UAFS Hall of Fame inductees share experiences

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 297 views 

Five former University of Arkansas at Fort Smith student-athletes were inducted into the Lions Athletics Hall of Fame during the third annual honorary banquet Friday (Feb. 3) at the old UAFS Fieldhouse.

The inductees included a former women's volleyball player, Paula Castro Abbott, and four former men’s basketball players: Brian Kelleybrew, Robert “Bob” Blaylock, DeWayne Shepard and Jim Jay. Jerry Jay stood in for his father during festivities.

Ticketholders to the banquet were also guests at the Lions’ home games against the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Aggies on Saturday (Feb. 4). The 2012 inductees were to be recognized during intermission of the games at the Stubblefield Center.

The crowd of 185 at Friday night’s induction banquet included the former athletes’ family, friends and former teammates, among others. As each inductee took the stage, they shared their memories of their time at the college.

Paula Castro Abbott was the first international player to play for any UAFS team. Her coach called her the “Little General.” Abbott was also the first Lady Lion to earn both Academic All-American and All-American honors.

Robert “Bob” Blaylock, who played in the 1950s, thanked his parents for “their teaching him to work hard, finish your work before you play, and finish what you start.” After college, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played with 2011 Lions Athletics Hall of Fame inductee “Hal” Smith.

Jim Jay could have been a multi-sport collegiate athlete, noted a press release from UAFS. But he chose to play basketball at the former Fort Smith Junior College, now UAFS. He could have also played professional baseball, but suffered a shoulder injury which ended his baseball career. Jay’s oldest son, Jerry Jay, accepted his medallion for him. He remembered his father saying that “Coach Breedlove wanted him for his elbows.” He said his father “hated losing more than anything.”

Brian Kelleybrew called his coaches “G-Men” because they always wore brown trench coats like the FBI. He said the coaches always seemed to appear when the players were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. Still, the coaches called Kelleybrew “the complete package” because of his athletic ability and dedication in the classroom.

“I would have liked for UAFS to have been a four year college when I was here,” he said.

DeWayne Shepard, known as “Shep” by his coaches and teammates, was known for goofing off during practice. One day while messing around on the court, the coach came in and said, “Here's a glass of water – stick your finger in the glass and take it out. See how much water is missing in the cup – that's how much we'll miss you here.” After that, Shepard straightened up. He said he learned life values on the hardwood that he later used in real life.

“These athletes were honored for their commitment, athletic excellence, and what they have accomplished in their lives since their time at the college,” said UAFS Athletic Director Dustin Smith. “This is a way to honor those who did a lot to help the college be what it is today.”

Attendees included Darrell Walker, a 2011 inductee into the Lions Athletics Hall of Fame, was unable to attend last year due to his NBA coaching duties. “Nothing beats this place. It has such special memories,” he said.

He pondered the possibilities if Kelleybrew and Shepard had played with him at the University of Arkansas.

Link here for a more complete bio on each inductee.