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Third annual SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame induction

SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame scheduled for Aug. 26 has been postponed due to expected severe weather. The new rescheduled date will now be Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 from 4 - 6 p.m. at the Alamo Convocation Center.


Release: August 22, 2017 

Media Advisory

What:         Third annual SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame induction

When:       Aug. 26 (Saturday), 4–6:30 p.m.

Where:      Alamo Convocation Center, 110 Tuleta St.

Seven prominent sports figures from San Antonio ISD’s rich and illustrious past will be inducted into the third annual SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame during a special ceremony to be held in their honor. Master of ceremonies will be Greg Simmons, a Jefferson alum and a sports broadcaster for more than 35 years. 

Following their induction, bronze plaques commemorating the honorees will be on permanent display at the east visitor’s entrance of Alamo Stadium.

The honorees are:

Gary Bell a 1954 graduate of Burbank HS and a three-year letterman in football, basketball and golf. Because Burbank did not have a baseball program during Bell’s high school years, he played for the San Antonio American Legion. His success there earned him a professional contract as a pitcher with the Cleveland Indians farm system in 1955. Later, as part of the Boston Red Sox pitching rotation, he helped advance the team to the 1967 World Series and played in three of its seven games. Bell pitched for 12 seasons for four different teams, primarily with Cleveland.

Vic Castillo – a 1963 Brackenridge HS alum and a state football champion quarterback. In Castillo’s senior year, the Eagles capped an 11-3 season with a 30-26 victory over Borger HS to win the 1962 Class 4A state crown. Castillo completed 112 of 225 passes for 2,145 yards and 25 TDs, 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 University and was the Wildcats quarterback in 1965 and 1966.

Phil Harris -  a 1962 graduate of Jefferson HS and an All-State and Parade All-American football player. In his senior season (1961), Harris scored 132 points, the highest of any San Antonio high school football player that year. He was recruited by the University of Texas at Austin, where he played running back under legendary coach Darrell Royal and helped the Longhorns go undefeated in 1963 to win their first national football championship. Today, Harris still holds the all-time Cotton Bowl record for yards per reception at 52.2.

Joel Horlen – a 1955 Burbank HS alum and a three-year athletic standout in football, basketball and golf. Since Burbank did not have a baseball program during Horlen’s high school years, he played pitcher for the Pony and American Legion teams. 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 Athletics). Before Oakland, the right-handed pitcher played for the Chicago White Sox from 1961 to 1971. His career highlight occurred as a White Sox when he threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 10, 1967.

Howard “HJ” Johnston – served as the head track coach at Highlands HS 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 state and national records. Afterward, he rose to a global stage by coaching the U.S. Modern Pentathlon 1968 and 1972 Olympic teams. He also is noted as being one of the early pioneers for cross country becoming a recognized sport by the University of Interscholastic League in 1972.
(To be honored posthumously.)

Willie Mitchell – a 1959 graduate of Wheatley HS and an All-District athlete, starring at running back, wide receiver and defensive back. Mitchell played college football at Southern University in Louisiana and Tennessee State University in Nashville. In 1964, he signed as a free agent for the American Football Conference's Kansas City Chiefs. The starting defensive back and punt and kick return specialist has the distinction of playing in Super Bowl 1. He returned three years later for Super Bowl IV to assist the Chiefs in upsetting the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7.

Laura Neugebauer Groff – a 1982 alum of Jefferson HS and an academic and athletic Prep All-American. Neugebauer Groff helped her volleyball squad win four district championships and go undefeated in league play throughout her entire high school career. Her Lady Mustangs advanced to the UIL state championship in 1979, finishing runner-up. Neugebauer Groff was an All-American and a 1980’s All-Decade Southwest Conference volleyball player at the University of Texas at Austin where she set multiple school records. She went on to become the head volleyball coach at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is the school’s most winningest coach.

About the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame

Each year, the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame honors alumni who have made a positive impact in sports, either through excellent athletic achievements or excellent athletic program contributions. In addition to outstanding athleticism, inductees were chosen for their distinction and excellence to the District by their conduct both on and off the field, or court, of competition.

Nominations for the class of 2017 were received this past year and selection was made by a committee. The SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame is sponsored by the SAISD Athletic Department and receives support from the SAISD Foundation. For ticket information, call 210-554-2655 or visit the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame website at www.saisd.net/athletichalloffame2017.