Old embraced new during the Irving ISD Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as Brad Knouse, Hobart Lytal, Duane Miller, and Thomas Uhr joined 28 other Hall of Fame members at the 6th annual event held on Saturday evening, June 17.
“It’s evident what it does to bring the community together, and it connects the old with the new,” said Clint Roddy, Irving ISD director of athletics. “It’s a great opportunity for those from the previous generations of students to come back and see all of the great things that Irving ISD is doing now in addition to celebrating things that happened in the past.”
The event, held for the third straight year at the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel, honors athletes, coaches, and community supporters who have contributed to Irving ISD athletics.
LOOKING FOR EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUALS
The selection committee, made up of the athletic director, the director’s immediate supervisor, the director of communications, and two Irving ISD Hall of Fame members, made their final decisions at the end of February.
The bottom line, Roddy said, is they are looking for individuals who have made a positive impact.
“You’re looking at people who have done extraordinary things as a player, as a coach, and as a community member,” he said. “Who have made positive contributions to the school district and have gone above and beyond.”
Anyone can nominate an individual, but to be considered, an athlete has to have graduated at least ten years ago and a coach can no longer be with the district. Community supporters can be nominated at any time, but no current Irving ISD employees may be considered. Also once an individual is nominated, they stay in a nomination binder and are reconsidered every year.
Honorees are usually introduced by a former coach or teammate. In Brad Knouse’s case, he was introduced by his former wrestling coach and father, Terry Knouse.
“Brad’s always been an overachiever and a leader,” Terry said.
In one example of Brad’s tenacity, Terry recalled a national wrestling tournament in Florida. Brad was wrestling for his third national title and hurt his arm. Refusing to forfeit, Terry told him to get the match over as quickly as possible.
“He went out and pinned the kid in a couple seconds,” Terry said. “His arm swelled up and come to find out, he broke his arm in two different places. That meant that freshman football looked pretty poor.”
Not wanting to miss the season, Brad talked the team into letting him play with a pad over his cast. He moved up to playing for the varsity team by the end of the season.
At Saturday evening’s induction, Brad thanked his father and mother for the sacrifices they made which allowed him to compete.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Brad said. “There are so many people that help you to succeed, but the biggest people that help you to succeed in athletics are your parents.”
The first year that Terry and his family moved to Cleveland, Texas, the school did not have a wrestling program.
“My dad was not only my coach, he was my training partner, and in some cases, even my mother was my training partner,” Brad said. “There were no high schools around the Houston area that wrestled at that time. My dad called around and found some people that practiced at a boys club in Houston about 40 minutes away, and we’d drive there a couple times a week.”
SAME FACES EVERY YEAR
In 2012, the Irving ISD athletic director at the time, Joe Barnett, did research among school districts in the area and came up with guidelines to host an Irving ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.
The first year, eight individuals were inducted. That ceremony was held at one of the Irving ISD campuses and included a private dinner for the families before a larger ceremony.
The next two years, the athletic department transformed the event into a combined dinner and ceremony. In 2014, the school board decided to set aside budget money for the event, which allowed the athletic department to explore larger venues.
Beth Hindman, athletic office manager, contacted the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel in 2014 and was told the hotel did not book a year in advance.
“I told them I want to book every June,” Hindman said. “Up until that time, we’d had it at a different place every year, which is not ideal.”
According to Hindman, working with the hotel has built a great relationship and allowed the ceremony to grow naturally.
“I predict the hotel is going to have to open another section for us,” she said.
Nominations for the Hall of Fame are accepted throughout the year. To be considered for this year’s class, nominations had to be in by Feb. 15. From there, the selection committee moved quickly and decisions were made by the end of February.
Knouse is joined by Hobart Lytal, who served as athletic director for Irving ISD for 13 years, Duane Miller, a three-sport standout who played football for the University of Texas and signed as a free agent with the Cowboys in 1991, and Tom Uhr, a coach across track, football and basketball.
The reason for choosing the class months before the ceremony, Hindman said, is because the Hall of Fame rings take about 12 weeks to come in. The rings are sponsored by the Irving Schools Foundation and are presented to each honoree after their acceptance speech along with a plaque.
One of the reasons for the event’s continued growth is a bond between former and current inductees. Roddy gives complimentary tickets to past inductees every year to encourage them to welcome the new class.
“I want that group to be a special fraternity,” Roddy said. “We’re starting to see people make it a point to be there every year, because they want to support the event. They want to celebrate the past but also be a part of the great things that are currently going on.”