CLASS OF 2017
Running back Michael Brown put his name in the Southwest record book in just the fourth year of that program’s existence. Brown, who was a three-year starter for Southwest became the first Patriots running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He rushed for 1,152 yards while leading the 1973 team of head coach Jimmy Hammond to an 8-2 record. After his high school career, Brown accepted a football scholarship to Purdue University, where he was a three-year letter winner for the Boilermakers In his sophomore season, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry in limited action and then as a senior starting tailback, he carried the ball 77 times for 377 yards for an average of 4.1 yards per carry, and he scored two touchdowns. After completing his degree at Purdue, he returned to Macon and worked with the recreation department for almost 25 years
Macon native Tim Clifton is in his third decade as head football coach at Mars Hill College in North Carolina. He holds the Mars Hill record for most wins, and was named conference coach of the Year in 2011 after winning the conference championship and earning the program’s first spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Prior to taking the job at Mars Hills, Clifton, coached for five years in high school and also spent time in college football as an assistant at South Carolina, VMI, Fayetteville State and Ferrum College. Clifton played his first two years of high school sports at Willingham before transferring to Stratford Academy as a junior. While with the Eagles, he was the starting quarterback on the 1970 state football championship team, starting point guard on the Eagles’ 1971 state basketball title team, and the starting shortstop on the 1972 baseball championship team. A charter member of the Stratford Hall of Fame, he went on to Mercer University where he was a four-year starter at second base for legendary Bears head coach Claude Smith.
Laura Conway is the most decorated swimmer in Macon history. While still in high school at Central, where she was a three-time scholastic All-American, Conway qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 800-meter freestyle. She continued her success in Athens at the University of Georgia. She was a five-time All-American for the Bulldogs. She won the SEC championship in the 500-yard freestyle and also took the top spot in that same event in the 2006 NCAA Division I National Championships. Conway earned a place on the United States National Team, the only Maconite to ever accomplish that feat. At the World Championships in 2005, she had a fourth-place finish in the 800-meter freestyle. She qualified for the U.S. National Team for the 2006 University Games but made the decision to retire.
Macon has produced its share of top amateur golfers through the years, and Lee Gerdes is certainly included in that group. He had a stellar career at Mt. de Sales Academy, where he was a three-time all-region selection, a three-time region medalist and a state runner-up. His high school success earned him a golf scholarship to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he was a two-time All-Southern Conference selection and a two-year team captain. He claimed one individual tournament title, 10 top-10 finishes and six top-five finishes with the ‘Mocs. But Gerdes really has made his mark as an amateur in Middle Georgia claiming more than 25 titles. He is an eight-time Cherry Blossom champion, five-time Honors champion, five-time City of Macon champion, four-time Macon-Middle Georgia champion, among others. He has been the club champion at three Macon area country clubs. He has won the Healy Point Club title 10 times, the River Forest championship seven times and the title at Idle Hour once.
Tony Gilbert was a standout linebacker at Central High School for head coach Tom Simonton. He was selected to play in the Georgia-Florida all-star football game in 1999, signed a scholarship to the University of Georgia and was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs. For his career, he had 328 tackles. During his senior season, he was named All-SEC while captaining Georgia’s 2002 SEC championship team that finished with a 13-1 record. He was also an outstanding student and was chosen for the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Following his college career, he spent eight seasons in professional football: six with the Jacksonville Jaguars and two with the Atlanta Falcons. Following his playing days, he embarked on a coaching career with stops at John Milledge Academy and in the college ranks at GMC, East Mississippi, Georgia, Auburn and North Carolina.
Bob Hoffman served as head men’s basketball coach at Mercer University for 11 seasons and compiled a 209-165 record, the second most wins in school history. During his tenure, the program enjoyed more success on the hardwood than any other eleven year period in Mercer history. Hoffman was named Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014 after guiding Mercer to the regular-season A-Sun titles both seasons. His 2014 team also won the A-Sun tournament title, which earned it a berth in the NCAA Tournament where it upset Duke University in a second-round game, 78-70. In addition to the NCAA Tournament, Mercer played in the four other postseason tournaments, winning the CIT in 2013. Mercer is the only team to post a win in each of the four postseason events. Hoffman, an Oklahoma native, is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University.
James Outlaw was Ballard Hudson High School’s last great basketball player prior to the merger of that school with Willingham to form Southwest High School during integration. The 6-foot guard was a Parade Magazine All-American his senior season, averaging 34 points per game. He led the Maroon Tigers to a berth in the GHSA state tournament where they lost 75-64 in the semifinals to eventual champion Decatur. During his senior season, Outlaw scored a career-high 53 points against Willingham. He also averaged more than 30 points per game his junior season. After he completed his prep career, Outlaw joined his high school coach, Warren Reynolds, who was named head coach at North Carolina A&T. At A&T, Outlaw was a two-time all-conference selection. He averaged 16.6 points per game as a junior and 24.9 as a senior, which was the seventh best in the country in Division I basketball. He was drafted by a professional team in Munich, Germany, but the league ceased operations before a single game, and Outlaw’s playing career ended.
Robert “Bob” Scott was a 16-year old Macon pitcher coming along about the time Jackie Robinson integrated the sport. Scott was discovered by the New York Black Yankees, one of the most famous teams in the Negro Leagues when they made a stop for a game in Macon. The Black Yankees had future Baseball Hall of Famers Larry Doby, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella on their squad and Scott was signed to join the team. After baseball integrated, Scott was signed by George Sisler of the Pittsburgh Pirates and was assigned to their Double-A team in North Forks, North Dakota. But Scott fell in love and got married in New Jersey and did not report to the team. His big league chances ended, but Scott never gave up his passion for baseball, playing on several semi-pro teams, including the Sandersville Giants of the Georgia State League with teammate Willie McCovey. Scott retired from baseball in 1963, and the New York Yankees recognized him as one of the greatest of the Negro League players.