offenses for three seasons (1981-83) before being selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos as he helped anchor the Rebels defensive line.
Townsend posted 111 tackles in back-to-back seasons, leading the Rebels in 1982 and finishing second on the team in 1983. He posted three fumble recoveries in the 1982 season and had a team-high nine sacks in the 1983 season. The efforts earned him All-SEC Second Team honors both seasons.
As a senior on the defensive line in 1983, Townsend helped lead the Rebels to the Independence Bowl, the first appearance in a bowl game for the Rebels since 1971, where he as named as the Defensive MVP for his effort against the Falcons of Air Force. He also earned Third Team All-America honors following the 1983 campaign.
Townsend was invited to participate in the 1983 Senior Bowl, attracting the attention of the Denver Broncos who would go on to draft him with the 46th overall pick in the 1984 draft. The defensive tackle would play for the Broncos for seven seasons, including two Super Bowl appearances. He played in 104 games for the Broncos, tallying 22 career sacks and returning a fumble for a touchdown.
Most recently, Townsend was honored at the 2005 SEC Legends Banquet as Ole Miss' legend.
"When I first got to Ole Miss, I had great expectations and was not disappointed," Townsend said. "What this tells me is that I was able to fulfill the expectations Ole Miss had of me. It's a culmination of my whole college career. It means a lot of people did a good job of building on the foundation that is Ole Miss football, and I was a part of that. I couldn't have been given this honor if a lot of other people had not worked hard to help me get it."
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