Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, a consensus All-American quarterback at Ole Miss, heads a diverse list of eight former athletes and sports figures selected for induction into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in August of 2024.
The Class of ’24 was announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the MSHOF Museum, which will begin undergoing a $4 million renovation immediately.
Other 2024 inductees, in alphabetical order, include: Walter “Red” Barber, Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster; Madison-Ridgeland Academy basketball coach Richard Duease, who has coached the second most basketball victories of any high school basketball coach in the U.S.; Laurel fisherman Paul Elias, 1982 Bassmasters Classic champion, and winner of five other national pro tournaments; former Jackson State and NFL wide receiver Jimmy Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ all-time leading receiver; Jackson native Savante Stringellow, a former world champion long jumper who prepped at Provine and was an All American at Ole Miss; tennis champion Becky Vest, another Jackson Provine product, who competed on the Virginia Slims Tour, at Wimbledon, and the U.S. and French Opens; and Florence’s Jimmy Webb, a Mississippi State All American defensive lineman and first-round NFL Draft choice who played seven years of pro football in San Francisco and San Diego.
Brief bios of each follow:
- Red Barber was born in Columbus, where he lived his first 10 years. His family left the state but his rich, Southern accent stayed with him throughout his Hall of Fame broadcasting career. He broke into Major League Baseball with the Cincinnati Reds and later famously broadcast the games of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. He and Mel Allen were the first two broadcasters inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
- Richard Duease, born and raised Indianola, attended Mississippi State where he first majored in business, planning to eventually run his family’s two department stores in the Delta. Instead, he went into coaching. That was 48 years, 1,801 victories and 33 state championships ago. “I can’t think of a greater honor than being inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame,” Duease said Wednesday.
- Paul Elias said he was too small to play football, was “pretty good” at baseball but “was really, really good” at fishing while growing up in Laurel. “I praise the Lord every day for allowing me to make a good living doing what I love to do,” Elias, a Southern Miss graduate, said. He turned pro in 1979 and won the Bassmasters Classic in Montgomery in 1982. Twenty-six years later, he seta record that still stands for the largest four-da five-bass limit of 132 pounds, 8 ounces in a tournament at Lake Falcon in Texas.
- Eli Manning follows his father, Archie, into the MSHOF, just as he followed him to Ole Miss. During his time at Oxford, he set or tied 47 records to become the most honored offensive player in school history. He was the first player selected in the 2004 NFL Draft and played 16 years for the New York Giants. His jersey No. 10 has been retired by both Ole Miss and the Giants. In 2016, he was chosen winner of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, named after another Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer. Manning will enter the MSHOF in his first year of eligibility for the honor.
- Jimmy Smith earned his nickname “Silk” at Callaway High School for how he made so many big plays so gracefully and with seemingly little effort. He then starred at Jackson State and began his professional career as a second round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys. But he became one of the game’s most productive receivers with the Jacksonville Jaguars for whom he caught 862 passes, including 67 for touchdowns. He is in the Jaguars’ Ring of Honor but considers Wednesday’s announcement “my greatest honor, something I have wanted for a long, long time.”
- Savanté Stringfellow played basketball and ran track at Provine, where he caught the eye of MSHOF track coach Joe Walker, then the coach at Ole Miss. He claimed three NCAA Championships as a Rebel All American became a U.S Olympian and follows in a long line of so many remarkable Mississippi long jumpers, including Hall of Famers Ralph Boston, Larry Myricks, Brittney Reese and Willye B. White. “I don’t know what it is about Mississippi and the long jump, but I’m just glad to be a part of it,” said Stringfellow, whose son, Kennedy, is a promising freshman long jumper at Mississippi State.
- Becky Vest, another Jackson native and Provine grad, won five high school state tennis championships, two while still in junior high. She played collegiately at Trinity (Texas) University where she was a national champion. After college, she competed internationally as a professional and has become an acclaimed teacher. She follows her mother, Dorothy Vest, as the first mother/daughter combo in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
- Jimmy Webb of Florence became one of the greatest defensive players in Mississippi State football history, a consensus All American in the early-to -mid 1970s. A first round draft choice, he also starred in the NFL with both the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers. At State, he studied veterinary medicine, preparing for his post-football career as a veterinarian and a cattle rancher. “I have been so blessed,” Webb said. “I appreciate this state so much and am so thankful for his honor. At my age, the honors don’t seem to come around that much any more.”
The Class of ’24 will be inducted the weekend Aug. 2-3 in Jackson. Tickets will go on sale in January.