COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Six Texas A&M athletic greats, one dedicated couple as well as a former yell leader and a former swimmer turned legendary businessman were inducted into the Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor at the 36th annual Burgess Banquet, sponsored by the 12th Man Kickoff Team Foundation, held Friday, Nov. 1 in the Zone Club at Kyle Field.
The inductees will be honored at halftime of the Texas A&M vs. UTEP football game at Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 2. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.
Aggie football great and longtime NFL star Jerry Fontenot, five-time All-American Fabrice Lapierre from track and field, basketball All-American Acie Law, football player Joe Wellborn who became the first recipient of the Aggie Heart Award, seven-time track and field All-American and 2006 NCAA Champion in the 400 meters Clora Williams, and Aggie basketball player and key brick in “The Wall” power forward Rynn Wright are the 2013 Hall of Fame inductees. Phoebe and the late Dale Watts ’71 along with former yell leader Sam Torn are the Hall of Honor inductees for their longtime support and contributions to Aggie athletics. The most recent award, the Letterman’s Lifetime Achievement Award, will be presented to Ralph Ellis ’52, a former swimmer, a legendary businessman who was a founding member, a lifetime member and past president of the Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association.
Fontenot was a four-year football letterman along the offensive front from 1985-88 helping the Aggies to three straight Southwest Conference Championships along with two Cotton Bowl Championships. He was a two-time honorable mention All-American as well as earning consensus All-SWC honors for his play at center. His teammates thought so highly of him to name him captain of the 1988 squad. A third-round pick of the Chicago Bears, Fontenot holds the Aggie record for most games played in the NFL with 239 games spanning 16 years playing for the Bears, the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals before accepting a coaching position with the Green Bay Packers and was part of the 2011 Super Bowl Champions.
Lapierre was a four-year track and field letterman from 2003-06 and earned All-America honors in both the 2005 and 2006 indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships as well as earning All-America honors as part of the 2006 400-meter relay team. He was a 2005 NCAA individual outdoor champion in the long jump and placed second in 2006 in both the NCAA indoor Championships as well as the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He is still the record holder in the long jump in both the indoor and outdoor competitions. Lapierre would go on to become a 2008 Olympic qualifier for Australia, was a three-time IAAF World Athletics Final Champion in the long jump and won the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion. He was presented the 2006 Texas A&M Distinguished Student Letterman Award.
Law, a four-year basketball letterman from 2004-07, led the Aggies to unprecedented success on the hardwood reaching the NIT quarterfinals in 2005, the NCAA second-round in 2006 and the NCAA Sweet 16 his senior season of 2007. Law was a first-team All-American and won the Bob Cousy Award and was a finalist for national player of the year honors. The Texas A&M graduate was the Big 12 Player of the Year honoree in 2007, Law was known for his clutch shooting helping take down Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. He went on to become a first-round selection of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA draft and continues to play overseas helping the Olympiacos Paraeus to back-to-back Euroleague Championships in 2012 and 2013.
Wellborn was a three-year football letterman and was a senior on Aggie coach Gene Stallings first team in 1965 earning All-SWC honors as a linebacker. He was voted a team captain and was the first recipient of the Aggie Heart Award, the highest football award presented to a senior who displays the intangibles such as effort, desire, determination, competitiveness, leadership and courage. The Aggie Heart Award winner is the player who extends himself to the fullest every time he dons his Aggie gear. Wellborn earned his degree and went on to play in the NFL with the New York Giants in 1966 and 1967 and is currently a 12th Man endowed donor.
Williams was a two-year letterman in 2006 and 2007 for the Aggie track and field squad and made the most of her two years earning seven All-America citations. Williams became the first Texas A&M athlete to ever win the women’s 400-meter NCAA Championship when she achieved the feat in 2006. During the 4x400 relay at the 2006 NCAA Championships, Williams also recorded the fastest split of the meet with a 49.8 anchor leg. Williams set a then school record of 51.06 during the semifinals of the 2006 NCAA meet and claimed the final in 51.11. She bettered the A&M outdoor school record that had stood for 13 years and topped a 22-year-old Aggie indoor school record. On the conference level Williams was an integral part of the Aggies success in 2007 that saw Texas A&M claim its first ever conference team titles in the history of the program when they won the Big 12 Indoor and Big 12 Outdoor Championships. Williams captured three Big 12 titles in the 400 meters and was part of two winning Big 12 4x400 relays. Williams won a pair of Big 12 titles in the 400 during the 2006 season, winning the indoor and outdoor crowns, and she defended her 2007 Big 12 indoor title while placing second at the outdoor conference meet that season.
Wright was the power forward who along with Vernon Smith and Rudy Woods composed the Aggie front court simply known as “The Wall”. A four-year letterman for Coach Shelby Metcalf, Wright and his teammates advanced to the 1980 Sweet 16 after winning the Southwest Conference regular-season championship as well as the SWC Tournament title. A tough defender, Wright was named to the SWC All-Defensive Team in 1980 and 1981 and was named SWC Defensive Player of the Year in 1980. He was also a team co-captain in 1981. Wright ended his career ranked No. 3 in both rebounds and points and would be drafted in the fourth round of the 1981 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Phoebe and the late Dale Watts ‘71 have both supported Aggie athletics for many years. Watts was a football letterman in 1968 and 1969 but was better known as an unselfish gentle giant to those who came in contact with him. His and Phoebe’s support of not only football, but all Aggie sports, made them a mainstay in Aggieland as well as many road contests. As a trustee for the 12th Man Foundation, he helped forge a working relationship with the Lettermen’s Association that benefitted both organizations and more importantly Aggie athletics.
Torn was a former yell leader and his leadership and service to Texas A&M, and especially athletics, continues today. Whether it is Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park, Reed Arena or Kyle Field, you can count on Sam and Susan Torn to be in attendance. The couple makes many road trips with all sports. In terms of volunteering time and effort to help Aggie athletics, Torn may have no equal. When he joined the 12th Man Foundation Board of Trustees, Torn co-chaired the Olsen Field redevelopment committee. Thanks to his tireless fund raising, he and his committee were able to secure Blue Bell and the Kruse family, which enabled the renovations to be done in one year instead of phases. Torn was the main contact with the 12th Man Foundation with construction as well as communicating to athletics. Through his dedication and attention to detail, he was able to bring the project home on time and saved many costs overruns. He would then tackle the football village which included the Davis Player Development Center, the Tommie Lohman Center as the entryway into the Bright Football Complex as well as the R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center. He again was point man and made sure things were done properly. His latest project is none other than Kyle Field which will be the largest collegiate redevelopment in history. The projected cost of the project is $450 million with phases taking place at the end of 2013 which will allow Aggie football to remain on campus in 2014, and the final construction will be completed in time for the 2015 football season. Torn has a great labor of love when it comes to Aggie athletics and his leadership is extraordinary.
Ellis was a Dallas native who graduated from North Dalle High School and received his bachelor of science degree in petroleum engineering in 1953 after earning a letter in swimming in 1952. He would earned his master’s degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M in 1960 and would work for Texas Oil and Gas Corp., a New York Stock Exchange publicly traded company where from 1969-1978 Ellis would serve as Executive Vice President and Director. Since 1978, Ellis has been in private business as an independent oil and gas producer and private investor. He is Chairman of the Board and President of Belmont Oil and Gas Corp., President of the Belmont Foundation and President of Carthage Royalty Company. He has been married 56 years to his wife, Joy, and they have a son, Ralph, and daughter, Kathryn, both of whom are married and they have three grandsons and two granddaughters. Ellis is a founding member, lifetime member and past president of the Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association.
2013 Inductees into the Texas A&M University Athletic Hall of Fame
Jerry Fontenot ‘89, Football
Fabrice Lapierre ‘07, Track and Field
Acie Law ‘07, Basketball
Joe Wellborn ’66, Football
Clora Williams ‘07, Track and Field
Rynn Wright ’81, Basketball
Phoebe & Dale Watts ‘71, Hall of Honor
Sam Torn ’70, Hall of Honor
Ralph Ellis ’52, Swimming and Diving, Lettermen’s Lifetime Achievement Award