Soon, such past Cobb County high school football stars as Justin Fields, Hutson Mason, Harrison Bailey, Julian Rochester and Brian Randolph, among many others, will have a chance to become hall of famers.
The new Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame, which was announced over the weekend, is the idea of Score Atlanta president I.J. Rosenberg, a former Atlanta sports writer who has experience with the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and founded the athletic hall of fame at his alma mater, Lakeside High School in DeKalb County, in 2019.
“This is long overdue,’’ Rosenberg said on the Score Atlanta website. “The history of Georgia High School football is tremendous and for years Georgia has been known to have some of the top players in country. But the idea here is not just to induct players, but tell the story of high school football in Georgia. We will dig into the early years and will research players and induct players from African-American schools when they were not allowed to attend white schools and play against white teams. An example I always like to use when talking about the depth of Georgia football is the fact that currently there are seven (Pro Football) Hall of Famers that played at Georgia high schools.’’
Going forward, the Georgia hall of fame will select a state championship team for induction every year. It seems likely, at some time, the 2019 Marietta and Harrison squads will be considered, as will as the 2015 Allatoona, 2014 Mount Paran Christian and 1967 Marietta teams.
In addition to the Georgia High School Association programs, it also means the 1966 Lemon Street team that powered its way to a state title in the Georgia Interscholastic Association — the organization for Black schools prior to integration — will likely take its spot along side the others.
High school football began in Georgia in 1894, but the oldest-known game in Cobb County, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, was a 1902 matchup between Marietta and the Georgia Tech junior varsity.
That being said, there are going to eventually be hundreds of players from the county who will be deserving their place in the Hall.
Inductees will be selected from four pools — the early years of high school football up to and including the mid-1940s; segregated Black schools, which were not fully integrated until the ’70s; the “Golden Age” from 1950-80; and the period of football from the last 40 years.
Coaches will not be included in the Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame. The Georgia Coaches Association already has its own hall of fame based in Dalton.
The Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame board of trustees has yet to be completed, but it is expected to have a number of Cobb County ties, including former McEachern football coach and athletic director Jimmy Dorsey, McEachern principal Regina Montgomery and former Walton football player and current Score Atlanta representative Craig Sager Jr.
Other members of the board expected to be included are former Brookwood football coach and athletic director Dave Hunter, recruiting expert Rusty Mansell of 247Sports, GHSA executive director Robin Hines and GHSA director of media relations Steve Figueroa.
“Right now, we are going to focus on putting in a process to choose inductees and make sure we are covering the entire state,’’ Rosenberg said. “The board is very diversified and will be the one making the decisions. As far as where we will house the Hall, the feeling is to find a public place that has good traffic where we can hang the plaques. I have spent a lot of time studying the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame, which is incredible. They have their own building and while high school basketball in Indiana has always been well known, their Hall of Fame outside Indianapolis has taken it to another level. We are going to build slowly here, starting with an inaugural class that be around 35 players.’’
That inaugural class will be selected at a future date, and Rosenberg said he has been conversing with a number of venues for the first ceremony, including the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Inductees will receive a custom-made hall of fame jacket and a plaque.