The South Carolina State University Athletic Hall of Fame honors individuals or teams that have distinguished themselves in their sport and made a significant impact to the university or society.
On Friday, September 7th several former Lakelands athletes were inducted into the South Carolina State Hall of Fame for individual and team athletic achievements. The induction ceremony was held in the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center in Orangeburg, SC in front of a large gathering of alumni and inductees’ family members and friends.
Five players from the Lakelands were inducted into the hall of fame as part of the 1976 S.C. State Football team. Players from the area included:
- Anthony Evans (Columbia; Defensive Back)
- Franklin Irvin (Greenwood; Running Back)
- Roy Keller (Ware Shoals; Defensive Back)
- Arbie Lagroon (Greenwood; Quarterback)
- Pierce Sullivan (Greenwood; Linebacker)
The 1976 national black champion football team was one of the most successful in school history, compiling a 10-1 overall record and winning the Bicentennial Bowl. The team averaged 28 points per game, while only allowing a little over 3 points to their opponents.
“It was a very competitive team,” Irvin said. “It was a team stacked heavy with talent and practices were always hard. I think the commitment that we demonstrated on the team helped to pole vault us to be successful that season.”
“We went beyond our expectations,” Sullivan explained. “Our goal was the conference championship and we surpassed that. It was great playing with guys who were determined and persistent to accomplish a goal.”
Former area football players were not the only athletes recognized during the weekend. Kenneth Washington Jr. was a track and field star at S.C. State University during an illustrious career from 1991-1995. Washington, a Due West native, competed as a jumper and thrower and earned numerous accolades during his time at the university. Some of his accomplishments included: All-Conference and All-America honors, Most Valuable Track and Field Athlete, 4-time All MEAC performer, and 3-time participant at the NCAA Division II Outdoor and Indoor meets.
“It was great being able to compete on that kind of level,” Washington stated. “It’s a lot different than high school because there is so much traveling and you’re competing against some of the best athletes in the country.”
Washington currently resides in Columbia and works at the SCANA Corporation as a security field supervisor where he has been employed for 16 years. Washington, along with many of the local players from the 1976 team, have still stayed in contact with one another throughout the years. The ceremony on Friday and the home football game on Saturday gave many of the players a chance to reconnect with teammates, coaches, and friends they had not seen in decades.
“It was great coming back to see some of the guys we graduated with and see they were all doing well,” Irvin said. “I’m still on a high from the entire weekend. It was such a great honor for the school to recognize the team.”
All of the athletes are enjoying success in their current professions thanks to the time and effort spent on the athletic fields of S.C. State University. Irvin works as a regional supervisor for Sprint, while Sullivan is a Human Resources Executive atWesleyCommons. Evans is a full-time middle school guidance counselor for Greenwood School District 50 and Keller is a Duke Energy distribution line technician.
“The work ethic we used on that team has been used in life,” said Keller. “It molded you because of the hard work expected and what you can expect in life. I made sure to tell one of my coach’s thank you because it helped me tremendously.”
All of the Hall of Fame inductees agreed they will never forget the special weekend spent with players, friends, family, coaches and alumni.
“I was really happier for my parents because my dad is a diehard S.C. State fan,” Washington explained. “It was truly a first class ceremony and the banquet was top notch. The outpouring of ex-teammates and family members was tremendous. My family was treated with the utmost respect the entire weekend.”