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Holmes inducts five into 2019 Sports Hall of Fame

Holmes inducts five into 2019 Sports Hall of Fame Pictured are 2019 Sports Hall of Fame inductees with (far left) Holmes President Dr. Jim Haffey. The inductees are (left to right) Robert William Gates, football; John Anthony “Tony” Stanford, football; Sheila Sullivan Hickman, women’s basketball coach; Richard Wayne Akins, football and Gregory Neal Holloway, soccer.

On April 4, the Holmes Community College Alumni Association inducted five former athletes into the 2019 Sports Hall of Fame in Frank Branch Coliseum in Goodman. The inductees included: John Anthony "Tony" Stanford, football; Gregory Neal Holloway, soccer; Richard Wayne Akins, football; Robert William Gates, football, and Sheila Sullivan Hickman, women's basketball coach.

John Anthony "Tony" Stanford

John Anthony "Tony" Stanford came to Holmes Community College after graduation from Winona High School and played football. He attended Holmes from 1972-74 and played for Tommy Davis, Ode Burrell and Quimby Morgan. During Stanford's time at Holmes he saw many changes happen on the Goodman Campus. He was there when new dorms were being built and when Frank Branch Coliseum was constructed.

"I enjoyed the comradery with my fellow football players in the dressing room after practice and the good times shared after football games," Stanford said. "These were players you competed against in high school but now we were all on the same team."

Stanford continued on to Delta State University earned a Bachelor of Science in Education. He also focused on what skills he would need to become a coach while at Delta State which led him to his first coaching job at Carroll Academy. In 1986, Stanford earned a Master of Education from Mississippi State University. Coaching was a calling for Stanford; he has made a 43-year-career out of it. He has coached all over Mississippi and is still coaching today at Starkville Academy.

During Stanford's coaching career, he has been very active in the Mississippi Association of Coaches (for 43 years) including being past president. He has had many achievements such as MAC Coaches Hall of Fame (2013) and 4A State Championship (1995), to name a few.

Stanford and his wife, Sue, live in Louisville. They have one son, Anthony Stanford. Anthony, 34, has followed in his father's footsteps of being a teacher and coach.

Gregory Neal Holloway

A native of Byram and a graduate of Terry High School, Gregory Neal Holloway played soccer on the Ridgeland Campus during the 2003-2004 season.

"The entire experience, the team experience at Holmes, was the most memorable," Holloway said. "Being able to be part of a community of like-minded people who enjoyed the same thing, who were all having fun together, competing together and really desiring to win together was a great experience."

When Holloway played at Holmes, the soccer program was very young and in its seventh year. The team consisted of two sophomores and one of them was Holloway. He played under Coach Matt Convertino and the team finished the year with more wins than the last four seasons combined.

"I don't think I could be prouder," Coach Convertino said. "Even though the team consisted of almost entirely freshmen, the players were willing to buy into the playing philosophy that I was selling from day one."

Holloway continued on to Mississippi College (MC) to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting. His first job after MC was with Harold Contracting, a general contracting firm in Florida, on their estimate and bidding team. Later, he moved to their program management team and began building high-rise condominiums.

After working with Harold Contracting Group, he moved in as a partner with Tenax Aerospace, LLC. Tenax was a special mission leasing company that leased aircrafts to different government entities. In January 2018, Tenax Aerospace was sold to another investment firm in Connecticut. While owning Tenax Aerospace, Holloway invested in a lot of different companies of diverse backgrounds; including everything from commercial real-estate to manufacturing.

"Holmes prepared me to take on a challenge," Holloway said.

Holloway and his wife, Traci, live in Madison with their two children, Eli and Mattie.

Richard Wayne Akins

A native of Attala County, Richard Wayne Akins graduated from Ethel High School before enrolling in Holmes Community College in the fall of 1973. Akins played football for Tommy Davis and ran track for Ode Burrell.

"I received great mentorship and guidance from the coaches and teachers at Holmes," Akins said. "They helped instill great work ethic and drive in me to achieve my goals."

After Holmes, he coached football at Grenada High School and Horn Lake High School. In 1983, Akins went to work at Mississippi State University as a strength and conditioning coach. Akins continued on to Mississippi State University to earn a Bachelor of Science. He did not stop with just an undergraduate degree, though; he completed both his Master of Science (1979) and Specialist in Education with an emphasis in school administration (1985).

As a strength and conditioning coach at Mississippi State, some of the teams he worked with were very successful. Men's basketball had eight SEC Western Division Champions, seven NCAA Tournament appearances, two NIT appearances, one Final Four appearance in 1996 and one SEC Tournament Championship; Women's Basketball had five NCAA Tournament appearances, six WNIT appearances and one Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2009; MSU Baseball (1983-2004) had 21 NCAA Regional or Super Regional appearances and three SEC Tournament Champions; and Women's Soccer had one SEC West Championship under their belt.

"I made some great friendships while at Holmes and am blessed to still have them in my life today," Akins said. "My fondest memory will always be meeting my best friend and the love of my life, my wife."

Akins and his wife, Cindy, live in Raymore, Missouri now. They have two children Ronald (41) and Elizabeth (39). Akins and his wife still visit the Starkville area on a regular basis.

Robert William Gates

Robert Gates hails from Decatur, Georgia, where he attended Cedar Grove High School. He played football at Holmes for the 1995 and 1996 seasons under Head Coach Hugh Shurden and Position Coach Jeff Koonz. Gates enjoyed Holmes because his coaches (Shurden and Koonz) gave him a chance to prove and make something of himself.

"Holmes was a humbling, eye-opening experience for me as a student athlete and I am forever grateful to my coaches for their interest in me," Gates said.

Being a Georgia boy in college in Mississippi had its challenges for a young man, as he was responsible for making his grades and being successful. The real challenge was on his mom to pay for his tuition that was not completely covered by his scholarship.

"I appreciate the wisdom Coach Shurden instilled in us," Gates said.

As a defensive back at Holmes, Gates played alongside other Holmes Sports Hall of Famers, Chris Avery and Alvin McKinley. Gates was recognized as First Team JUCO All American and All-Region 23 in 1996. He was credited with 67 tackles, including 36 solo hits, during his sophomore season. He also caused five fumbles, and had 21 QB pressures that season. The mighty Bulldogs of the 1996 season were the first to win the North Division since 1988.

Gates earned his associate degree from Holmes and continued on to the University of Mississippi where he lettered twice with the football team. After the University of Mississippi, Gates played Arena Football in Richmond, Virginia.

"Holmes prepared me well for the next level in the classroom and as an athlete by helping me be disciplined," Gates said.

Gates lives and works in Decatur, Georgia today. He is a full-time HVAC technician and part-time insurance claims adjuster and home inspector.

Sheila Sullivan Hickman

Sheila Sullivan Hickman served as the Holmes women's basketball coach from 1978-1987. Hickman hails from Winston County and went to Louisville High School. After high school, she attended and played basketball at the University of Mississippi. While playing in college, she became the first player to score 1,000 points for her career and she did it in only three years. She finished with 1,475 points and currently ranks 10th on the all-time list.

After earning her Bachelor of Science and Master of Education from the University of Mississippi, she furthered her education with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Mississippi State University. Hickman started her coaching career as the University of Mississippi graduate assistant for the women's basketball team. She was drafted by the Milwaukee Does of the Women's Professional Basketball League.

"I enjoyed celebrating with players who received special honors such as Homecoming Queen and All-Stars," Hickman said.

Hickman has many memories from Holmes, but one of her fondest memories was informing her team of their national number 5 ranking and reminding them what it took to get in that spot. Parents would often host fish frys and various other events for the teams when she coached at Holmes which also made her experience very memorable. After coaching at Holmes, Hickman returned to Louisville High School as the girls' basketball coach and tennis coach. As her position evolved, she served as assistant athletic director and school administrator.

Among Hickman's career accomplishments, she has been president of the M-Club at the University of Mississippi, and inducted into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. She been part of the Southeastern Conference Women's League and served on numerous boards, committees and clubs in her area. Hickman and her husband, Hap, live in Louisville. They are both retired, but still involved in their community and attend First Methodist Church.

Prior to the 6 p.m. banquet, inductees enjoyed an informal welcoming reception at the president's home. Athletics Director Andy Wood presented each inductee with a framed sports photo from his or her days as a Bulldog. Afterward, inductees and their families enjoyed a musical performance by the Holmes Chorale in the Chapel on the Hill. Next, honorees and guests had the opportunity to view a student art gallery and mingle with Holmes' mascots, Bully and Major, until time for the banquet.

The new inductees have not only achieved athletic success, but prosperity in their careers, as well. Most importantly, they have served as esteemed ambassadors for the college, and Holmes is grateful to each inductee for that.

For more information about Holmes alumni events and the alumni association, contact Coordinator of Alumni Affairs Katherine Ellard at kellard@holmescc.edu or at (662) 472-9134.

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Equal Access/Equal Opportunity
Holmes Community College does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, veteran status, or genetic information. Employees, students, applicants for admission or employment, or other participants in Holmes Community College programs or activities who believe they have been discriminated against are entitled to seek relief through the Compliance Officer, Dr. Stephanie C. Diffey, (662) 472-9429. Written inquiries may be e-mailed to: compliance@holmescc.edu or sent to: Compliance Office, P.O. Box 369, Goodman, MS 39079.

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