Gebhart, former Meridian High, Georgia Tech star, leaves long legacy

By Staff
LARGER THAN LIFE Smylie Gebhart as a former Georgia Tech defensive end. Submitted photo
By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 30, 2001
He was just 190 pounds in his prime. But as a football player and as a person, no one in Meridian sports circles cast a shadow quite like Smylie Gebhart.
The former Georgia Tech All-American defensive end and member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame died Thursday at Jeff Anderson Regional Hospital. He was 51.
For many in the Meridian community, Gebhart was a larger-than-life figure. Even with his passing, his life will continue to resonate.
Gebhart was paralyzed in 1979 following a freak accident, but continued to play a major role in the community.
Funeral services for Gebhart are scheduled at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Central United Methodist Church in Meridian. The family requests memorials be sent to either Central UMC or the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Dedicated athlete
Steve Parker of Meridian knew Gebhart since the seventh grade.
Parker, Gebhart and Mac Barnes were all members of Meridian's Big Eight Conference dynasty in the 1960s.
College career
Desire and determination helped lead Gebhart to Georgia Tech University.
In his sophomore season at Tech, the Ramblin' Wreck posted a 4-6 record. In 1970, his junior year, Tech went 9-3 culminating with a Sun Bowl victory over Texas Tech in El Paso.
While Tech slipped a little in 1971, Gebhart shined. Even then, at maybe 190 pounds, he was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press.
He helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a 6-5 record that year. The Jackets later accepted a bid to play Ole Miss in a snowy and muddy Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
Gebhart finished his Georgia Tech career with 217 tackles. He still ranks seventh all-time for Georgia Tech linemen in tackles. His final collegiate game was the 1972 Hula Bowl in Hawaii.
Gebhart was signed by the National Football League as a free agent, but his lack of size finally caught up with him.
Back home
Gebhart returned to Tech as an assistant coach with the Yellow Jackets from 1971-72. He later coached at Mississippi State University under Bob Tyler, his high school coach, from 1973-77.
Then in 1979, Gebhart, who had a history of disc problems, suffered a freak accident.
Gebhart was left paralyzed from the neck down. He would spend the next 22 years as a quadriplegic.
Barnes said that Gebhart "was a great motivational speaker. He was outstanding talking to youths about life. I had him speak to my teams and at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) functions."
In 1980, Gebhart was inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. In 1987, he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
His bust and many of his memorabilia are on display at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3235, or e-mail jbyrd@themeridianstar.com.

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Tony Chard

News

Car show benefit helps raise needed funds

News

Russellville High School varsity cheerleaders attend UCA cheer camp

Franklin County

NWSCC receives $18,000 in grants from Dollar General Literacy Foundation

News

Russellville equine therapy visits library program

News

Steam locomotive delivery to Red Bay delayed, arrives July 1

News

Local author holds book signing at RPL

Franklin County

Former Russellville resident performs ‘Miracle Worker’

News

Presenting: Miss Phil Campbell

Franklin County

All American Tang Soo Do students recognized

News

Russellville High School students sign to pursue fine arts careers

Franklin County

Football Funday, special needs probowl take place June 15

Galleries

PHOTOS: RMS students take the stage for spring sing

News

Russellville member named among finalists for GFWC Jennie Award

East Franklin

East Franklin Junior High celebrates May 21 graduation

Belgreen

Belgreen Class of 2024 celebrates graduation

Franklin County

Local churches plan Vacation Bible School programs

Galleries

PHOTOS: Tharptown High School Wildcats graduate

Galleries

PHOTOS: Phil Campbell High School students graduate

Franklin County

NEMCC announces more than 400 to spring vice president’s list

Franklin County

UNA releases spring dean’s, president’s lists

News

Roxy holds June 15 concert, plans other events

Franklin County

Free summer meal program available at Franklin County Schools

News

PHOTOS: Red Bay High School graduates celebrate

x