AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Fans will recognize most of the members of the 57th class of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame but a couple of them might be a surprise.
The MSHOF announced their newest class at the Palace of Auburn Hills Monday before the Pistons played the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Among the newest members in attendance were former Lions offensive lineman Lomas Brown, former Michigan State Spartan (and Piston) and current FOX Sports Detroit analyst Mateen Cleaves and Dick Kimball, the University of Michigan diving coach from 1959-2002.
In the professional category, Brown, former Red Wings defenseman Mark Howe and former NBA player (and Michigan State Spartan) Steve Smith were elected.
Brown, the Lions’ first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 1985 NFL Draft, made the Pro Bowl seven straight seasons from 1990-96. In his 11 years with the Lions, Brown started all but one of the 164 games in which he played. Brown helped running back Barry Sanders to 10,172 yards in the seven seasons he blocked for him. Brown is currently a television broadcaster.
“They couldn’t contact me because I was up at ESPN so they told my wife and she told me and I was just excited,” Brown said. “It’s unbelievable and it’s something that I really wanted to get in because of playing most of my career here in the state of Michigan and now living here. It’s just wonderful.”
Howe, currently the Red Wings Director of Pro Scouting, was a three-time runner-up for the Norris Trophy and six-time All-Star. He is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Smith, taken by the Miami Heat with the fifth overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003 and a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics.
“He was one of the main reasons I went to Michigan State,” Cleaves said. “He was always one of my favorite players.”
In the college/amateur category, Cleaves, former Michigan Wolverine Tyrone Wheatley and former Flint Northern star (and former Detroit Shock assistant coach) Pamela McGee also made the cut.
Cleaves was one of coach Tom Izzo’s original Flint-stones, a three-time Michigan State captain, two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and one of the driving forces behind the 2000 NCAA championship team. Cleaves was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2000 Final Four. Cleaves is also MSU’s only three-time All-American.
“I was floating on Cloud Nine,” Cleaves said of getting the call. “Just to be in the Michigan Hall of Fame, I’m a big fan of the tradition and know the athletes that have come through Michigan, so it was an honor just to be mentioned. Then when I found out who I went in with, that just knocked me off my feet.”
Before joining the University of Michigan, Wheatley was a nine-time MHSAA state champion, seven individual titles in track and field and one team title in both track and field and football. Wheatley won state titles in the long jump, 100 meters and 110-meter hurdles his junior and senior years and the 200 meters as a junior.
At Michigan, Wheatley won first team All-Big Ten honors for both football and track and field and was an All-American in track and field. He was the Big Ten 110-meter hurdles champion in 1994.
McGee, a Flint native, won two MHSAA state championships with Flint Northern, helping her team to a 75-0 record. McGee also won back-to-back NCAA championships at the University of Southern California.
“It’s crazy because I’m going into the Hall of Fame with people I grew up admiring,” Cleaves said. “She’s a legend regardless but just being from Flint and hearing all the stories. Her coach was my health teacher so I heard all the stories about how good she and her sister were.”
Two coaches also were elected, Jackson native Tony Dungy and Kimball.
Dungy, currently an analyst for NBC, was the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl when he led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI in 2007. He coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 2001 and the Colts from 2002-2008.
“I’m looking forward to going in with him because he means so much to the NFL, to football and just to young black men,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to go in with Coach Dungy.”
While Dungy’s resume is very well-known, Kimball’s is not, although he is already in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor.
Kimball said he was surprised to hear he was elected.
“It’s wonderful,” Kimball said. “This is kind of like going to the Olympic Games and I’ve been to nine Olympic Games and it would have been 10 if we hadn’t boycotted Russia. It’s just amazing to see these athletes, guys that I watched play because I’ve been around longer than you (looking at Brown).”
Kimball, who retired in 2002, led the Wolverines diving team to seven Big Ten championships and four NCAA championships. He’s also known for his Olympic work, coaching the U.S. Olympic diving teams in 1964, 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992.
The induction ceremony will take place sometime in February.