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Sports Hall of Fame names 2020 inductees

Latest class features athletic standouts from multiple generations

 

The Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame has named four new inductees who will fill the Class of 2020.

Charlie Abrams Jr., Joe Brown, Anthony Robinson Jr., and John Ruzic will be recognized as new members to the Hall of Fame during an induction banquet on Feb. 10 at the Demopolis Civic. Center. Tickets for the ceremony will be available through the MCSHOF for $25 and must be purchased in advance.

Charlie Abrams Jr.

Charlie played football and baseball at Demopolis High School and was a three-year letterman in football and a four-year letterman in baseball. Charlie was a three-year starter for Demopolis High School football teams from 1983-1985. He was a two-way starter at tight end and defensive end. He caught five touchdown passes and served as the team captain his senior year. In football, Charlie earned All-State honors in 1985 as a tight end. He signed a full scholarship to play football for the University of Alabama.

Charlie Abrams Jr.

Charlie was also a four-year starter for DHS baseball from 1983-1986. As a sophomore, he set a record hitting three homeruns in Block Park in Selma in one game and made USA Today’s paper for the feat. As a junior he led the state of Alabama in all classes in home runs with 16. Also, in his junior year, Charlie helped lead the team to the 5A finals where they finished as the runner-up in 1985. Charlie earned the Tuscaloosa News player of the year in 1985. In his senior year, Charlie helped lead the baseball team back to the finals where DHS won the state championship in 1986. Charlie earned All-State two consecutive years in 1985 and 1986. He was a prolific long ball hitter as he finished his career with 50 homeruns. Charlie attained a rare distinction earning full scholarship offers in baseball from both Alabama and Auburn.

Charlie played football for four years at the University of Alabama 1986-1989. He earned three letters for his play during his freshman, sophomore and senior years 1986-1987, 1989. The 1988 season was plagued by an injury. On Nov. 11, during the 1989 season, Alabama beat LSU 32-16, Charlie earned Offensive SEC Player of the Week honors for his performance during the game.

Charlie has been in health care sales since 1995. He has one son, Adam Wesley Abrams who works for the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA and one daughter, Ana Frances Abrams who attends the University of Alabama.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is a native of Jefferson where he began his love for athletics in the seventh grade at John Essex School. He played junior high basketball in the seventh and eighth grades. He made the varsity football team in the eighth grade and the varsity basketball team in the ninth grade. He had a stellar high school athletic career, where he played offensive lineman and linebacker on the football team and guard and forward on the basketball team.

Joe Brown

During his senior year, Brown excelled in sports. He received trophies and accolades at the high school banquet and was featured in the local newspapers. The awards he received are as follows: Best Offensive Lineman, Best Defensive Player, Football Team MVP, Leading Rebounder, Leading Scorer and Basketball MVP. He played against Alabama High School’s “athletic greats” such as Marvin Jones, Cecil Jackson and Danny Dixon. He was recruited out of high school by famous coaches such as Joe Paterno of Penn State University, who was proclaimed to be the most victorious coach in NCAA Division I-A history.

After graduation from high school in 1979, Brown continued his all-star athletic career at Alabama State University, where he played on special teams during his freshman year. He started for three years as outside linebacker and defensive end. He was named All-Southwestern Athletic Conference Player several times.

Brown played against such NFL greats as Jerry Rice, Richard Dent, Robert Johnson and Trumaine Johnson. He won the Burger King MVP Game Trophy in 1982 against Grambling State University for collecting two interceptions and scoring a touchdown during the game. After the game, legendary Coach Eddie Robinson, the winningest college football coach at the time, ran to Joe, shook his hand and said, “If I had five players like you, no one could stop me.”

Brown worked out for the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. He was a contender to make the team of the Memphis Showboats of the USFL before the league folded. He later coached a women’s volleyball team at the Cleveland Avenue YMCA in Montgomery, where his team won several championships. He served as a youth football coach for the Montgomery Cougars for a number of years. He played guard and forward for the Montgomery Spoileers Alabama Police Olympics Team who competed in the National Police Olympics at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He scouted basketball talent throughout the southeast for Ben Jobe, the legendary head basketball coach at Tuskegee University.

Brown has one daughter, Jerica Brown, who lettered in basketball at Evangel Christian School in Montgomery. He has been employed at Tuskegee University for over 26 years where he has served as the Recreation Supervisor, Assistant Director of Student Life and Development, Director of the Student Center, Director of Student Activities, Interim Dean of Students and Director of Student Life and Development. 

Anthony Robinson Jr.

Anthony Robinson Jr. was a multi-sport star for the Linden Patriots playing football and basketball. In 2008, he began his high school football career as an eighth grader, starting as the punt returner and playing a reserve role in the secondary for a team that finished 13-1 ending their season in the semifinals.

Anthony Robinson Jr.

As a freshman in 2009, Anthony earned the starting role of quarterback and continued in that position for all four years of his career while also becoming a four-year starter at point guard for the Linden basketball program routinely leading them to the Class 1A Regional Tournament.

In addition, to starting four seasons as the Patriots’ signal caller and first-string punt returner, Anthony also started two years at cornerback and two years at safety. He also served as the team’s full-time punter and placekicker when needed. A two-way starter for most of his career, “Little Ant” was the ultimate competitor as well as teammate. It is said that, “a rising tide lifts all boats” and simply put Anthony Robinson was that “rising tide” for the Linden football program that compiled a record of 48-7 as the starting quarterback. He earned Honorable Mention All-State as a freshman in 2009, and First Team All-State in 2010, 2011 and his senior year 2012. Anthony was the runner-up for the ASWA (Alabama Sports Writers Association) Class 1A Back of the Year Award in 2011. Anthony also earned the West Alabama Watchman Player of the Year in 2012. His senior year Robinson accounted for 24 offensive touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards of total offense on the year in addition to his two punt returns for scores in the 12 games the Patriots played. Robinson also led the team on defense with 75 total tackles.

There is an old saying, “Big things come in small packages,” which describes Little Ant as almost everyone else was bigger than him yet everyone followed him. Anthony had a knack for the “big play” whether it was a third-down pass completion, an option run in the red zone, or a game-sealing interception. His senior year, his leadership and performance during the playoffs led Linden all the way to the State Championship game where they finished as the runner-up. If there is a right way to play the game, Anthony Robinson played it that way.  Little Ant embodied the perfect representation of what it means to be a Marengo County athlete: keenly prepared, respectful leadership, the consummate teammate and elite performer.

Anthony received collegiate offers from Faulkner, Valdosta State, Miles and others before opting to sign with the University of West Alabama as a cornerback. Anthony never got the chance to take the field for the Tigers as he and his 12-year-old cousin C.J. Boykin were killed in a car accident Labor Day weekend 2013.

Following his tragic death, the ESPN 104.9 Coaches Show named their postseason Outstanding Player of the Year Award in honor of Anthony Robinson. He exemplified a spirit, character and commitment to personal and collective excellence that represents the best values of athletes and people in general.

John Ruzic

John Ruzic played football and baseball for Demopolis High School from 1935-1938. He was the starting fullback/halfback and linebacker for every game in those four years. He was Co-Captain of the undefeated 1937 team and Captain in 1938. In 1938, he was named the Outstanding Football Player in Marengo County and the Outstanding Athlete for Demopolis High School.

John Ruzic

John was offered many scholarships but chose to attend Spring Hill College in Mobile. He was a pulling guard and linebacker. In 1941, “Big John” was named by the Associated Press poll as All-Dixie Conference Guard First String by a panel of coaches and sportswriters from across the south. He also earned Honorable Mention Little All-American 1941. Due to World War II, Spring Hill dropped football in 1942. John was offered scholarships from the University of Alabama and Auburn but chose to join the Navy. He remained in the Navy for 24 years serving in World War II and the Korean Conflict. He retired with the rank of Commander. John was honored with induction into the Spring Hill Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

As a freshman for Demopolis in 1935, John started every game at fullback/halfback and linebacker. In his first high school game, a 13-6 victory over Ward, he scored Demopolis’ first touchdown of the season and also intercepted a pass. In a 6-0 loss to Livingston, Ruzic is credited with “backing up the line in college style.”

In his sophomore year of 1936, John started every game in DHS’s 4-5 season. He has many highlights but his best performances are in the last two games, victories over Linden and Ward. He scored two touchdowns and recovered a fumble in a 13-6 win over Linden. In Demopolis’s 25-0 win over Ward, the Demopolis Times repoted, “Ruzic was brilliant on defense and on the receiving end of several long passes, crossing the goal line twice.”

His junior year was 1937 and a milestone year for Demopolis as there was a new high school building and for the first time, football was played under the lights. The football team responded with its  first undefeated season in 15 years. The Tigers scored 210 points while holding their opponents to 39. Ruzic, Co-Captain, lead the team in scoring with 10 touchdowns and four extra points. The most memorable of many highlights was scoring the lone touchdown and extra point in a 7-0 win against Linden. Stewart Reynolds, captain of the 1937 Tigers said, “Although we tied Greensboro, that was not the toughest game we played. I think that had to be our 7-0 win over Linden. We played down there and barely got home with the seats of our pants. Our touchdown came on a pass reception by John Ruzic. John was a hard running fullback and good linebacker too.”

DHS’s record in 1938, John’s senior year, was 6-3. He had an outstanding year with several multiple touchdown games and five games with over 100 rushing yards. The front page headline of the Oct. 27, 1938 Demopolis Times reads, “Ruzic Stars in Tigers Victory over Greensboro,” as he scored the only touchdown and extra point in a 7-0 victory. In John’s last game, a 20-0 victory over Linden, he rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Quoting the Feb. 1942 Springhillian about John Ruzic, “From beneath every play, among the mass of humanity that are sardined there, straining man against man for an extra yard, John Ruzic, valiant Badger guard is found submarining to get the runner before he reaches the line of scrimmage or bursting through to fill up holes in the line. For such play, play practically 60 minutes of every game this season, ‘Big John’ was named by the Associated Press poll as guard on the Dixie Conference first team. A deadly tackler, an expert blocker, a man who takes the bumps and gives them in the center of the line unnoticed by the majority of football fans is Spring Hill’s gift to the greats of the gridiron — John Ruzic, a junior from Demopolis, Alabama.”

After WWII John returned to Demopolis to court a young lady named Sara Patterson. They were married in 1946 and had four sons. In the early 1950s John was stationed at Texas Tech in charge of the Naval ROTC Unit. The football coach was familiar with John’s football experience and asked him to be a volunteer assistant coach and John eagerly took the position.

After retiring from the navy in 1967, John earned a Masters Degree from William and Mary and moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Mobile where he began his second career as a Rehabilitation Counselor. John lived in the Mobile area the rest of his life, passing in 2005. He and his wife Sara are buried in their Marengo County.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, December 4 issue of the Demopolis Times.)