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Hall makes call to three locals

By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
Todd Thompson
Hartselle Enquirer
Harry Puckett, Bill Nelson and Walton Ashwander all reached fame in three different sports.
Next Saturday, the three will be honored for their athletic achievements as part of the 20th class of the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame, created in 1989, has inducted county athletes every year. Joining Puckett, Nelson and Ashwander will be football coach Steve Rivers and basketball players Bill Sexton, Don Stanford and George White.
The seven members of the 2008 induction class will be honored at a special banquet June 14 at the Holiday Inn in Decatur with a 6 p.m. reception and a 7 p.m. banquet.
The banquet’s featured speaker will be San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, whose father is being inducted into the hall of fame.
Puckett was a standout football player at Morgan County High School (now Hartselle) before serving in the U.S. Navy for two years.
After leaving the service, Puckett played college football at Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn. While at Milligan, Puckett helped lead the school to a 9-1-1 mark just two years before the school disbanded its football program.
Puckett served as a high school football official for 20 years after leaving Milligan.
Nelson was a basketball standout at Falkville High School and later at St. Bernard College in Cullman.
He helped lead Falkville to the county championship in 1957.
After graduating from Falkville, Nelson stepped into the starting lineup at St. Bernard, a spot he held for all four years of his collegiate career.
St. Bernard won the 1960 NAIA regional championship.
After leaving college, Nelson served as a high school basketball official for 10 years. He also stayed active as a player, participating in independent league basketball for seven years.
Ashwander, who now lives in Hartselle, came out of Decatur High School to sign a golf scholarship at Auburn.
He was a four-year letter-winner at Auburn, playing on the Tigers’ 1981 Southeastern Conference championship team.
A Golf Magazine honorable mention all-American, Ashwander was ranked in the top 100 amateur golfers in the world.
He played two years of professional golf before a shoulder injury forced him from the sport.
Rivers was a three-sport star at Sylacauga and earned a football scholarship to Mississippi State.
After finishing college, Rivers put in 25 years as a head football coach, leading his teams to the state playoffs 16 times.
He has a 188-95 career record.
Sexton, who has been a longtime resident of Decatur, played basketball at the University of Alabama, where he was a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide.
Sexton recently earned the Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award.
Don Stanford led Athens College to the NAIA national tournament twice during his four-year career.
Following his graduation from Athens, Stanford served as a high school basketball official for more than 30 years.
He has also officiated games in the Gulf South Conference, the Alabama Community College Conference and in NAIA tournaments.
White played at Austinville, where he was a part of state championship teams in 1957, ‘58 amd ‘59.
He went on to play at Florence State (now the University of North Alabama) before serving as a coach and official in Decatur.

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