July 8, 2005
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina director of athletics Chip Smith announced today the Catamounts' Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2005, which includes Louis Cooper (football), Phillip Grundy (baseball), Susan Persons (gymnastics coach) and Devondia "Von" Ross (track & field). Also, Western has named Nathan Arthur as its 10th Patron Award recipient.
Cooper, Grundy, Persons and Ross will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Arthur will be honored, on Nov. 5 prior to Western's football game with Wofford, which is currently set for 2:00 pm.
Cooper was a first team Associated Press All-America selection in 1984, as well as a first team American Football Coaches/Kodak All-American after setting a WCU record with 12 sacks in a season and leading the team with 89 tackles and 20 tackles for losses. Cooper helped the Cats to an 8-3 record in 1984, while leading the Southern Conference in scoring defense and rank 14th in the final national poll. The Marion, S.C., native was also a two-time, first team All-SoCon pick (1982 and '84) and member of the WCU 20th Century Football Team. During his four years in Cullowhee, he teamed with Bernard Jones and Clyde Simmons to give Western arguably the best defensive line in the nation. Cooper was an integral part of Western's 1983 team which posted an 11-3-1 record and advanced to NCAA I-AA Championship, falling to Southern Illinois in the title game. In particular, Cooper, Ricky Pate and Paul Abraham were part of a three linebacker rotation which confused and shutdown the potent Furman offense, holding three-time SoCon player of the year Stanford Jennings to just 25 rushing yards on 13 carries, in a 14-7 semifinal win over the Paladins. For his part, Cooper had six stops versus the Paladins, including two tackles for losses. In 1982, he ranked second on the team in stops with 109. He ended his career with 30 sacks, which still stands as the school record, and 48 tackles for losses, which was a WCU record until Michale Spicer had 58 from 2000-03. Cooper was an 11th-round selection by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1985 National Football League Draft. He would eventually land with the Kansas City Chiefs that season and stayed with the club playing linebacker until 1990. Cooper ended his career playing one season with Miami (1991) and one season with Philadelphia (1993), joining former Catamount teammate and 2002 WCU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Simmons with the Eagles.
"Louis is one of the most talented players I've ever coached," said current WCU head football coach Kent Briggs, who was also Cooper's position coach in the early 80's. "He had natural explosion and football savvy that made him a great All-American for WCU. I am proud to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame because he is one of the outstanding all-time Catamounts. Louis was one of our key players in 1983, helping Western play for a national championship and highlighted by a tremendous game in our win over Furman."
Grundy was an All-American in 1993, batting .333 with 17 home runs and a SoCon-leading 66 RBI while posting a 3.12 ERA on the mound. He led Western to the 1993 SoCon tournament championship, earning tournament MVP honors, and the Cats went on to post a 1-2 record in the NCAA South Regional, defeating Miami (Fla.). The Somerset, Ky., native was a two-time, first team All-SoCon pick (1991 and `93), a second team All-SoCon pick as a pitcher and designated hitter in 1992 and a two-time American Baseball Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region selection (1991 and `93). Like Cooper, Grundy played a key role in his program's best season as the 1992 Catamounts won both the SoCon regular season and tournament crowns and were two outs away from advancing to the College World Series. After Grundy threw eight shutout innings to defeat top-seed Florida State in the first round of the NCAA South II Regional, Western would claim victories over Kent State and Stanford to advance to the winner's bracket championship. The Seminoles, who came out of the loser's bracket, faced Grundy in the first championship game. Grundy, who hit a two-run home run in the game, would only allow two runs in eight innings on the mound. The Seminoles would then score two runs in the ninth versus Western to pull out a 4-3 victory, then turned around to hand Western an 18-3 loss to advance to the College World Series. That year, Grundy batted .338 with 10 homers and 40 RBI, while going 9-5 on the mound with eight compete games, a 2.37 ERA and 89 strikeouts. As a freshman (1991), Grundy was used solely as a pitcher and went 11-4 with a 3.86 ERA, leading all NCAA freshmen in victories (ranking seventh overall) and earning Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-America honors. In three seasons as a pitcher, Grundy posted a 24-16 record with a 3.09 ERA and struck out 263 batters in 294.1 innings. He ranks ninth on the WCU all-time ERA list, sixth in wins, fourth in strikeouts and third in innings pitched. He only batted two seasons (sophomore and junior years), but had .335 average with 27 home runs and 106 RBI in less than 100 games. Grundy left Western after his junior season after being a fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Royals. (He was the Royals second overall pick as Kansas City did not have a second or third round pick that season.)
"Phillip Grundy was undoubtedly the best two-way player to ever play at Western," said Keith LeClair, Grundy's head coach and 2002 WCU Hall of Fame inductee. "Not bad for a guy who never hit as a freshman because we didn't think he could succeed at the college level. Phillip bugged me so bad in the fall of his sophomore year that he could hit. I caved into his pressure and gave him a shot. I told him he had one shot and, guess what? He went deep and the rest is history. As a pitcher Phillip was a fierce competitor who never backed down. He would just keep coming after you for nine innings. In my 11 years as a head coach, Phillip Grundy would be the guy I would give the ball to if we needed one win to get to Omaha."
Persons has been associated with Catamount athletics since 1969, serving as a professor in the department of health and human performance, starting the women's gymnastics program in for the 1971-72 season and playing a key role in the molding of the athletics department -- specifically women's athletics. Persons' teams went undefeated for the 1972, `73, `74 and `75 seasons, winning four straight Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIWA, the forerunner to NCAA for women's sports) state championships, which included teams in North Carolina from all collegiate levels and affiliations. Her 1972 team went on to place second in the AIWA Regionals, while leading the Catamounts to a third-place finish in `73. Western's gymnastics teams were tabbed Outstanding Athletic Team for Western North Carolina in 1973 and Outstanding Women's Collegiate Team by the Asheville Citizen in 1975. In 1974 and `75, Persons served a representative to the World University Games and she worked with the United States Gymnastics Federation in 1972 (Munich) and 1996 (Atlanta) Olympic Games. Persons was additionally the cheerleading team advisor where she was one of the first to incorporate men as well as tumbling routines. Outside of her coaching career, Persons served as President of the North Carolina AIAW, was a North Carolina representative in Washington, D.C., that helped pass legislation that became known as Title IX and was chairperson of the Western Carolina Athletics Committee. Most recently, Persons served on task force which reviewed the WCU Athletics program, resulting in over $13 million of improvements to existing Western athletics facilities and addition of a softball program and field over the past five years. Over her career, Persons has received the North Carolina AIAW Coaches Award (1983-84), Western Carolina Athletics Department Service Award (1983-84), Western Carolina Paul A. Reid Award for service to the University (1994) and North Carolina Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance College/University Professor of the Year (1995).
"Sue wore many hats in working for and supporting Western athletics over the years and I've never known anyone who took their duties more serious," said Steve White, former WCU athletics administrator, Catamount athletics historian and 1999 WCU Hall of Fame inductee. "She made positive things happen in every area of athletics that she touched. WCU, and especially its athletics program, owes her a very big `Thank You'."
Ross is one of the most decorated athletes in Western Carolina history, earning a total of 16 All-SoCon honors, and owns the distinction of being the Catamounts' first female Division I All-American. She earned her All-America honor finishing ninth in the long jump at the 1991 NCAA Championships with a leap of 20 feet 5.25 inches, which led to an invitation to the 1992 Olympic trials in New Orleans. The native of Charlotte and product of West Charlotte High School finished third among collegiate jumpers at the 1991 USA/Mobil National Championship and fourth at the 1991 Olympic Festival in Los Angeles. After a disappointing indoor season in 1991 (fourth in the long jump, 55 meters and 200 meters), Ross exploded on the scene by being named 1991 SoCon's Outdoor Most Outstanding Performer, winning the long jump and 100 meters while placing third in the 200 meters and being on the second-place 4x100 meter relay team. In 1992, she was the SoCon indoor champion in the long jump and 4x400 meter relay, adding a third place finish in the 55 meters and a sixth place finish in the 200 meters. During the 1992 SoCon outdoor season, she placed third in the long jump, second in the 4x100 relay, third in the 100 meters and fifth in the 200 meters. In 1993, she was champion at the SoCon Indoors for the long jump as she set, and still owns, the SoCon Indoor record with a leap of 20 feet 4.25 inches, adding runner-up finishes in the triple jump and 55 meters and sixth in the 55 meters. During the 1993 outdoor season, she was the first woman in WCU history to break the 12-second barrier in the 100 meters, posting a time of 11.74 and ended the campaign by finishing second at the SoCon Outdoors in the long jump, second in the 100 meters, third in the triple jump, sixth in the 200 meters and second in the 4x100 meter relay. Ross still owns WCU records in the indoor (20 feet 4.25 inches) and outdoor (21 feet 4 inches) long jump, as well as the indoor triple jump (41 feet 3.25 inches).
"Von was an outstanding athlete who could rise to the occasion to whatever level of competition she was facing," said WCU cross country/track & field head coach Danny Williamson. "She was a fierce competitor who always wanted to win. Furthermore, she was and is an outstanding person. Being named Western's first All-American has its own place in history and hopefully allows other females to know they can be All-American as well."
Arthur becomes the 10th person in WCU history to receive the Patron Award, which the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee periodically awards to an individual who has made a positive impact on the WCU Athletics program through contributions of leadership and/or unique support off the playing field and courts. Arthur played one season for the Catamount basketball team, seeing action in 17 games during the 1963-64 season. However, it is his association with the track and field program which has made the biggest impact on the athletics department. Not only did his daughter, Kim, run track at Western during the same time as Devondia Ross, but he is generous with his money, donating in excess of $75,000 for operational expenses over the years, and assisting at home meets. His largest contribution came in 1991 as Arthur was the sole benefactor in Western having its first rubberized surface.
"Without the kindness and contributions of Nathan Arthur, our track & field program would not be where it is today," Williamson said. "He set the tone for the improvements in our facilities. He and the whole Arthur family are very WCU oriented. Their generosity has played a key role in young adults achieving their goals, helping student-athletes be successful in any way they can."