Updated as of 10/1/17
Five new members were inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Sept. 29th. The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 included representatives from football, men’s basketball, men’s cross country/track & field and softball, as well as Liberty’s strength and conditioning program.
The five-member class, the ninth to be inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame, was also honored during special ceremonies surrounding Liberty’s football match-up with St. Francis, Pa., on Sept. 30 at Williams Stadium.
The five-member class included Sam Chelanga (men’s cross country/track & field), Julius Nwosu (men’s basketball), Katie [Phillips] Bigham (softball), Richard Shelton (football) and Dave Williams (strength & conditioning).
The Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held on Sept. 29 on the Club Pavilion level of the Williams Stadium Tower.
The Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame celebrates the best of the best, honoring those who helped shape the face of Liberty Athletics. The Hall of Fame’s now 47 members have each played a key role in helping Liberty grow from an NCCAA program in 1972 to its current status as a thriving NCAA Division I program today.
Nearly as old as the University itself, Liberty’s Athletics Department fielded its first athletics team in 1972, when Dan Manley guided a junior varsity men’s basketball team to a 7-1 record. Football followed the next fall, with Lee “Rock” Royer coaching the Flames to a 3-3 mark.
The Athletics Department has quickly grown over the past four decades, moving from its affiliation with the National Christian College Athletics Association during its infancy, to gaining full-time NCAA Division I status on Sept. 1, 1988.
The Athletics Department Hall of Fame committee, comprised of nine members from the University and Athletics Department, will be looking to honor those who have stood out from among the rest during the last four decades, helping the Flames quickly join the highest level of intercollegiate athletics competition.
The committee is comprised of the following members: Kevin Keys, Director of Athletics Marketing, who chairs the committee; Mickey Guridy, Senior Associate Athletics Director; Erin Hagen, Senior Woman Administrator; Bob Good, Associate Athletics Director for Development; Todd Wetmore, Associate Athletics Director for Communications; Dr. Bill Gribbin, Faculty Athletics Representative; Brenda Bonheim, former Women’s Basketball/Volleyball Coach and Senior Woman Administrator; Dr. Linda Farver, Liberty Kinesiology professor and former Women’s Basketball Coach; Dr. Ed Gomes, Football Director of Spiritual Development and former Liberty basketball player.
Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame
Class of 2009 (Inaugural Class)
Dr. Jerry Falwell (founder/former University chancellor)
Arthur L. Williams (athletics financial supporter)
Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds (women’s basketball)
Bob Bonheim (wrestling and football coach)
Sid Bream (baseball)
Kelvin Edwards (football)
Karl Hess (men’s basketball)
Class of 2010
Theresa Bream (women's basketball/volleyball)
Gina Gibson (women's track and field)
Lee Guetterman (baseball)
Chip Smith (football)
Al Worthington (baseball coach and athletics director)
Class of 2011
Paul Annan (men's soccer)
Fred Banks (football)
Bill Bell (men's soccer coach)
Jerry Edwards (radio play-by-play)
Heather (Sagan) Zealand (women's cross country/track and field)
Class of 2012
Jesse Castro (wrestling)
Mark Chafin (men’s basketball)
John Sanders (football)
Sharon (Snodgrass) May (women’s basketball)
Ryan Werner (men’s track & field
Highlight Video from 2012 Hall of Fame banquet:
Class of 2013
Anthonia (Akpama) Oyedele (volleyball)
Bailey Alston (men’s basketball)
Brenda Bonheim (volleyball and women’s basketball coach/SWA)
Nancy (Davis) White (women’s soccer)
Robby Justino (football)
Highlight Video from 2013 Hall of Fame banquet:
Class of 2014
Mike Decker (men’s track & field)
Wayne Haddix (football)
Matt Hildebrand (men’s basketball)
Jake Matthes (men’s cross country/track & field coach)
Delethea Quarles (women’s track & field)
Highlight Video from 2014 Hall of Fame banquet:
Class of 2015
Eric Green (football)
Mike Hatch (wrestling)
Katie [Feenstra] Mattera (women’s basketball)
Sam Rutigliano (football coach)
Pat Sipe (baseball)
Class of 2016
Annie Hunt Fairchild (women’s cross country/track & field)
Steve Kearns (football)
Todd Setsma (men’s golf)
Randy Tomlin (baseball)
Ed Vickers (men’s basketball)
Class of 2017
Sam Chelanga (men’s cross country/track & field)
Julius Nwosu (men’s basketball)
Katie [Phillips] Bigham (softball)
Richard Shelton (football)
Dave Williams (strength and conditioning coach)
Highlight Video from 2017 Hall of Fame banquet:
Dr. Jerry Falwell will long be remembered as Liberty’s No. 1 fan, as the sports fanatic had a vision of Liberty Athletics competing alongside the nation’s best from the day he opened the doors at then-Lynchburg Baptist College.
Falwell’s presence at athletics events often spurred Liberty student-athletes to victory over the years, as the founder rarely ever missed a home event, while he traveled the country cheering Liberty’s best until he passed away. At his home-going celebration, 10 Liberty student-athletes served as honorary pallbearers, exhibiting Falwell’s passion for athletics.
2009 Hall of Fame Inductee
Arthur L. Williams, the founder of Primerica Financial Services, has long been one of Liberty Athletics strongest supporters since he was first introduced to the program by Dr. Jerry Falwell during the mid-1970s.
Williams’ financial generosity over the years helped a small NCCAA program quickly transition to the NCAA Division I level. Several athletics facilities around the campus still bear his name, including Williams Stadium and the Williams Football Operations Center, home to Liberty’s two-time defending Big South championship football program.
Anthonia (Akpama) Oyedele was Liberty’s first dominate volleyball player at the Division I level, helping the Lady Flames to their first two Big South titles and a pair of trips the NCAA Volleyball Championships (1997 and 1999).
Oyedele is the only player in program history to amass more than 2,000 career kills, finishing her four-year run on the court with a program-best 2,024 kills. She is one of only two Liberty volleyball players to have her jersey retired, joining fellow Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame member Theresa Bream on this short list.
The native of Lagos, Nigeria, is the only player in program history to be named Big South All-Conference all four years of her career. She capped off her career accolades when she was named the 1999 Big South Player of the Year.
Oyedele became the fifth Liberty Athletics representative inducted into the Big South Hall of Fame in May 2013. During her four-year career, Liberty posted a combined 93-43 record, winning 20 matches each of her four seasons on Liberty Mountain.
2013 Hall of Fame Inductee
Bailey Alston helped usher in a new era for the men’s basketball program, playing his last two seasons at Liberty as a NCAA Division I student-athlete. In his final season at the Division II level, Alston was named the 1988 Mason-Dixon Player of the Year.
Alston is one of only three players in program history to score 2,000 career points (2,115), doing so in just three seasons on Liberty Mountain. He also holds the program’s career scoring record, as he averaged 25.5 points per game in 83 career games played.
Alston is the only player in program history with three career 40-point games to his credit and he finished his three-year span with the Flames with 42 career 20-point games.
The Henderson, N.C., native suffered a career-ending injury shortly after finishing his last game at Liberty, prevent him from pursuing a professional playing career.
Paul A. Annan was a three-time All-American, earning such distinguished honors in men’s soccer, as the program’s goalkeeper during its formative years. He still holds five different program records, including the career marks for saves (634) and shutouts (28), along with the single-season shutout mark (12).
Annan was a co-captain of the Ghana National Academicals squad, a member of the Ghana National under-20 team and a member of the Ghana Amateur Junior National team before attending Liberty. Annan, known as the “black panther” for his agility, reflexes and diving ability, was a dominating force in the Liberty net during his four years, becoming the first Liberty student-athlete to be named a NCAA All-American.
In 1983, the Accra, Ghana native, earned the first of his three NCAA Division II All-America honors. He capped his career in 1985 by helping Liberty post 14 victories, which is a program record for wins in a season and his third All-America honor, to become the men’s soccer program’s only three-time All-American. Today, he still ranks second in career goals against average (0.98) and single-season saves in program history (205).
Annan currently works for Mercedes Benz U.S. International in the finance department. After graduating from Liberty, he earned his MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson in 1998 and became a certified public accountant in 2000.
2011 Hall of Fame Inductee
Fred Banks played a large part in the football program’s move to the NCAA ranks, becoming the third student-athlete from the era to be named to the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame. The wide receiver was a standout on the gridiron during his three years at the school, finishing his career by being named an Associated Press Little All-American honorable mention in 1984.
The Columbus, Ga., native became Liberty’s first NFL Draft pick and one of only seven in program history, when he was drafted in the eighth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Banks finished his Liberty career in 1984 by ranking No. 2 nationally among all NCAA Division II players in total receiving yards (1,029), the fourth most in the program’s all-time annuals. He also became only one of four student-athletes in the athletics department flagship sport to post three-straight 100-yard receiving games in a year and had eight touchdown receptions, the fifth most in program history.
After Liberty, he played eight years in the NFL. During his eight-year career, Banks played with the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins. Banks came to Liberty from Chowan after his freshman season and was inducted into the Hawks Athletics Hall of Fame class in 2004.
One of two coaches in Liberty Athletics history to guide his program for 20 or more seasons, Bill Bell was integral in the men’s soccer program’s growth, as it moved from the NCCAA to NCAA Division I level competition and found conference affiliation in the Big South.
After 22 years playing professionally in England and Scotland, Bell, the longest tenured coach in program history, led Liberty to winning seasons in 12 of his 21 years as its head coach. Liberty posted a winning record in eight of its 10 Big South Conference seasons with Bell at its helm, reaching three Big South Men’s Soccer Championship games (1994, 1998 and 1999).
In 1985, he was named the South Atlantic Coach of the Year and was voted the Big South Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1999. During his tenure, he coached two All-Americans, 14 NSCAA South Atlantic All-Region players, Liberty’s only Big South Men’s Soccer Player of the Year and 22 Big South all-conference players.
After retiring from Liberty in 2000, Bell returned to England and served as the Executive Director of Within the Walls, a prison ministry he started with his wife, Mary, in 1993.
Bob Bonheim orchestrated the first true national powerhouse at Liberty, guiding the Flames wrestling program to five-straight NCCAA national championships (1977-1981). The two-time NCCAA National Coach of the Year (1976 and 1981) finished his days roaming the mats with a 118-31 dual meet record, winning at an impressive 79.2 percent clip.
A 2003 inductee into the Central Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, Bonheim coached 35 All-Americans, including eight at the NCAA level. Twenty-one of his grapplers went on to win NCCAA national titles. Bonheim, who also served four years as a defensive line coach for the football program, helped wrestling move from NCCAA to NCAA Division II, finishing fifth nationally during his final season as head coach in the Flames third year at the new level.
Brenda Bonheim was a pioneer for women’s athletics at then Liberty Baptist College when she arrived in Lynchburg in 1973 and championed women’s athletics during her 26 year association with the athletics department.
Bonheim helped start the women’s basketball (1975-76) and volleyball (1976) programs, serving as both program’s inaugural head coach. She also was Liberty’s first-ever Senior Woman Administrator, serving in the administrative position from 1977 until she retired from athletics in 2000.
Bonheim, along with Dr. Linda Farver (women’s basketball coach from 1977-86), helped initiate Liberty’s membership into the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), where Liberty’s women’s programs competed until the entire athletics department made the transition to full Division I status in 1988.
Bonheim joins her husband, Bob Bonheim, in the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame. Bob was a member of the inaugural Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2009, honoring his efforts as an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach.
Sid Bream was one of Liberty’s first true athletic stars, earning NAIA and NABC All-America honors during his time at first base for the baseball program. He still holds seven different baseball program records, including the career mark for both batting average (.435) and slugging percentage (.830).
Bream was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1981 MLB Draft. The 12-year major leaguer and the 1990 Hutch Award winner, Bream helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to the National League Championship Series in 1990 and the Atlanta Braves to back-to-back World Series appearances in 1991 and 1992.
Feature Article on Sid Bream:
Mt. Holly Springs' Bream slid his way into baseball history
Story provided by The Sentinel Cumberlink.com (Oct. 6, 2013)
Theresa Bream was Liberty’s first true female standout student-athlete, as the two-sport athlete excelled on the basketball and volleyball courts for the Lady Flames from 1987 to 1993. Despite nearly two decades elapsing between her playing days and her induction, Bream is still the owner of three volleyball program records and two women’s basketball program marks.
Around the nets, Bream was a dominating force and is one of only two student-athletes in program history to earn AVCA All-Region honors. She is also the only player in program history to rank inside the Top 5 of four different key volleyball statistical categories.
On the basketball hardwood, Bream finished her career by averaging a double-double (11.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game), and is one of only three student-athletes to accomplish the feat in program history. The two-time team captain is a member of the Lady Flames’ 500-500 club for career points (589) and rebounds (536).
Bream excelled as an athlete away from Liberty Mountain and on the world scene, as she was an alternate for the U.S. Olympic handball team in 1992. The Mt. Holly Springs, Pa., native is the sister of Sid Bream, a member of Liberty’s inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2009.
2010 Hall of Fame Inductee
Jesse Castro, a four-time NCCAA national champion (1977-78-79-81), was one of a handful of athletes that helped a start-up wrestling program quickly emerge to become a national powerhouse.
One of eight wrestlers in program history to enter the Eagle Medal Gold Club (100 career victories), the 142-pounder finished his four-year stay on Liberty Mountain with a 101-20-2 record and the highest career winning percentage among 100-career winners (82.9 percent).
During his time on the mat, Castro helped the Flames win four of their five NCCAA national team championships (1977, 1978, 1979 and 1981), culminating in 1981 when Liberty also finished 18th at the NAIA national championship.
Castro returned to his alma mater in 2005 to restart the wrestling program for its five-year run at the NCAA Division I level (2006-10). Castro was named NCAA East Region Coach of the Year four times, guiding the Flames to five consecutive NCAA East Region titles and sending 24 individual wrestlers to the NCAA Division I national championship.
2012 Hall of Fame Inductee
Mark Chafin finished his four years racing up and down the basketball court as Liberty’s all-time leading scorer (1,951 career point), a figure that stood until it was surpassed by fellow Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Karl Hess two years later.
Chafin was a three-year starter, earning NCCAA all-district team honors in 1975, 1976 and 1977 and honorable-mention honors in 1978.
Chafin was one of Liberty’s most prolific scorers and the program’s most accurate shooters during his last three seasons with the program. He finished his career with a 45.8 field goal shooting percentage (783-of-1709) and a 73.6 shooting percentage from the charity stripe (381-of-517).
Chafin, who is an active participant in his sport as a NCAA Division I referee, still currently ranks among the program’s leaders in scoring, field goals, free throws and steals (225).
Sam Chelanga is Liberty’s most successful student-athlete at the NCAA Division I level, having won four individual national championships during his time with the Flames’ cross country and track & field programs.
Chelanga burst onto the scene in 2009, winning the first of two consecutive national titles in men’s cross country (2009 and 2010). The long distance runner would also go on to claim national championships at the NCAA Outdoor Track Championships in the 10K in 2010 and the 5K in 2011. He is the first student-athlete in school history to win multiple national championships.
Chelanga set a new NCAA record in 2009, clocking a time of 27:28.48 in the men’s 10K on April 24, 2009, and broke his own record with a time of 27:08.39 on May 1, 2010, which still stands today. He was a two-time finalists for the Bowerman award (2010 and 2011) and a three-time Big South Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year award winner (2009, 2010 and 2011).
The 14-time All-American and native of Nairobi, Kenya, started competing professionally in 2011 and is sponsored by Nike. He gained United States citizenship in 2015 and led Team USA with an 11th-place finish at the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
2017 Hall of Fame Inductee
In just four short years, Nancy (Davis) White helped turn Liberty’s women’s soccer team into a conference championship program. Prior to her arrival in 1998, Liberty had posted a 2-30 record in Big South play over a six-year span. However, White’s success on the pitch would eventually lead the Lady Flames to their first two Big South titles (2000 and 2001).
White’s career numbers far surpass any other in program history. She is the program’s all-time scoring leader with 106 points (second on the list has 55 career points) and 43 goals scored (second on the list has 24 goals).
In 2000, Liberty captured the program’s first-ever Big South title and advanced in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship with a Play-In game victory over Tennessee Tech. That season, Liberty set a program mark for wins with its 15-7 overall record.
The native of Modesto, Calif., was a four-time Big South All-Conference team member (1988-99-00-01), a three-time Big South all-tournament team selection and the 2000 Big South Championship MVP. In the classroom, she was honored as a CoSIDA Academic All-District team member, as well as the Big South Women’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2001.
Mike Decker came onto the scene as a sophomore and quickly dashed his way into Liberty University’s record books, setting standards that the current members of the track & field program are still chasing today.
Decker is one of just four track & field athletes in program history to earn three or more All-America honors during their careers, earning All-America distinctions in the 400 meters, twice at indoor nationals (2000 and 2001) and once at outdoor nationals (2000).
He was also a U.S. Olympic trials 400-meter dash participant in 2000. The native of Buena Vista, Va., was a three-time Big South Men’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year (1999, 2000, and 2001) and a 20-time Big South champion (12 individual events and eight relays).
During his senior year, Decker won every race he competed in during the Big South and IC4A seasons (both indoor and outdoor).
During his career, he netted Liberty 142 career points at Big South Track Championships and 113 at IC4A Championships. Decker is the program’s current record holder in the 200-meter (indoor) and 400-meter (indoor and outdoor) dash events.
2014 Hall of Fame Inductee
Kelvin Edwards helped the athletics department’s flagship program make the move to the NCAA ranks, as the wide receiver shined for the football program during a star-studded four-year career. A 1985 Associated Press Little All-America first-team honoree and Blue-Gray Football Game participant, Edwards still holds the program records for career receiving yards (2,546) and career receiving touchdowns (24).
Upon graduating from Liberty, Edwards became Liberty’s second-highest NFL draft pick, when he was selected in the fourth round of the 1984 draft by the New Orleans Saints. His three-year professional football career was spotlighted when he was a starting wide-out for the Dallas Cowboys.
Broadcasting his first Flames football game just after the opening of the 1981 season, Jerry Edwards went on to serve as the radio “Voice of the Flames” for 29 years. He broadcast Liberty football, men’s basketball and baseball games during his three decades behind the microphone.
Edwards aired more than 300 football and 800 men’s basketball broadcasts, having traveled as far as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico to cover Liberty athletics programs. During his time calling the action, he only missed one football game and just a handful of men’s basketball games.
After moving to Lynchburg, Va., in 1979 to attend the Liberty Bible Institute, Edwards broadcast his first game in the radio booth on the Flames Sports Network on Sept. 12, 1981, from Salisbury, N.C., for Liberty’s football game at Catawba. He was on hand to report all the action of some of the most memorable athletics events in program history, including football’s first FBS victory over Eastern Michigan, 25-24, in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1989 and Liberty’s two men’s basketball NCAA Tournament appearances in 1994 and 2004.
Edwards served as the general manager for WRVL and the Victory Radio Network, and he hosted “The Morning Full of Music” on the station. The radio broadcasting booth inside the Williams Stadium Tower is named in his honor.
Annie Hunt Fairchild is Liberty’s most decorated female student-athlete at the NCAA Division II level. She was a five-time All-America honoree, earning All-America accolades in the women’s outdoor track & field 1,500 meters (1986, 1987 and 1988), indoor track & field 1,500 meters (1988) and cross country (1987).
During Fairchild’s time with the program, Liberty captured three Mason-Dixon Cross Country Championships (1985, 1986 and 1987). The Lady Flames also completed the “Triple Crown” sweep during her final year at Liberty, winning the 1988 Mason-Dixon Indoor and Outdoor Track Championships.
Fairchild helped the Lady Flames reach the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships each of Liberty’s three seasons at the Division II level (1985-87). Liberty had three top 15 finishes at the event, including a fourth-place showing at the 1987 national championship during her senior season.
The native of Dallas, Texas, was named the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award winner in 1988, Liberty’s top student-athlete honor. Fairchild also was a four-time All-Mason-Dixon Conference performer in cross country and was named the MVP at the 1988 Mason-Dixon Conference Indoor Track Championship.
2016 Hall of Fame Inductee
Katie [Feenstra] Mattera helped put Liberty’s women’s basketball program on the national map, guiding the Lady Flames to the Sweet 16 of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Mattera became the program’s first NCAA Division I All-American and the first of two student-athletes in Big South history to be named Player of the Year three years in a row (2003-04-05).
The native of Grand Rapids, Mich., led the country in field goal shooting percentage in 2004 and 2005, helping her finish her career with 1,845 career points scored.
The center finished her career as the program’s all-time leader in field goals made (764), field goal percentage (62.2) and blocked shots (257).
Mattera continued her stellar playing career at the professional level when she became the program’s first player to be selected in the WNBA Draft (No. 8 overall selection in 2005).
She finished second in the voting for 2005 WNBA Rookie of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the WNBA All-Rookie team. Her five-year professional career also including time in China and with Team USA, where she helped her team win a silver medal in the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament.
2015 Hall of Fame Inductee
Gina Gibson was a five-time All-American, earning such distinctive honors in the track and field disciplines of long jump and the 4x100 relay. She had the honor of helping Liberty circle the track for the first time at two different competitive levels, as Liberty moved to the NAIA level during her freshman year and to the NCAA Division II level as a junior.
Gibson was Liberty’s first female student-athlete to earn All-America honors at the AIAW and NCAA Division II levels. As a freshman, she placed sixth at the AIAW Division II Championships in the long jump and was part of a fifth-place 4x100 relay team at the same outdoor meet.
In 1983, the Nassau, Bahamas, native placed fourth at the NCAA Division II outdoor championship, helping her claim the second of four career long jump All-America honors. The next year, Gibson was a three-time event winner at the Mason-Dixon Conference meet and was named the event’s co-MVP.
Despite the long-standing success of Liberty’s track and field teams, Gibson still holds the program’s indoor and outdoor long jump records (19-1.25/20-0.25 feet).
If she were still actively competing today, Gibson would be considered one of the best, as only one student-athlete in the 26-year history of the Big South Conference has eclipsed the 20-foot mark in the long jump.
Eric Green was Liberty’s first NCAA Division I Associated Press football All-American, earning second-team honors following a standout senior season at Liberty. He finished the year with 62 receptions, 905 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the first player in program history to record double-digit touchdown receptions in a season.
Green helped Liberty win its first six games of the 1989 season under fellow 2015 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Head Coach Sam Rutigliano. He recorded the game-winning touchdown reception in Liberty’s 25-24 win over Eastern Michigan in 1989, the program’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent.
The native of Savannah, Ga., finished his career with five 100-yard receiving games. He was the first player in program history to play in the Hula Bowl and was the program’s second Senior Bowl representative.
Green was the 21st overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL Rookie of the Year finished his 10-year professional career with 362 career receptions, 4,390 career receiving yards and 36 career touchdowns. He was twice named to the NFL Pro Bowl (1993 and 1994).
Having only been in existence for two years and already having two former baseball student-athletes in the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame speaks to the considerable success of the program. Lee Guetterman played a large part in that success. The left-handed pitcher set the tone from the mound early on for the Flames.
During a highly successful four-year stint in a Liberty uniform, Guetterman set benchmarks that still stand three decades later. He is Liberty’s all-time career leader in games started (47), complete games (30), shutouts (7), wins (29) and innings pitched (334.2). Additionally, his 3.07 career ERA ranks second in school history, while his 220 strikeouts are sixth on Liberty’s all-time listings.
Not just a dominating force on the mound, Guetterman certainly helped out his own cause at the plate. He posted a .325 career batting average, with 108 RBIs, 33 doubles, 12 triples, 11 home runs and 82 runs scored. The impressive statistics helped the Oceanside, Calif., native to earn NAIA All-America first-team honors as a senior in 1981.
After finishing his career with the Flames, Guetterman was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round of the 1981 MLB Draft. An 11-year career saw him play for the Mariners, New York Yankees, New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals. He was one of the more consistent relief pitchers of his time, as he made 425 professional mound appearances and 23 starts.
Wayne Haddix provided Liberty with its first standout defensive back when he came to Lynchburg from Middletown, Tenn., in 1983.
Four years later, Haddix left his mark on Liberty’s record books with 151 career tackles (85 solo, 66 assisted), while adding five forced fumbles and eight passes defended.
Haddix’s standout career on Liberty Mountain was recognized on the national scene when he became the first player in program history to get an invitation to the Senior Bowl and the second to participate in the Blue-Gray game.
His speed allowed him to excel in the return game, and he led the Flames in punt returns, three of his four years. He still holds the program’s single-game punt return record. Haddix extended his playing career when he became the 10th player in program history to sign a free agent professional contract (New York Giants, 1987).
He played five seasons in the NFL, spotlighted by his 1990 campaign where he recorded seven interceptions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That year, he became the first alumnus in program history to earn a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl game.
Mike Hatch was Liberty’s most dominant wrestler, finishing his four-year career with a program record 120 career victories. He is one of three wrestlers in program history to finish their careers with an 80 percent or higher career winning percentage (80.9), as he posted a 120-28-1 career record.
During the heavyweight’s four-year career, Hatch helped guide the Flames to four consecutive NCAA Division II South Regional championships (1984-87). Individually, Hatch was a South Regional heavyweight champion during his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns.
Hatch led the Flames to their highest NCAA Division II national championship finish in 1986 when Liberty finished the event in fifth place. The native of Middleboro, Mass., was a two-time NCAA Division II All-American and the national runner-up in his weight class in 1986 and 1987.
The heavyweight qualified for the 1987 NCAA Division I national tournament, where he finished in 15th place. He is one of eight wrestlers in program history to be a member of the Eagle Gold Club (100 career victories), leading the elite group of athletes.
Along with Sid Bream, Karl Hess helped put Liberty Athleics on the national scene. He became the men’s basketball program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,373 points and dazzled fans on the hardwood. Hess capped off his four-year career at Liberty by leading the Flames to a 28-11 and an NCCAA national championship in 1980, earning tournament MVP honors during the event.
The CoSIDA Academic All-America first-team honoree still holds 12 program records, including six career standards. Still active in the game, Hess is now considered to be one of the nation’s top referee’s, primarily officiating ACC, BIG EAST and SEC men’s basketball games. In 2007, he served as the crew chief for the national championship game between Florida and Ohio State.
Matt Hildebrand helped usher Flames Basketball into a new era when Liberty joined the Big South Conference during his sophomore season (1991-92). By his senior year, the native of Sturgis, Mich., had the Flames on the national scene, pushing the No. 1 team in the country during the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
Hildebrand started every game he played during his stellar 116-game career, finishing with 1,515 career points scored, 3,729 minutes played, and 207 career three-point field goals. A steady hand at the charity stripe, he finished with an 88.2 career free throw shooting percentage (398-of-451), which ranks him in the top 25 of the all-time NCAA Division I record books.
During his senior campaign, Hildebrand led the Flames to the program’s first-ever Big South title and earned the program its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Liberty faced No. 1 seed North Carolina in the contest and led the Tar Heels with 10 minutes left to go in the game, thanks to his 20 points and five assists.
Hildebrand is one of four players in program history to have his jersey retired, and he still holds single-game, season, and career records, including the program mark for best career three-point field goal shooting percentage (42.9 – 207-of-483).
During his four years with the Flames, Robby Justino set the standard that all other Liberty quarterbacks will look to aspire to during their time in a Liberty football jersey.
Justino’s career passing yards of 9,548 yards is more than 2,000 yards ahead of the next quarterback on the career list. He finished his career as Liberty’s all-time leader in career completions (769), attempts (1,267), passing touchdowns (64), total offensive yards (8,806), most plays (1,469) and total touchdowns (66).
Justino, a native of Green Cove Spring, Fla., led the Flames to the program’s first-ever victory over an FBS opponent, helping Liberty upset Eastern Michigan, 25-24, in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Oct. 21. 1989. The contest was his first career start, as he stepped in for an injured Paul Johnson to lead the Flames to the momentous victory.
During his sophomore (3,076 yards) and junior (3,176 yards) years, Justino posted two of the programs three 3,000 yard passing seasons. He also holds a program record with 26 career 250-yard games and 11 career 300-yard games.
Steve Kearns came to Liberty as a defensive end, but finished his career with the Flames as an All-America tight end and wide receiver. At the time of his graduation, Kearns ranked as the program’s all-time career leader in receiving yards (1,210) and touchdown receptions (10).
Kearns led the Flames in receiving yards in 1977 (537) and 1978 (347). He set a program record with seven touchdown receptions in 1978, a mark that would stand for six seasons until fellow Athletics Hall of Fame selection Fred Banks surpassed it in 1984.
The native of Ontario, Canada, was one of six Liberty players named to the 1978 Churchmen’s All-America team, as he earned second-team honors. In 1979, Kearns helped the Flames post a 9-1-1 record and finish the season ranked No. 18 in the final NAIA Top 25 national poll.
Following his standout career with the Flames, Kearns became the first player in program history to be selected in a professional football draft. He was a first round draft pick by Toronto Argonauts in the 1980 Canadian Football League Draft. Kearns played six seasons in the CFL (BC Lions - 1980-82; Hamilton Tiger-Cats - 1982-85). He helped the Lions advance to the 1981 CFL Playoffs Divisional Finals, while the Tiger-Cats played in the 1984 Grey Cup.
Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds helped turn a fledgling women’s basketball program into one of the Big South Conference’s longest-running dynasties. During her magnificent four-year career, the Moscow, Russia, native led the Lady Flames to four-straight league titles and the first four of 10-straight NCAA Tournament berths.
The two-time Big South Player of the Year still lays claim to 12 program records, including the career mark for points scored (2,154) and minutes played (3,860). During the 1997-98 season, Bengds helped the Lady Flames enter the 1998 NCAA Tournament with an unblemished 28-0 record, where they faced eventual national champion Tennessee in the only NCAA Tournament matchup of two unbeaten programs in women’s basketball history.
Jake Matthes was the initial architect of one of the most successful athletics programs during the first four decades of Liberty’s Athletics Department.
He started the men’s cross country program in 1976 and the men’s track & field teams the following year. During his tenure as head coach, Liberty won the 1981 NCCAA men’s track & field national title, five Mason-Dixon men’s cross country championships, and eight men’s cross country regional titles.
Matthes, who coached Liberty at four different levels of competition (NCCAA, NAIA, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division I) helped 18 student-athletes at the NCCAA level earn All-America honors, four at the NAIA level, and three more as NCAA Division II competitors.
The native of Mansfield, Ohio, earned numerous coaching awards during his 15 years of coaching, including 1981 National Christian College Coach of the Year for men’s track & field and 1985 NCAA Division II South Region Coach of the Year for men’s cross country.
Matthes, who also started the women’s track & field and cross country programs in 1977, had Liberty’s outdoor track facility named after him in 1991. The facility, dubbed the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex, pairs his name with Ron Hopkins, who took over the women’s programs shortly after Matthes helped get them off the ground.
Julius Nwosu did not start playing organized basketball until the year before he joined Liberty’s roster. However, those around the Big South Conference would never have known, as he finished his career as one of the premier centers during the early years of the conference.
Nwosu sat out his first year at Liberty to gain academic eligibility, but still managed to become the 14th 1,000-point scorer in school history in three seasons (1,248 career points). The two-time All-Big South honoree ranked among the league leaders in scoring and rebounding as a junior and senior and was second in the conference as a senior in field goal percentage (61.5 percent). He also finished his career with 112 blocked shots.
With the help of Nwosu’s development, Liberty finished its first season in the Big South with a 22-7 overall record in 1991-92. The mark was a 16 1/2 game win-loss improvement from the previous season, which still ranks as the fourth best in NCAA history.
Nwosu became the first player in program history to earn a spot on a NBA roster, playing for the San Antonio Spurs (1995), Boston Celtics (1997) and the Utah Jazz (2000). The native of Owerri, Nigeria, also played professionally in Spain, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Japan and France for eight seasons, helping his teams win three conference titles.
Katie (Phillips) Bigham was one of the driving forces that helped Liberty’s reinstated softball program quickly rise to be a power in the Big South Conference. Nearly two decades after her playing career finished, she still holds the program’s career record for ERA (1.59), wins (62) and shutouts (23).
Two years prior to her freshman season, Liberty won eight games during its first season back as a varsity program (146-90). However, Bigham guided the Lady Flames to 146 wins (146-90) over her four-year career, including the team’s first-ever 40 win season in 1999 (41-25).
A local product from Concord, Va., Bigham was twice named to the All-Big South second team (1996 and 1997) and twice selected to the VaSID All-State first team (1997 and 1998). She became the program’s first-ever 20-game winner, posting a 20-12 record as a sophomore, while finishing her second year at Liberty with a 1.66 ERA, 26 complete games, seven shutouts and 137 strikeouts.
During her junior season, Bigham was named to the Big South Softball Championship All-Tournament team and shared co-MVP honors for the event. Bigham’s efforts in the circle helped the Lady Flames make their first-ever Big South Softball Championship title game appearance in 1998.
After transferring to Liberty following her freshman season, Delethea Quarles helped the Lady Flames start a dominant run in the Mason-Dixon Conference and jump-start the program’s success at the Division I level.
The native of Covington, Va., helped Liberty claim indoor and outdoor track championship titles during her junior and senior campaigns (1988 and 1989), thanks to her standout performances in the heptathlon. She also earned All-America honors in the discipline in 1987 and 1988, placing fifth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division II national championship.
Quarles was the first student-athlete in program history (men’s or women’s) to score more than 200 points in a season and one of only 11 in program history to do so at any level of competition (227.5 points as a senior). The 1989 Penn Relays 100-meter hurdles champion held the program record in the event for more than 20 years before it was broken in 2010.
She served as an assistant coach on Liberty’s staff for eight years (1990-97) before joining the coaching staff at South Carolina, where she has helped more than 20 student-athletes earn All-America honors.
Following an 18-year coaching career in the NFL, Sam Rutigliano helped establish Liberty as an NCAA Division I football program and finished his 11-year coaching career as the program’s winningest coach (67-53).
The 1980 NFL Coach of the Year came to Liberty in 1989, the Flames’ second season at the Division I level. He made an immediate impact as the Flames won their first six games, including wins over nationally ranked James Madison and Eastern Illinois and the program’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent when Liberty knocked off Eastern Michigan on Oct. 14, 1989.
Rutigliano’s teams were consistently ranked in the Top 25. Liberty was nationally ranked 23 different weeks and finished three seasons listed among the nation’s best (No. 19 in 1992, 1995 and 1997).
Rutigliano coached 11 NCAA All-Americans, two CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, 18 NCAA I-AA All-Independent selections and six VaSID all-state honorees. He also helped elevate the play of fellow 2015 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Eric Green, who became the first player in program history to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in 1990.
Rutigliano remained connected with Liberty’s program after retiring from coaching in 1999, playing a key role in the hiring of head coaches Danny Rocco and Turner Gill. Rocco helped Liberty win its first four Big South titles, while Gill guided the Flames into the NCAA FCS Playoffs for the first time in program history in 2014.
Heather (Sagan) Zealand was Liberty’s first Division I national champion and one of two female track and field student-athletes to capture All-America honors. She was named the 2002 Virginia NCAA Woman of the Year and Eastern Track Athlete of the Year after winning the NCAA Division I Indoor national championship in the women’s mile and earning All-America honors with a second place finish in the outdoor 1500.
The distance runner also was named to the 2002 CoSIDA Academic All-American women’s cross country/track and field team and USTFCCCA Division I Women’s Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She became the first collegiate athlete since 1987 to capture the Olympic Development mile title that year at the Penn Relays. She was a 14-time Big South champion, the most by any female student-athlete in program history.
After graduation, the track and field standout represented the United States at the 2003 World Cross Country Championships and made the 1500 finals at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. She was a nine-year member of the Flames Track and Field and Cross Country coaching staffs, coaching the program from 2002-10.
John Sanders was one of Liberty’s first dominate defensive players on the football field. He is the only player in program history to finish his career with 100 or more tackles all four seasons he took to the gridiron.
Sanders finished his stay on Liberty Mountain with 550 career stops, a mark that leads all career tacklers in program history and is 123 stops ahead of No. 2 on the all-time career tackles list (Mickey Paige – 427 career tackles).
Sanders was a four-time winner of Liberty’s “Big Hit” award and earned AFCA (Kodak) first-team All-America honors as a senior. He also was named to the NAIA all-district defensive team (District 29) and the NAIA honorable-mention All-America team in 1982.
In 1979, Sanders was a part of a Liberty team that posted a 9-1-1 record, the first of three seasons where the Flames finished a year with nine or more victories. Sanders, who took the 1981 season off, helped Liberty post a combined 27-13-2 record during his four years on the field, with three seasons of seven or more victories.
Todd Setsma set the standard for Division I men’s golfers at Liberty, as he was the Flames’ first standout golfer at the top level of intercollegiate competition and a he was stellar student in the classroom.
Setsma helped the Flames capture the program’s first two team titles at the Division I level, leading the Flames to victory at the Davis and Elkins Invitational and the Liberty/Water’s Edge Classic during his senior year of competition. He was also the second Division I golfer in program history to capture individual medalist honors, posting a 4-under par 140 winning score at the 1994 Charleston Southern Invitational.
The native of Grand Rapids, Mich., was named to the All-Big South Men’s Golf Team as a junior and senior (1994 and 1995). He was also honored for his efforts in the classroom during his senior year when he was named the 1995 Big South Men’s Golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year and to the GCAA/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar team.
The 1995 winner of the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award, Liberty’s top student-athlete honor, played professionally on five different tours following his playing career at Liberty and advanced to the second stage of PGA Tour Q School twice.
Richard Shelton, a two-year starting cornerback and special teams standout, made a lasting impact on the Flames football program and he is still influencing the sport nearly 30 years following his final days in a Liberty uniform.
The Marietta, Ga., native was the recipient of Liberty’s “Most Improved Freshman Award” in 1984, and completed the final two years of his career with a combined 100 tackles. He finished his career with 126 tackles (56 solo, 70 assisted), to go along with 11 interceptions and 26 pass breakups.
Shelton’s clocked 4.45 40-yard dash speed made him a dynamic part of the Flames’ special teams units. He still holds program records for career punt return yardage (563), punt returns for a touchdown (3) and punt return average (12.5 yards per return).
Shelton became the third player in program history to be selected in the NFL Draft when he was taken by the Denver Broncos in the 10th round in 1989. He had a five-year playing career with the Broncos (1989) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1990-93), while also playing one season in the World League of American Football for the Montreal Machine in 1991. Following his days on the gridiron, Shelton has worked as an NFL scout for the last 15 years and was named the 2015 AFC Scout of the Year during one of his 10 years with the Tennessee Titans.
Pat Sipe finished his four-year standout career at Liberty establishing marks that have withstood the test of time. He finished his career as the Flames’ all-time leader in runs scored (179), total bases (489), home runs (59) and RBI (226).
The two-time Liberty team MVP (1985 and 1986) led the Flames in hits, home runs and RBI three-straight seasons (1984-86). As a freshman, Sipe posted a .332 batting average with 61 RBI and 12 home runs, helping the Flames win 40 games for the first time in program history.
During his senior campaign, Sipe helped Liberty advance to the NAIA Tournament in 1986, winning the District 29 and Area 8 events. Liberty advanced to the NAIA World Series that same season, finishing the event in fifth place.
Following his standout career at Liberty, the native of Virginia Beach, Va., signed a free agent contract with the Montreal Expos. He played three seasons of minor league baseball, finishing his professional career with 48 doubles, four triples, 32 home runs, 163 RBI and a .408 slugging percentage.
Chip Smith quickly helped jumpstart Liberty’s athletics program as the department’s first-ever athletics standout when the football program first hit the gridiron in 1973.
Smith was Liberty’s first scholarship football recipient and was the first Flame to cross the goal line during Liberty’s inaugural game against Massanutten Military on Sept. 27, 1973. Adding to his list of “firsts,” Smith was the program’s first-ever team captain, MVP, leading rusher, scoring leader and letterwinner, garnering those honors all four years he donned a Liberty uniform (1973-76).
Because Liberty did not start playing a full varsity schedule until the 1976 season, several of Smith’s notable performances are not officially included in Liberty’s record book, as the NCAA does not recognize statistics against junior varsity and prep school opponents.
Had all of Smith’s games officially counted, the standout would have amassed 15 100-yard rushing performances, 208 career points, 33 rushing touchdowns, 3,342 career rushing yards and averaged 101.3 rushing yards per game.
All of these figures would rank in the Flames’ Top 5 in each statistical category. He still holds the program mark for the longest touchdown run (86 yards) and highest average rushing yards per carry in a game (19.8), with both records coming against Ferrum on Nov. 13, 1976, his final career outing.
Besides his gridiron accomplishments, Smith also holds the distinction of being Liberty’s first team captain for the baseball program. He also led the program with a .454 batting average and was a four-year letterwinner (1973-76).
Smith continues to flourish in the sport that made him a Liberty star. He is currently the owner and founder of Competitive Edge Sports (CES). The organization, based in Duluth, Ga., is widely recognized as one of the world’s elite sports performance training centers.
After joining the women’s basketball program as a walk-on student-athlete, Sharon (Snodgrass) May became the Lady Flames’ first-ever standout on the hardwood during her four-year career.
May is one of only three players in program history to finish their careers with more than 1,000 career points and rebounds. She joins WNBA players Katie Feenstra and Avery Warley, as Snodgrass finished her career with 1,169 career points scored and 1,026 career rebounds.
During her senior season, May became the first female in athletics department history to be awarded the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award, Liberty’s highest athletics honor. She also became the program’s first-ever VAIAW Division II all-state honoree, earning a spot on the all-state squad after averaging 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in 1981-82.
May is the only Lady Flame ever to average a double-double for her entire career, having scored an average of 11.7 points per game and pulling down an average of 10.3 boards per contest.
Randy Tomlin helped usher Liberty’s baseball program into the NCAA Division I era, setting standards that have stood for decades following his standout three-year career with the team.
Tomlin finished his career with the Flames with 22 career complete games and four shutouts, both program records still held to this day. During his sophomore season, the left-handed pitcher tossed three shutouts in 1986, becoming one of three players to set the program’s single-season shutout record.
The native of Madison Heights, Va., pitched 11 innings in a 4-3 victory over Slippery Rock in 1986, the longest outing by a Liberty pitcher in program history. He finished his career with a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, tallying 211 strikeouts in 273.0 career innings pitched.
Tomlin was selected in the 18th round of the 1988 Major League Baseball draft and became the third player in program history to play at the major league level. He played five seasons in Pittsburgh, helping the Pirates to NL East Division titles in 1990-92. Following his professional career, Tomlin served 10 years on staff at Liberty as a pitching coach, helping the Flames capture Big South titles in 1998 and 2000.
Ed Vickers was a key component in Liberty’s 1980 NCCAA National Championship team, earning NCCAA All-America honorable mention, all-tournament and all-district honors during Liberty’s run to the national title.
Vickers ranks as one of the program’s top 10 all-time scorers, finishing his career with 1,658 career points, while holding the program’s career mark for defensive rebounds (658). The forward is the only player in program history to reach the 400-rebound mark in a season, accomplishing the feat during his junior (401) and senior (416) seasons.
Vickers tied a program record with 18 field goals against Guilford on Feb. 10, 1979, matching the program’s single-game record set by fellow Athletics Hall of Fame players Bailey Alston and Karl Hess.
The native of Headland, Ala., helped Liberty set a program record with 28 wins en route to the 1980 NCCAA National Championship title during his senior season. Following his career, Vickers spent three seasons on staff as an assistant coach (1981-83), helping a 23-9 Flames team reach the third round of the NAIA National Tournament in 1983.
Ryan Werner is one of the men’s track & field program’s most decorated student-athletes, becoming Liberty’s first three-time All-America decathlete in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Werner’s then program record of 7,662 decathlon points was a mark that stood for more than 13 seasons, spanning a time where four other Liberty athletes earned All-America honors in the same track discipline.
A 1996 Rock Royer/Mac Rivera award winner, Werner was the first athlete in program history to earn an IC4A title in 1992 (decathlon) and would go on to win a total of five IC4A titles during his Liberty career.
One of only four four-year members of Liberty’s 100-Point Club, Werner became Liberty’s first-ever inductee into the Big South Conference Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2007. He was a two-time Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year and helped the Flames capture men’s outdoor titles in the Big South in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and an IC4A title in 1996.
Dave Williams is considered one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country. He helped to develop Liberty’s student-athletes for more than 30 years before his retirement in the spring of 2017.
Williams is a certified strength and conditioning coach (C.S.C.S.), who served as Liberty’s head strength and conditioning coach for 21 years (1984-2005). Following the 1992-93 athletic year, Williams was named a finalist for the national Strength Coach of the Year, an honor given to strength and conditioning coaches in the professional and collegiate ranks.
Williams was honored by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association when he was named a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach. Williams, along with head strength and conditioning coach Bill Gillespie, were the first pair of honored coaches at the same institution at the NCAA Division I FCS level with this distinction.
Williams earned Associated Press Little All-America honors while playing collegiately at Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.Va. He played both offensive and defensive line and was a two-year co-captain at Fairmont State, who was NAIA National Champion in 1967. In 2003, the school honored Williams as he was inducted into the Fairmont State College Athletic Department Hall of Fame.
Al Worthington used the knowledge gained from 19 years of playing major league baseball and his passion for Christ to help him become one of Liberty’s first coaching legends.
Following a three-year standout career at Alabama, Worthington played for five different major league programs, including a five-year stint with the Minnesota Twins. He became that team’s first true closer with 110 career saves.
In 1974, Worthington came to Lynchburg to start Liberty’s baseball program. His 13-year coaching stint enabled him to become the winningest coach in program history and finish with a 64.4 winning percentage (343-189-1). Following the first year of the program, Liberty never again had a losing record during the final dozen years under Worthington’s tutelage.
During his time at the head of the program, Worthington coached four All-Americans and nine players who went on to play professional baseball, including Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame inductees Sid Bream (2009) and Lee Guetterman (2010).
On May 3, 1986, Dr. Jerry Falwell named Liberty’s baseball facility Worthington Stadium. Liberty would go on to win that day, 19-3, against Maryland, capping off Worthington’s stellar 13-year coaching career.