EP Athletic Hall of Fame gets six fine nominees


Itís quite a thrill attending nomination meetings of the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame. Iíve been doing it for decades and I never cease being amazed at how many truly outstanding sports figures we have in this city.

The second of five such meetings this year was held last week. Two world class runners, a junior college basketball champion, a former Jefferson High/UTEP football star, one of the NFLís best assistant coaches and one of El Pasoís greatest high school coaches were put up for induction.

Let me introduce them to you:


DIANE PROUD, a multi-sport and endurance masterís athlete who began running for fitness in 1978 She started competing in triathlons in 1982 and has competed in 30 national triathlon and duathlon championships, represented Team USA in 25 world championships and is a three-time Ironman finisher.


CARILYN JOHNSON, an El Paso housewife who competes, if you can believe this, in 24 hour runs. Thatís right, 24-hour runs. She has run in them all over the world and won a silver medal as a member of the United States team in last yearís 24 Hour World Championships in Bergamo, Italy. A total of 126 miles were completed.


DAVID RODRIGUEZ, an All-State basketball star at Lanier High School in San Antonio under coach Nemo Herrera. After leading Lanier to a State title and after a stint in the Army, he captained Tyler Junior College to the national title in 1948. Then he made the All-Gulf Coast Conference team as a member of the champion Houston Cougars. He moved to El Paso and coached and taught here for 39 years.


PITI VASQUEZ, an all-district linebacker at Jefferson High School who earned the title of ďBruising PitiĒ for his punishing tackling. After high school, he played three years at UTEP, first as a defensive end then as strong tackle. He was co-captain of the legendary Miners team that beat TCU in the Sun Bowl in 1965. He was drafted by the Houston Oilers after his senior year but decided to stay in El Paso where he has served the city in various positions.


MATT SIMON, the former Burges High star athlete who went on to become one of the best assistant coaches in the National Football League. He is one of only 10 football coaches to win both a NCAA championship (at Washington in 1991) and a Super Bowl (with Baltimore in 2000). In 1994 as head coach at North Texas, he won the Southland Conference championship. He has also been an assistant coach at UTEP and New Mexico.


BENNY BROOKS, one of the most successful and popular high school coaches ever in El Paso. After an outstanding athletic career at Cathedral High School, he coached Bowie High School to two state cross country championships, one in the boys division in 1979 and another in the girls division in 1986. He has coached track and other sports at many other local schools, including Jefferson, Canutillo and Cathedral, and found success at each one.


THERE WILL be others nominated at future meetings. Nominations are open to the public and anyone can present a resume of his or her star. The next nomination meetings will be held at First Christian Church, 901 Arizona Street, at 5:15 p.m. on Feb. 24, March 10 and, if needed, March 17. Voting by the board of directors will be held on March 24.  The induction banquet will be held at UTEP on April 28.


NOMINEES are so outstanding each year sometimes I wish all of them could be inducted. However, there are limits. Usually, only three athletes, two coaches/administrators, one trainer/official, one media/contributor and one posthumous nominee are chosen.

May the best nominees win.


Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com