Louisville – Six individuals who have made outstanding contributions to sports – dating back nearly a century through recent times – have been selected as the 2019 class of the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame fueled by the Kentucky Lottery (KSHOF).
Comprising the 42nd KSHOF class are: Derek Anderson, (Louisville) member of a University of Kentucky basketball national championship, 11-year NBA veteran and NBA champion; Deion Branch, University of Louisville all-conference wide receiver, 13-year NFL career and Super Bowl MVP; William Exum, trailblazer as the long-time athletic director and multiple sports coach at Kentucky State University and USA Olympic Track & Field Manager; Ralph Hacker (Richmond), long-time radio color analyst and play-by-play for University of Kentucky, innovator in sports radio networks and programming; Willis Augustus Lee (Natlee), one of the most decorated U.S. Olympians ever who won seven medals in shooting events at the 1920 Olympics; and Nate Northington (Louisville), an all-state high school football player who played at the University of Kentucky and was the first African-American ever to play in an SEC football game.
A selection committee comprised of 16 sports media from throughout the Commonwealth, along with a bygone era committee comprised of current members of the KSHOF, selected this year’s class. All votes by the selection committee were independently tabulated by regional accounting firm Dean Dorton, one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in Kentucky, with offices in Louisville and Lexington.
The 2019 KSHOF class members and their families will be honored on Aug. 19 at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville. For ticket information or sponsorship opportunities, contact Julie Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org / (502) 587-6742.
The KSHOF is owned and operated by the Louisville Sports Commission, a Kentucky-based non-profit whose mission is to attract, create, host and operate sporting events and activities that enhance the quality of life of the Commonwealth. The KSHOF was founded in 1963 to recognize athletes and sports figures who are Kentucky natives as well as individuals who participated in their respective sport or made a significant impact in their sport in Kentucky.
“The KSHOF Class of 2019 recognizes six outstanding individuals who have had a major impact on sports in the Commonwealth and on the national and international stage,” said Louisville Sports Commission President and CEO Karl F. Schmitt, Jr. “We are thrilled to have the Kentucky Lottery back as our presenting sponsor, as well as regional accounting and advisory firm Dean Dorton for officially tabulating the votes. Also we want to acknowledge the longstanding partnership between the KSHOF and the Louisville Arena Authority.”
The KSHOF Class of 2019:
Derek Anderson – (Louisville). Living on his own at age 11, Anderson persevered to become an all-star basketball player at Doss High School and earned a college basketball scholarship that led to an NCAA championship, an NBA championship and successful business career. He started college at Ohio State, transferred to the University of Kentucky and was a member of the Wildcat’s 1996 national championship team. The 13th overall draft pick by Cleveland, Anderson played 11 years as a guard in the NBA for six different teams and was a member of the Miami Heat championship team in 2006. He retired in 2008 with a career per-game average of 12 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds. Anderson authored the book Stamina about his life story from homelessness to successful careers on the basketball court, in business and philanthropy.
Deion Branch – A native of Albany, Ga., Branch was an all-conference wide receiver for the University of Louisville in 2000 and 2001 where he led the Cardinals to consecutive Liberty Bowls, Branch was drafted in the 2nd round by New England, and played 11 seasons for the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. He earned MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX with the Patriots with 11 catches, 133 yards (tied as the most Super Bowl receptions at the time). He played in 140 NFL games with career totals of 518 receptions, 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns. His Deion Branch Foundation raises money for children affected with spinal meningitis; Deion’s son was afflicted with the disease and lives at The Home of the Innocents in Louisville, one of the Foundation’s beneficiaries. Branch hosts an annual skills and drills football camp for underprivileged kids in Louisville that is free of charge.
William Exum – A native of Rock Island, Ill., Exum was a trailblazer as both an athlete and sports administrator. He was the first African-American football player at the University of Wisconsin and earned three letters at UW in track in the 1930s. He served Kentucky State University (KSU) in the following capacities: athletics director from 1949 to 1977; chairman of the Department of Health and Physical Education; and track, tennis and cross country coach, leading the KSU’s men’s cross country team to the 1964 NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championship. Exum served as Head Manager of the USA Men’s Olympic Track and Field Team in 1972 and 1976. He was a member of the Athletics Congress of the USA Olympic Track and Field Committee, the selection committee of the National Track Hall of Fame, and Chairman of the National Summer Youth Sports Administrative Committee. Exum was inducted into the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall of Fame in 1978.
Ralph Hacker – (Richmond). A sport broadcaster and pioneering media executive in Lexington, Ky., Hacker spent nearly 30 years as analyst then play-by-play radio announcer for University of Kentucky football and basketball (1972-1998). He started his radio career doing high school games in Richmond at age 15 and at age 16 did radio broadcasts for Eastern Kentucky University football and basketball. He covered UK sports for five years before joining legendary Cawood Ledford as radio color analyst, and then made the transition from analyst to play-by-play. He anchored numerous UK radio call-in shows and coaches’ shows. As President of HMH Broadcasting, Hacker was instrumental in building one of the state’s top broadcasting companies with properties such as WVLK Radio, which was UK’s flagship station for decades.
Willis Augustus Lee – A native of Natlee in Owen County and U.S. Naval academy graduate, Willis Lee earned seven medals at the 1920 Olympics as a member of the USA Rifle Team, then went on to a distinguished military career as a vice admiral and war hero in the U.S. Navy. At the age of 19 in 1907, he became the only American ever to win both the U.S. National High Power Rifle and Pistol championships in the same year, and in 1920 in Paris, Willis won five Olympic gold, one silver and one bronze – a record for total medals in a single Olympic Games that stood until 1980. His medal count: small-bore rifle, standing at 50 meters (gold); free rifle, three positions at 300 meters (gold); military rifle, prone at 300 meters (gold); military rifle, prone at 600 meters (gold); military rifle, prone at 300 meters and 600 meters (gold); military rifle, standing at 300 meters (silver); and running target, single shot (bronze). In February 1942, Rear Admiral Lee was assigned to the Pacific Theatre and led a task force of American battleships to victory over a larger Japanese force near Guadalcanal that helped turn the tide of war. He earned the Navy Cross, the second highest honor awarded by the Navy for extraordinary heroism.
Nate Northington – (Louisville) An all-star high school football player at Thomas Jefferson in Louisville who was highly recruited by colleges north of the Mason Dixon Line, Northington accepted a football scholarship to the University of Kentucky and became a trailblazer for college football equity in the South. On Sept. 30, 1967, while still a teenager, he became the first black player in SEC football history when he logged 3:17 playing time in UK’s 26-13 loss to Mississippi at Stoll Field. His presence was the source of much personal derision by fans and the general public, which was later featured in full-length documentaries by CBS and ESPN. In 2016, UK unveiled a statue of Northington and three other players who broke SEC color barrier. Prior to transferring to Western Kentucky University due to injuries and personal reasons, he convinced freshman players Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg to stay at UK and finish the job of integrating the SEC.