Hall of Honor members

By BOBBY “BUTCH” BURNEY, Special to the News-Telegram

Oct. 19, 2008 - Five former Wildcats whose careers spanned 70-plus years will be the newest inductees to the Sulphur Springs Hall of Fame.

The five will be inducted in pre-game ceremonies Friday at Gerald Prim Stadium before the Wildcats’ game against Mount Pleasant. A reception to honor the former Wildcat greats is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Friday in the Conference Center at SSHS.

The newest group of inductees includes two players who spent time in the NFL, a pair of school record holders and another who was a two-sport collegiate athlete.

Tyreo Harrison and Octus Polk, two standouts for the Wildcats who later played in the National Football League, will be joined by former record-breaking running back Marvin Dial, the school’s former single-game basketball record holder Fred Watson, and two-sport college athlete Lawrence “Shorty” France.

The five were selected by the Hall of Fame Committee after pouring over more than a dozen recommendations.

Below is a look at each inductee:

Tyreo Harrison, Class of ‘98

The Wildcats had a series of 1990s players who went on to play in the NFL, and Harrison was one of them. After earning All-State honors in high school and All-American honors in college, Harrison played two-plus seasons in the National Football League.

�A 1998 graduate of SSHS, Harrison was a First Team All-District linebacker as a senior and Honorable Mention All-State as the team�s leading tackler. The son of Miron and Joy Harrison, Tyreo was also an honor student. He was rated among the top 100 prep players in the state, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Harrison started at defensive end as a sophomore and junior, earning All-District honors as an 11th-grader.  As a senior, he was named team MVP and captain. He also lettered in track.

His accomplishments earned him a football scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where he was the Irish’s leading tackler as a senior and earned Honorable Mention All-American honors. As a senior, he was named winner of the Nick Pietrosante Award given to the player who best exemplifies courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride as voted by his teammates.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and business economics from Notre Dame, graduating in 2002 when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round. He played two seasons for the Eagles and was picked up by the Green Bay Packers in his third season before officially retiring in 2005.

Harrison and his wife, the former Julie Livas of Boardman, Ohio, live in San Antonio where they are members of the Notre Dame Club. Julie graduated Magna Cum Laude from Notre Dame and serves as internal auditor for a major telecommunications company. Tyreo works for a financial services company, SWBC, and serves as vice president of the Business Strategy Department.

Octus Polk, Class of 1990

Polk was another Wildcat who earned a spot in the NFL after an All-State career at Sulphur Springs.

A 1990 SSHS graduate, Polk is considered one of the top offensive linemen to play for the Wildcats. He was a three-year letterman in three sports: football, basketball and track, and was such a good athlete that he could dunk a basketball at 300 pounds. He was also an honor student, graduating in the top 12 percent of his class.

As a senior, he was First Team All-District and Third Team All-State, co-captain of the football team, and in track, he placed fourth at the regional meet in the shot put.

He earned a football scholarship to Abilene Christian University, where he was the runner-up in the Lone Star Conference Rookie of the Year to Billy Watkins (another SSHS graduate). Polk transferred to Stephen F. Austin State University in 1992, where was named an Academic All-American and All-Southland Conference. As a senior, he was named the team’s Offensive MVP and was part of the offensive line that set the school record for most rushing yards in a season (2,913).

In 1995, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears, where he spent two seasons playing with some of the Chicago legends including Walter Payton. After playing for the Bears, Polk had workouts for Tampa Bay and New Orleans, then made a run at the World League's London Monarchs. He remained in football playing for the well-respected semi-pro team, the Dallas Diesel. At age 37, he now plays indoor football with the Frisco Thunder of the Intense Football League.

Polk lives in Dallas where he works for GMAC as a quality assurance specialist.

Marvin Dial, Class of 1971

Dial was one of the top running backs in SSHS history and owned most of the school records when he graduated in 1971.

In his career, Dial set school records for most rushing yards in a season (1,136,), most rushing yards in a career (1,739) and most rushing yards and TDs in a single game (289 yards, four touchdowns vs. Mount Pleasant in 1970). He was the team’s Most Valuable Player as a junior and a senior.

He was also one of the fastest sprinters in East Texas, winning the district championship in the 100-yard dash as a junior. A pulled hamstring kept him from competing in the district meet as a senior. Dial’s time of 10.0 seconds in the 100-yard dash is the second-fastest in school history in that event behind Larry Jordan.

Dial earned a scholarship to Kilgore College, where he played one season and then entered the workforce. He has been in the oil and gas business for 33 years and is currently the shop manager for Manek Energy. The son of Abe and Bertha Kee Dial, Marvin wed the former Clifford Ann Young and they have been married for 33 years.

Fred Watson, Class of 1958

Watson was a five-sport letterman at SSHS, with basketball being his favorite sport and the one in which he was most accomplished. The son of Maymee Gafford Watson and Weldon Watson, he also played football, baseball, track and tennis.

He set the school’s single-game scoring record in 1958 when he pumped in 38 points in the Wildcats’ 62-61 bi-district victory over Garland. He was the starting point guard on consecutive district championship teams as a junior and senior.

Watson was selected to an All-American basketball team by sportswriters and radio broadcasters and was named to the Class 3A All-State team and All-District squad in 1958. He led the team and the district in scoring his senior season and totaled 721 points in his career.

He was awarded a basketball scholarship to Paris Junior College, then he joined the military as a paratrooper on the buddy system with two of his friends. He continued to play and coach ball while in the military.

In Hawaii during his tour of duty, he met and married Carolyn Howard, and they have three children and three grandchildren. During this time, Watson obtained his degree from East Texas State College. The couple divorced in 1989.

In 1992, Watson married Sulphur Springs native Mary Frances France Romack and in 2002 they moved back to Sulphur Springs, where they run an ATM business out of their home.

Lawrence “Shorty” France, Class of 1926

France, who died in 1979 at the age of 69, will be inducted posthumously with his son-in-law, Fred Watson. He played baseball and football for SSHS and continued his athletic career in college and beyond.

France enrolled at SMU in 1927 and played on the Mustangs’ freshmen football and baseball teams, but became discouraged when he did not receive a scholarship because of his size (5-5, 145 pounds). He did get a scholarship, though, from Burleson College in Greenville for 1928-29, where he played quarterback and was captain of the team. He also coached the 1928 freshmen team and played shortstop on the baseball squad.

France transferred to Texas Tech in 1930 on a football scholarship, and played for two years at halfback and punter for coach Pete Cawthon, who was quoted as saying, “Let the big schools have their big men. I’ll take the smaller ones who have a big desire to win.”

France returned to Sulphur Springs in 1932 and married his high school sweetheart, Connie Shrode, ending his football career but starting his baseball career.

He played for the Palestine Pals in the West Dixie League, the Barbers Hill Gushers in the semi-pro Gulf League and the Mount Pleasant Cubs, who lost the final game in the 1939 Semi-Pro Congress Tournament in Wichita, Ks. He was one of two men on the team to be placed on the U.S. Semi-Pro All-Star Nine.

His final team was the Texarkana Twins of the Cotton States League, which he left in 1940 to get back to his cotton gin business in Sulphur Springs. Back home, he coached many years in the youth baseball leagues and played for the Ramblers.

France has two daughters, Patsy Jo and Mary Frances.

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