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SAISD names 2017 Athletic Hall of Fame Honorees

News Release

SAISD names 2017 Athletic Hall of Fame Honorees
 

SAN ANTONIO, April 6, 2017 – San Antonio ISD today announced the inductees for the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2017.  They will be honored at a ceremony scheduled for Aug. 26 at the Alamo Convocation Center, hosted by the SAISD Foundation.

The 2017 honorees are:

Gary Bell – a 1954 graduate of Burbank High School and a three-year varsity letterman and star athlete in football, basketball and golf. While Burbank did not have a baseball program during Bell’s high school years, he had the opportunity to play this sport as a pitcher for San Antonio’s American Legion. Bell’s success there caught the attention of professional scouts during his senior year, and by 1955 Bell was under contract with the Cleveland Indians to play in their farm system. He was called up to the major leagues in 1958. Later, as part of the Boston Red Sox pitching rotation, Bell helped advance the team to the 1967 World Series. He would go on to pitch in three World Series games and start in one. In all, Bell pitched for 12 seasons for four different teams, but is noted primarily for his time with Cleveland. In his career, Bell compiled 121 wins, 1,378 strikeouts and a 3.68 earned run average. In 1987, he opened Gary Bell Athletic Supply in San Antonio, a business that still exists today.

Vic Castillo a 1963 Brackenridge High School graduate and a state champion quarterback in football. In Castillo’s senior year, the Eagles capped an 11-3 season with a 30-26 win over Borger High School in the 1962 Class 4A state championship game. Castillo, called a side-armed passing wizard by the San Antonio Express-News, completed 14 of 28 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the title game. His passing yardage total stood as a record for a 4A state final until 1971. Castillo completed 112 of 225 passes for 2,145 yards and 25 TDs in 1962, becoming the first high school player in state history to pass for more than 2,000 yards in a season. He signed with Kansas State in 1963 and played quarterback for the Wildcats in 1964 and 1965. Castillo completed his collegiate career at Kansas City Teachers College and earned a degree in physical education. He returned to SAISD in 1977 and for 24 years served as a coach, teacher and administrator at Sam Houston, Fox Tech, Lanier and Brackenridge.

Phil Harris – a 1962 graduate of Jefferson High School and an All State and Parade All-American football player. He starred at running back and defensive back at Jeff from 1959-1961. In his senior season, Harris was the City of San Antonio’s scoring champion in football with 132 points. Harris also lettered in basketball and track in high school. Harris played college football at the University of Texas at Austin under legendary coach Darrell Royal, where his efforts helped the Longhorns go undefeated in 1963 and win their first-ever football national championship. Harris’ contributions at the 1964 Cotton Bowl gridiron match included scoring two touchdowns over rival Navy. He holds the all-time Cotton Bowl record for yards per reception at 52.2 yards with three receptions for 157 yards. Harris was elected into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame in 2009 for his efforts. He was drafted into the National Football League by the New York Giants in 1966 and played for two seasons before a neck injury ended his career prematurely. After his football career, Harris earned a law degree from St. Mary’s University and practiced law for 39 years in San Antonio. 

Joel Horlen – a 1955 Burbank High School graduate and a three-year athletic standout in football, basketball and golf. Horlen played Pony and American Legion baseball while in a high school, where he excelled as a pitcher. He is the only baseball player to be part of teams winning a World Series at three different levels: the 1952 Pony League World Series; the 1959 College World Series (Oklahoma State University); and the 1972 Major League World Series (Oakland). Besides Oakland, the right-handed pitcher played Major League Baseball primarily for the Chicago White Sox from 1961 to 1971.  In his career, Horlen won 116 games, with a 3.11 earned run average and 1,065 strikeouts in 2,002 innings pitched. Horlen's best season was in 1967 when he finished 19–7 and led American League pitchers with a 2.06 ERA and six shutouts. The highlight of Horlen's career was throwing a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 10, 1967. He finished his career with Oakland, and pitched mostly in relief as the Athletics won the 1972 World Series.

Howard “HJ” Johnston – an SAISD coach, teacher and administrator for 24 years. Johnston served as the head track coach at Highlands High School from 1960–1966 where he guided his Owls to an undefeated season, crowned by winning the 1966 Class 4A state track and field championship. During his tenure at Highlands, Johnston’s athletes set national and state records. Afterward, he rose to become coach for the U.S. Modern Pentathlon 1968 and 1972 Olympic teams. Johnston also is noted as being one of the early proponents of cross country becoming a recognized sport by the University of Interscholastic League. Those efforts paid off in 1972. In 1980, Johnston returned to SAISD where he finished his career as assistant athletic director, retiring in 1988.

Willie Mitchell – a 1959 graduate of Wheatley High School and an All District and two-sport athlete in football and basketball. Mitchell starred at running back, wide receiver and defensive back in football. He played college football at Southern University in Louisiana and Tennessee State University in Nashville. At Tennessee State, Mitchel was an all-conference defensive back and was a team leader in interceptions and tackles. In 1964, he became a professional football player as a free agent for the Kansas City Chiefs in the American Football Conference. The starting defensive back and a punt and kick return specialist has the distinction of playing in the first-ever Super Bowl, and later being part of a Chiefs team that upset the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV in 1970. After football, Mitchell returned home and became the executive director and board chairman for San Antonio Fighting Back, a non-profit that promotes education and helps improve the lives of people who have challenges with drugs and violence.

Laura Neugebauer-Groff – a 1982 graduate of Jefferson High School and a champion volleyball player on the varsity team for four years. Neugebauer-Groff helped her team win four district championships and go undefeated in league play throughout her entire high school career. In her freshman year of 1979, Neugebauer-Groff and the Lady Mustangs set a school record by advancing to the UIL volleyball state championship, finishing as runner-up. She averaged 19.7 points in 25 games, scored 20 or more points 14 times and scored a career-best 42 points in one game against Ursuline. She was named to the Prep All American athletic and academic team by the National High School Association. After high school, Neugebauer-Groff played volleyball at the University of Texas at Austin where she was an All American and set multiple school records. Neugebauer-Groff played professional volleyball in Germany and for the Chicago Breeze. In 1990, she began a career in coaching volleyball at the high school level. She advanced to the collegiate ranks and became the head volleyball coach at St. Mary’s University in 1993. In 2001, she began an illustrious career as head volleyball coach for the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her Lady Road Runners have advanced to conference and national play several times, contributing to her being named the 2015 Conference USA Coach of the Year.


About the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame

Established in 2014, the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes alumni who have made a positive impact in sports, either through excellent athletic achievements or excellent athletic program contributions.  

Inductees will receive a commemorative plaque to keep while a timeless and elegant bronze plaque will be on permanent display on the Hall of Fame Wall located on the visitor’s side of historic Alamo Stadium.

Nominations were received this past year and selection was made by a committee. Eligibility requirements for the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame include:

● Student-athletes who graduated from an SAISD high school at least 15 years ago. Nominees could be considered posthumously.

● Administrators who served at the high-school level for a minimum of 20 years or as a high school administrator and coach for a minimum of 15 years, of which at least 10 years must have been as an administrator.

● Coaches who served at the high-school level for at least 20 years. Primary consideration was given to their achievements at this level and secondarily to those at the collegiate or professional level.

● Contributors in such areas as sports media, sports medicine, sports official, sports announcer or supporter.  Nominees were considered primarily on the merits of their contributions to high school athletics and must have been involved in high school athletics for a minimum of 20 years.

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