BOONE — At halftime of the Watauga Pioneers football team’s win over Burns on Friday, Sept. 10, the field at Jack Groce Stadium was flooded with Watauga High School athletic legends and their families.
The group were members the first two classes of the Watauga High School Athletic Hall of Fame, which was unable to do an in-person ceremony for the first class in 2020.
The hall of fame honors student-athletes, teams, coaches and special contributors from WHS’ storied athletic history — immortalizing them as legends of the school and its programs. Both classes featured four student-athletes, two coaches, a team and a special contributor.
The 2020 class included athletes Eric Breitenstein, Danny Triplett and Lindsey and Brenda Taylor, coaches Jack Groce and Carter Lentz, contributor Mike Kelly and the 1978 3A state champion Watauga football team.
The following year, athletes Ricky Brookshire, Joe Critcher, Jonathan Greene and April Cook, coaches Lan O’Laughlin and Leigh Wallace, contributor Jack Roten and the 1996 boys’ cross country team were inducted.
The night after the game, inductees that were able to attend were in the school’s auditorium for the Night of Champions Hall of Fame banquet and ceremony. With a keynote address from former Wofford football coach Mike Ayers, the ceremony was about honoring legendary figures and reminiscing about the good times.
The first ever inductee to the hall was Breitenstein, who was introduced by his former coach, Adrian Snow. Snow said Breitenstein was what the hall was all about, honoring figures who were hall of famers on and off the field.
“In my 29 years (of coaching), I’ve been blessed to help with a lot of young people. I’ve been blessed to coach Under Armor All-Americans. I’ve been blessed to coach Shrine Bowl players. I was blessed to coach East-West All Star participants and I have been blessed to coach players that went to Clemson University, University of Georgia, University of Florida, countless other Power 5 schools,” Snow said. “I have people always ask me, ‘If you’re going to start a team from all the people you’ve ever coached, who would you pick first?’ Not to take anything away from any kid I’ve ever coached in my career — because I love them all — but if I’m going to start a team, (Breitenstein) would be my first pick.”
Breitenstein said during his speech that he was not only thankful to be inducted into the hall, but thankful that it existed. He brought up hearing stories about other inductees and how they amazed him while he was at the school and that it was amazing he was now alongside them.
Breitenstein said the most important thing to him was the love the community has given to him, his family and the other inductees to the hall.
“There’s no other place in the world I’d rather be,” Breitenstein said.