Hometown Heroes: First-ballot inductees Lewis, Palmer join Rorie, Sharber and Brittain in SSHS Hall of Fame
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 30, 2006 - Damione Lewis and Kwaesi Palmer were synonymous with gridiron excellence for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats in the mid-90s. As classmates and teammates, they were among the most coveted defensive players in the nation when they graduated in 1996.

Fittingly, the pair will go into the SSHS Athletic Hall of Fame together as well.

Lewis and Palmer, first-ballot inductees, will join two other outstanding former Wildcats and one Lady Cat in Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Friday, Oct. 6.

Joining them will be state champion hurdler Lee Sharber, class of 1978; four-time state qualifier in golf J.J. Rorie, class of '92; and All-State defensive end Vic Brittain, class of '67.

The induction ceremony will be take place at 7 p.m. Friday at Gerald Prim Stadium prior to the Wildcats' kick-off against Liberty-Eylau. A reception for the new inductees will begin at 6 p.m. in the SSHS conference center. Friends and well-wishers are invited.

Lewis, who is the most famous of the new inductees, is expected to fly in after his Friday practice with the Carolina Panthers to attend the reception and ceremony. All of the inductees with the exception of Rorie, who had a prior commitment, are expected to be present.

All current Hall of Fame members are asked to attend the reception and ceremony, where they will also be introduced, and wear their blue Hall of Fame shirts.

To be eligible for nomination to the Hall of Fame, a former SSHS athlete must be out of school for 10 years. For Lewis and Palmer, this was the first year they were eligible.

Committee chairman Stacy Cody said the pair - who were both First Team Super Team players as chosen by Texas Football magazine - were shoo-ins. The other three inductees may have had to wait longer but are no less deserving.

"All five of these former Wildcats and Lady Cats were outstanding," said Cody. "All you have to do is mention their names and people know who they are and what they meant to Sulphur Springs athletics."

 

Kwaesi Palmer

Coming out of high school, Palmer was one of the most sought-after linebackers in the country, being named All-American by several different publications and scouting services.

He eventually decided to play football for Florida State. A devastating knee injury as a freshman ended his playing career, but what he accomplished at SSHS was legendary.

Palmer, the son of Doris and Troy Palmer, was named First Team Super Team, Blue Chip All-American and First Team Super Prep All-American.

A four-year starter at linebacker, he was selected the district Newcomer of the Year and Third Team All-State as a freshman; district Defensive MVP and First Team All-State as a sophomore; First Team All-State as a junior; and First Team All-State and district Defensive MVP as a senior.

For three straight years, Palmer and the Wildcats advanced to the regional finals in football - the furtherest any SSHS team has advanced.

Unfortunately, on March 17, 1997 while a freshman at FSU, Palmer sustained a career-ending knee injury in which the perineal nerve was severed, resulting in permanent loss of feeling and use of his left ankle and foot.

He persevered, though, winning several academic awards, including All-ACC Academic Team, on his way to graduating in August 2000 with a bachelor's degree from FSU's School and Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Palmer is currently the supervisor of mail operations with Citigroup/Citifinancial Auto in Dallas. He and fiance Amber Jones have a 5-month-old daughter, Kaesi Palmer.

 

Damione Lewis

The high school careers of Lewis and Palmer are almost mirror images.

A three-year starter at defensive end, Lewis was a two-time All-State lineman, the district MVP as a senior, district Defensive MVP as a junior and Sophomore of the Year in 1993.

Together, Lewis and Palmer brought college scouts to Sulphur Springs in droves. Lewis also picked a Florida university, Miami, to continue his playing career.

Lewis was ranked as the No. 1 defensive recruit in the nation by at least one scouting publication. He was a First Team Super Team player and a Blue Chip All-American. He led the team in tackles his final two high school years, including accumulating 167 tackles, eight sacks, five fumble recoveries and an interception as a senior.

He qualified for the state track meet in the shot put with a throw of 55-3, and averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds in basketball.

At Miami, he concentrated solely on football, and it paid off. Lewis started 41 of 43 career games, finishing with 220 tackles, 15.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. He was voted First Team All-Big East and Third Team All-American by the Sporting News as a senior.

Lewis graduated from Miami with a liberal arts degree and was then drafted in the first round (12th pick overall) by the St. Louis Rams in 2001. He played five years with the Rams, notching a career-high 61 tackles and five sacks in 2004.

He was signed by the Carolina Panthers as a free agent in the offseason.

He is married to Silvana and they have one child.

 

J.J. Rorie

Like the other incoming members of the Hall of Fame, Rorie made an immediate impact when she entered high school.

She is probably the most decorated female golfer in SSHS annals, having qualified individually for the state tournament all four years and finishing in the top 10 each time.

Rorie was the district medalist champion all four years and regional champ twice (she was second and third the other two years). She placed no worse than ninth at the state tournament, and was fourth as a senior. During her high school career, she won about 20 tournaments.

For her success, she was named the team MVP three years and received a scholarship to Texas Tech University.

She lettered all four years at Tech and won two collegiate tournament (at University of Nebraska in 1995 and University of Oklahoma in 1996). She was named First Team All-Southwest Conference in 1996, when she led Tech to the NCAA national championship tournament.

Rorie was also the Tech representative on the West team in the annual West vs. East match at the NCAA championships.

She is currently living in Omaha, Ne., where she is the director of product innovation for First Data Corp.

 

Lee Sharber

Sharber set a school record in the hurdles as a freshman at SSHS and didn't stop setting them until he graduated in 1978.

He also left school with a gold medal from the state track meet.

As freshman, Sharber set the school record in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles and reset the record as a sophomore when he placed third at state.

He was fourth in the 120-yard high hurdles at the Texas Relays as a junior, but he was at his best his senior year. He not only won the state meet in the 300-meter hurdles, but he set the school and state meet record as well in the race. He was also named the team MVP in track.

When he graduated, Sharber held the school record in both hurdle events.

Sharber attended Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe on a track scholarship, where he lettered in track and field. He graduated from NLU in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in Air Traffic Management and was a member of The Flying Tomahawks, a flight competition team.

He lives in North Carolina, where he has been a pilot for UPS for more than 18 years. He and his wife, Tena, have a 5-year-old son named Carson.

 

Vic Brittain

Brittain also held the school record in the 120-yard high hurdles, but he was as well known for his football prowess.

Before graduating in 1967, Brittain held the following accolades: team captain in football, three-year football letterman, All-District fullback and defensive end his senior year and Honorable Mention All-State on defense. He was the team's MVP the 1966 season. 

He was a two-year basketball letterman and three-year track letterman. He ran anchor leg on the district champion 400-meter sprint relay team in 1966 that set a school record, and he also held the school record in the hurdles and the pole vault.

Brittain went to SMU, where he played five different positions for the Mustangs in four years: fullback, strong safety, linebacker, offensive guard and defensive end. He was named to the First All All-SWC Academic Team and Third Team All-American Academic Team as a senior, when he also won the Mustang Award for the highest collective film grade for the season.

Brittain was on a Top 20 team that defeated Oklahoma in the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1968, and played for legendary coaches Sleepy Morgan and Hayden Fry.

For the last 20 years he has worked for J.P. Morgan Chase, where he is vice president of investment product management. He lives in Arlington with his wife of 35 years, Sue. They have three children, Jake, Bethany and Brooke, and three grandchildren.

Vic's brother, Que Brittain, is also in the Hall of Fame.

Note: The Hall of Fame shirts for the five new inductees and their plaques were provided by Alliance Bank and Galyean's Insurance.

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