By J. Daniel Rollins
The Associated Press
Bobby Pruett. Doug Legursky. The “Gray Eagle” himself, Jerome Van Meter.
To be included among the best gridders in Woodrow Wilson history and have your name enshrined in brick on the Wall of Fame is the highest honor any Flying Eagle can obtain.
On Sept. 13, three more Woodrow football legends took their places in history, being named members of Woodrow Wilson Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013.
Allen Manning, Kelly Adkins and coach Gary Nichols were selected for the honor.
“It’s a quality group of people,” Hall of Fame president Matt Morris said. “It’s a lower number of members, which keeps it special.”
Manning was an all-state and all-conference offensive and defensive lineman in 2002 and 2003.
“It’s really cool to be inducted,” he said. “It was cool to see all the guys I played with and all the older guys that I looked up to when I was a kid.”
Manning recalled competing in the classic 2001 playoff game against Riverside. It’s a game that many in attendance consider to be the hardest-hitting game in high school football. The Flying Eagles lost the game 25-21 in triple overtime.
“It was the toughest-hitting game I ever played in,” Manning said. “It was wild. Something I’ll never forget.”
Manning currently resides in Columbia, S.C., where he works in auto body restoration.
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Kelly Adkins left Woodrow Wilson in 2000 to follow in the footsteps of many other former Flying Eagles and continue his career at Marshall University, where he was a part of the 2001 11-2 team that finished the season ranked No. 19 in the nation.
But it was his time at Woodrow that means the most to him.
“The brotherhood we built together was big,” Adkins said. “I still keep in touch with those guys. We hated to lose. When you lost with the guys, you also bled with them. You went through two-a-days with them. You sweat with them.”
Adkins was Woodrow’s leading tackler during his junior and senior seasons and for that, he’s now enshrined in brick.
“It feels awesome,” he added. “It’s a blessing just to be named among great coaches and great players. You can just look from left to right and see the talent that has come out of Beckley. To be named with them is huge.”
Adkins is a federal corrections officer in McDowell County, but he resides in Beckley with his wife and family.
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Gary Nichols never suited up for the Flying Eagles, but in his 20 years of coaching, he’s seen plenty of elite players come and go.
“There were so many,” he said. “So, so many that went on to play ball at the next level or were all-state. I can’t even single anybody out. They were all incredible.”
Nichols served as a defensive backs coach under Pete Culicerto, before stepping away from the field and into school administration.
“Working with Pete and that staff was an unbelievable experience,” Nichols recalled. “I was a young buck, and they took me in. We all were a family. We worked very well together. That relates to all the success we had. We had some phenomenal teams.”
Nichols currently serves as principal at Shady Spring Middle School.
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Matt Morris is currently serving in his first year of the Woodrow Wilson Football Hall of Fame presidency. He is joined on the committee by former Flying Eagles Austin Peters, Rusty Wooton and Pat Williams.
— E-mail: jrollins
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