By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
It was a night of celebration February 12 at T.C. Williams, as the school inducted more former athletes and coaches into its athletics hall of fame at a glitzy ceremony.
Five former Titan athletes were formally installed, while school officials granted honorary inductions to former football coaches Herman Boone, Bill Yoast and Glenn Furman, who rose to prominence with the 1971 state championship-winning team immortalized in the Walt Disney movie “Remember the Titans.” Furman went on to be head coach in 1982, and won two state championships of his own.
Former T.C. football player and 2001 graduate Sgt. DeForest “Dee” Talbert was honored posthumously, having been the first Alexandrian to die in the war in Iraq in 2004. Talbert’s family collected the award on his behalf, continuing a tradition of commemorating the West Virginia State University graduate’s life.
Each year, members of his former regiment host a motorcycle ride in his honor from West Virginia to T.C. Williams. They also raised money for Talbert’s son, DeAnte, to help fund his education. Talbert was 22 when the vehicle he was traveling in was struck by a roadside bomb.
Michael Casey, John Kemper, Ratcliff Thomas and siblings Clark and Kelly Mercer were the former athletes inducted. All played a variety of sports at T.C. before going on to different careers.
Kemper, a member of the class of 1964 at the former George Washington High School who went on to a career in engineering and construction, remembered how important sports were to the community when he was a teenager. He played football, basketball and baseball at the school.
“Sports were the foundation of the city,” Kemper said. “Back then, when we played football games, we drew 10,000 or 12,000 people a game. Friday nights, the whole city of Alexandria went to football games. All that excitement around that, the buzz around the city was all around athletics and they’re great memories.”
Another former basketball player to be inducted was Casey, who went on to play professionally in Venezuela after graduating from the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. Casey, who has since returned to Alexandria, noted how important his time was at T.C., especially given his deep family ties to the city stretching back several generations.
“Classes were great, the teachers pushed you and I made a lot of friends,” Casey said. “Sports was just an outlet, but education was the key, and if you came out of T.C. Williams and out of an Alexandria school, you could make it anywhere.”
Clark Mercer was a goalkeeper on the Titans soccer team and also competed in football and indoor track. Despite several individual honors, including district and regional player of the year and a stint as indoor track captain, he remembers the time he spent with his teammates most of all.
“It’s funny, I don’t necessarily remember specific game scores or wins and losses,” he said. “I remember more than anything just the experience of bonding with teammates and playing soccer, such a team sport, and football as well. You work really hard, and those are both team sports, so I wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t done well and had really good coaches.”
His older sister, Kelly, graduated from T.C. in 1992 having won five state titles across her junior and senior years on the track. She went on to run for Georgetown University and is now an oncologist at the University of Virginia Hospital. Kelly Mercer said her time at T.C. taught her many life lessons.
“I think honestly the track team is one of my strongest memories,” she said. “I ran pretty much year-round, I ran cross country, indoor and outdoor, and the friends I had and the coaches I had and those experiences have really stuck with me throughout my life and really taught me a lot about perseverance, determination and hard work and loyalty. Those are things that I’ve tried to remember as I’ve gotten older.”
After graduating from T.C., Thomas went on to play football at the University of Maryland and then professionally from 1998-2001 for the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL. The former linebacker said his time as a Titan prepared him well for the competition of playing at the next levels.
“We had so many talented teams and every day you had to come to practice and compete,” Thomas said. “If you didn’t, you’d definitely get embarrassed. That competitiveness instilled a drive in me, and made it easier as I left T.C. Actually going to college, I was prepared to play because I competed against great guys every day.”
Nominations to the hall of fame are garnered from the community, with the Alexandria City School Board’s hall of fame committee then deciding on which individuals are inducted. School board member Bill Campbell, who sits on the committee, said the institution is about far more than just athletic prowess.
“With as large a school as we have and all the athletic programs, there have been some incredible athletes,” Campbell said. “But we’re really trying to emphasize the well-rounded person that T.C. develops not only in terms of athletics, but absolutely college contributions and then we really put a lot of emphasis on that contribution after college.”