Russellville's Witt selected for UNA Hall of Fame
By By Kim West
FLORENCE – A former Russellville High School player is among the six inductees into the University of North Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame.
Billy Whitt, a Russellville native, was named to the Hall of Fame after lettering four years as a defensive lineman for the Lions from 1982-85.
He was first-team All-Gulf South Conference in 1985 and helped lead UNA to a 12-2 record and a spot in the NCAA Division II Championship Game at the Palm Bowl in McAllen, Texas.
"I played four straight years because I never redshirted," Whitt said. "UNA has a very fierce program in the GSC and a well-supported program. It has a good following that makes it a really enjoyable experience as a player, because it's a fun atmosphere to be a part of."
Whitt was named to the UNA Team of the Decade for 1979-88, the First Forty Years UNA Football Team and the 50th Anniversary UNA Football Team.
During his four years at UNA the Lions were 7-3, 11-1-1, 7-1-3 and 12-2 for an overall 37-7-4 record that included GSC titles in 1983 and 1985 and NCAA playoff berths both seasons.
In 1985 he had 53 tackles, 19 primarily stops, 12 tackles for loss of 79 yards, two fumble recoveries, six pass break-ups and seven sacks.
As a team UNA ranked second nationally in scoring defense, fourth in total defense and second in pass defense.
"My UNA head coach was Wayne Grubb, and Bill Hyde was the defensive coordinator. He has a very intelligent defensive mind – he could tell us what play the other team's offense was going to run before they ran it. My position coach was Steve Carter, and he was an intense fellow. The coaches expected the defense to do very well," Whitt said.
Whitt was an All-State player in basketball and football at Russellville High School, which won the state championship in baskeball during Whitt's 1981-82 senior season.
"I started playing football under Jimmy Mayfield, but I played most of my career for Don Cox," Whitt said. "I played defensive end and tight end, and I liked defense the best. You don't want to get hit – you want to hit someone because it's a lot more fun. There were lots of big hits, and I'm feeling them every day now."
Whitt, who was drafted in the 11th round by the Buffalo Bills in 1985, said he doesn't remember any particular tackle he made during high school or college, but he still remembers a few of his tackles as a professional player.
"I sacked (Miami Dolphins quarterback) Dan Marino, who had a very quick release – the thing about him was you think you got him and then he'd flick his wrist and the ball would sail 30 to 40 yards," said Whitt, who also tackled the Houston Oiler's Warren Moon and the Oakland Raiders' Marcus Allen. "It was a neat experience to play against guys I had watched on TV and then end up playing against them."
Whitt, ended his pro career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1987 due to injuries, and now works for Sinclair-Lawrence Insurance in Russellvile, where he lives with his wife, Lisa, and their two sons.
"It's great to be inducted, and I'm very appeciative and thankful that the University of North Alabama offered me a scholarship and allowed me to get a college education," said Whitt, who graduated from UNA with a bachelor's degree in business management in 1987. Anything beyond that was extra – I have two boys that are ages 14 and 11, and it's nice as a father that they will be able to be at the induction ceremony."
This year's induction, scheduled for 9 a.m. on Nov. 3 at the school's Guillot University Center, brings the total number of inductees to 76.
UNA has inducted four members each year into the Athletic Hall of Fame since its creation in 1990, but expanded the number of inductees to six last year. Former Lion football players Jarius Hayes, Danny Kimble, Ronald McKinnon and Witt, former baseball standout Terry Jones and women's basketball standout Sherri Blount were also chosen as Class of 2007 inductees.