It got very emotional at times when four former Greenville athletes were inducted into the Greenville Athletic Hall of Honor on Friday.
Sprinters Brandon Couts and LaToya Phelps were inducted along with former Lion athlete and longtime coach Jim Coker and former George Washington Carver Tiger standout Thurman “Skeeter” Brigham.
Not only were some of their former teammates and family members there for the ceremonies but also a couple of their former coaches.
Coker would later speak at the funeral of his former coach and boss Pittman Keen. Coker played football for head coach Larry Hogue and Keen, his assistant, from 1965-68 and returned to coach as an assistant under Keen in the late 1970s and early 80s.
“It’s an emotional day,” said Coker, who retired recently after coaching 46 years at 11 high schools including at Hunt County schools Greenville, Lone Oak, Boles and Quinlan Ford.
“I’ve got a lot of pride in Greenville,” said Coker. “When you’re in high school, your teammates are family. There’s something about Greenville. I got tied in the red and white.”
Coker played football and three other sports for the Greenville Lions before lettering four seasons as a football player at East Texas State. He was a graduate assistant coach when East Texas State won the NAIA national football championship in 1972.
Coker suggested that if Greenville continues to grow, the next high school should be named after Carver.
Brigham was a standout running back for the Carver Tigers from 1953-57. He helped the Tigers reach the 1954 state finals, where they lost to an Orange Wallace team led by future NFL Hall of Famer Ernie Ladd.
Brigham was also a district champion in the discus and took third place at the Prairie View state championships.
He was named to Carver’s all-time offensive and defensive teams by Carver’s longtime head coach Clell Davidson, who is in the Greenville Hall of Honor.
Brigham and his wife Gloria, who attended the ceremony, have been married 61 years. They have a son, two grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
“Whatever I do, those kids are right there with me,” said Brigham, who retired in 2016 after 23 years as the head chef for the Hunt Regional Medical Center.
Phelps gave the master of ceremonies, Heath Jarvis, a big hug before making her speech. Jarvis, now the head principal at Greenville High School, was Phelps’ head track coach when she won a school record seven state titles in track and field including three 200-meter titles, two 100-meter titles and two triple jump titles from 2000-2002. Her time of 11.44 seconds in the 100 stood as a state record for a short time. Her triple jump of 42-8 1/4 was also a state record for a short time and a Class 5A record for nearly 15 years.
“She was special,” said Jarvis. “You don’t get the opportunity to coach special people.”
Phelps said track and field was “my life.”
“I put everything I had into that sport,” she said.
Phelps said her older sister Juanita Phelps was her idol.
“I wanted to be as good as her if not better,” she said.
Phelps gave a lot of credit to Jarvis.
“I knew that man right there had my back,” she said. “That man stood beside me in everything that I did. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Phelps was also a standout guard for the Lady Lions’ basketball team that went three rounds in the playoffs.
Phelps ran track one season at the University of Texas before transferring to Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She has been a real estate agent and adjuster and plans to launch her own clothing line.
Couts won a state championship in the 400-meter dash for the Lions in 1996 (46.40 seconds) before winning a record 15 Big 12 titles with the Baylor Bears as well as a national indoor 400-meter championship. He ran on four NCAA 4x400-meter relay national championship teams at Baylor. His best time in the 400 at Baylor of 44.72 seconds ranked him 15th in the world in 2000.
Couts was a semifinalist in the 400-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in 2000 and 2004.
He was also a two-time, first-team all-district defensive back for the Greenville Lions and played on the 7-4 1995 Greenville team that was the first Lion football team to make the playoffs since 1960.
Couts praised his former track coach Darren Duke, who is now the head football coach and athletic director of the Lions.
“Coach Duke motivated me,” said Couts. “He showed me respect.”
Couts also praised Jarvis, who was on the football staff and track and field staff when he competed.
The former sprinter has coached track and field as an assistant at Colorado, Texas A&M University-Commerce and Tarleton State and as a head track coach for the Greenville Lions.
“I want the kids to do better than I did,” said Couts. “That’s why I coach.”
Couts currently lives in Germany and has started a video game company.