One of Arkansas’ most successful high school football coaches and four All-Americans in three different sports have been selected for induction to the University of Arkansas at Monticello Sports Hall of Fame.
The inductees are former Boll Weevil offensive lineman and long-time high school coach Buck James, softball outfielder Jenny Dunn, basketball star Kenneth Jones, record-setting wide receive Lance Gasaway, and former All-American defensive back Jerry Johnson.
The Hall of Fame class of 2015 will be inducted during a dinner October 8 at 6 p.m. in the John F. Gibson University Center on the UAM campus. A reception for the inductees will be held at 5 p.m. in the chancellor’s home. The reception is open to the public. Tickets to the banquet are $35 and may be purchased by contacting the Department of Athletics at (870) 460-1058.
In 1987, Buck James was the starting right tackle on a UAM offensive line that paved the way for the most prolific rushing offense in school history. James, along with John Augman, Charles Bell, Anthony Brown and Brad Bradshaw helped the Boll Weevils pile up 2,882 yards on the ground while averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
Only one member of that line – Bell – earned all-conference honors so it came as something of a shock to James when he was notified of his selection to the UAM Sports Hall of Fame. “Offensive linemen don’t get much hype,” James said. “I played on a great team but I was just part of a group of really good players.”
James may not have grabbed headlines as a player at UAM, but he’s had his share in recent years as one of the winningest high school football coaches in the state. Beginning in 2000, James led Star City and Camden Fairview High Schools to a combined record of 132-28.
After serving as an assistant football coach and head baseball coach at Monticello High School, James became the head football coach at Star City in 2000 and led the Bulldogs to a five-year record of 42-16, winning the school’s first-ever outright conference championship and posting three consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins.
In 2005, James accepted the head coaching position at Camden Fairview and led the Cardinals to eight conference championships in nine seasons while posting a record of 90-12. He took Fairview to three state championship games, winning the title with a 28-10 victory over Batesville in 2012. Along the way, James has won numerous coach of the year awards, including the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s Arkansas Coach of the Year Award in 2010.
He is currently the assistant athletic director and offensive line coach at Little Rock Christian High School.
“This means the world to me,” said James. “I’ve always been taught it’s about team first and I’ve never been about individual awards, but this is the best award I’ve ever received.”
Jenny Dunn came all the way from Adelaide, Australia to play softball for Alvy Early’s Cotton Blossoms and became a first-team All-American outfielder. But there were a few bumps along the way.
“I had always dreamed of playing softball in a college system,” said Dunn. “I have very supportive parents who signed me up to a recruiting agency to find the right fit. I’d never heard of Arkansas before, let alone Monticello. Luckily, coach Early took a chance on me.”
After a misunderstanding with the NCAA Clearinghouse that left her ineligible her first semester on campus, Dunn was cleared to play and won a starting job in the outfield as a freshman. She batted .316 her first year, dropped off to .243 as a sophomore, then blossomed as a junior in 2007.
Dunn batted .401 with 16 home runs, 68 runs batted in with a slugging percentage of .736. That performance resulted in a host of honors, including first team Daktronics All-American, Daktronics All-South Region, first team All-Gulf South Conference, ESPN The Magazine / CoSIDA Academic All-District second team, and Academic All-America Scholar-Athlete from the National Fast-pitch Coaches Association. Dunn was a member of the 2008 GSC All-Academic Team.
A career .318 hitter, Dunn is among the UAM career leaders in four different categories – sixth in career runs batted in (134), eighth in doubles (39), seventh in home runs (23), and ninth in total bases (310).
Dunn is back in Australia working as a chartered accountant and manager of Perks Integrated Business Services but is still playing softball for the Seacombe Tigers and in national competitions for the state of South Australia.
It didn’t take Kenneth Jones long to make an impact on what was then the Arkansas A&M basketball program. After working his way into the starting lineup seven games into his freshman season, Jones helped lead the 1959-60 Weevils to their first appearance in the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. It was Jones’ 15-foot baseline jumper with one second left on the clock that sent the Weevils to Kansas City with a 46-44 win over Arkansas College in the finals of the NAIA District 17 Tournament.
“We had called timeout with about 30 seconds left and the play was supposed to go to Harold Mobley,” Jones remembered. “Harold missed, the ball came to me on the baseline and I was able to hit the shot.”
The Boll Weevils enjoyed four consecutive winning seasons with Jones in the lineup. Along the way, Jones became the third basketball player in school history to surpass 1,000 points for his career, amassing 1,190 points from 1959-63. He still ranks 19th in career scoring 52 years after his last game.
Jones was an honorable mention NAIA Division I All-American as well as a first team All-AIC and All-NAIA District 17 selection in 1963. During his career, the Boll Weevils were 68-39 with records of 18-8 in 1959-60, 17-11 in 1960-61, 15-11 in 1961-62, and 18-9 in 1962-63.
Jones’ best season was 1962-63 when he averaged 16.8 points a game while shooting .492 from the field and .820 from the free throw line.
“This honor means a lot to me,” said Jones. “When you’re playing, you don’t think about things like this. I’m just very proud to be selected.”
Jones lives in Hampton and is retired from private business after spending a number of years as both a coach and a public school administrator.
Lance Gasaway has fond memories of his greatest game as a Boll Weevil – a 36-31 victory over Henderson State that many long-time UAM observers consider the most exciting game in school history. Gasaway set school and AIC records that afternoon by catching 16 passes for 196 yards against a Reddie pass defense that came into the game ranked among the best in the nation.
The game was played on the first day of deer season so the crowd was sparse, but Gasaway still remembers a group of hunters still dressed in blaze orange standing in a knot under the oak tree that used to be located inside the track outside the northeast corner of the end zone. “I caught a touchdown pass over there, and I can still remember them hollering,” Gasaway said.
Gasaway finished his career as one of the most prolific wide receivers in school history with 113 receptions for 1,605 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was an honorable mention NAIA Division I
All-American in 1985 and a two-time first team All-AIC selection in 1984-85.
The fourth Gasaway to don a Boll Weevil jersey – he followed cousins Byron and Brannon and brother Greg to UAM – Lance enjoyed a special rapport with his quarterback, Joe Don Samples.
“Joe Don and I always had a connection,” said Gasaway. “He knew where I’d be and I always knew when he was coming to me. That bond that you share with your teammates is what you remember. Joe Don and I are still friends today. We still see each other once or twice a year.”
Gasaway lives in Star City where he farms with his brother and sons, manages an 18,000-acre farm for a group from Utah, managed an agricultural flying service with six locations in southeast Arkansas, and owns two businesses in Pine Bluff – Pine Bluff Blueprint and Sunkist Tanning.
Jerry Johnson was so excited by his selection to the Hall of Fame he initially told no one but his fiance, Kiki Tate. “I was so excited I had to take it all in,” said Johnson. “My mind was all over the place.”
Johnson, who lives in his hometown of Monroe, La., and works as a systems operator monitoring residential water systems, was part of the best defensive backfield in UAM history. In 1988,
Johnson and teammates Mac Newcomb, Gvona Turner and Craig Jones combined to intercept 22 passes and hold opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of .372.
Johnson, a cornerback, earned second team NAIA All-America honors that season on what was arguably the best football team in school history. The Boll Weevils posted a 10-2 record and reached the NAIA Division I playoffs for the first time in school history. Johnson intercepted eight passes, returning one for a touchdown. He finished his career with 16 interceptions, a school record he shares with Shelby Lowery, who set the mark in 1968.
Not bad for a guy who was lightly recruited. As a senior at Monroe (La.) Neville High, Johnson was getting calls from junior colleges and receiving passing interest from four-year schools asking him to walk on. Johnson determined to sign with the first school that showed genuine interest. Tommy Barnes, at the time an assistant on Harold Tilley’s UAM staff, was recruiting the Monroe area and called Johnson during his senior year to tell him the Boll Weevils were interested.
Johnson stepped into the starting lineup as a freshman in 1985, picking off two passes. He made two interceptions as a sophomore, grabbed four more as a junior and set what was then a single-season school record with eight interceptions in 1988, including two in a playoff victory over Washburn. The Boll Weevils were 29-11 during Johnson’s four-year career.
In addition being named a second team All-American, Johnson was a two-time first team All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and All-NAIA District 17 selection. “My best memories will always be the camaraderie and friendship I had with Mac, Gvona, Craig and the rest of my teammates,” said Johnson. “That was special.”