More than 30 years after he played his final game for Wake Forest, Griffin remains in the Top 10 in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and blocked shots.
Not highly recruited as a high school athlete in his small hometown of Fairmont, N.C., Griffin caught the attention of the Wake Forest coaches almost by accident - when he showed up one year at coach Carl Tacy's summer basketball camp. Griffin would go on to be a four-year starter for Wake Forest and a three-time All-ACC selection.
The Deacons' good fortune became apparent immediately when Griffin averaged 13.9 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game as a freshman in 1975. He increased his scoring output every year thereafter on his way to becoming the fifth-leading scorer, as well as the fourth-leading rebounder, in school history at the time of his graduation.
As a junior in 1977, Griffin was named the ACC Player of the Year and an All-American while leading the Deacons to the NCAA Midwest Regional final. In 1978, Griffin became only the second Wake Forest player to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding in the same season. He was a first team All-America following his senior season on teams chosen by the U.S. Basketball Writers and The Sporting News.
Griffin led the Deacs in rebounding all four of his years at WFU. He was the team's top scorer three seasons.
One sportswriter of that era said "Perhaps the greatest compliment to be paid the big fellow (i.e. Rod Griffin) is that he has not been changed by it all."
Griffin finished his college career with 1,985 points, an 18.6 average. He also grabbed 947 rebounds, an 8.6 clip. He also blocked 113 shots during his career. Griffin's No. 32 jersey was retired following his senior season.
Following his college career, Griffin was selected in the first round (17th player overall) of the 1978 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. His professional career spanned 15 seasons from 1978-93 in Italy, primarily with Basket Forli. He later became the club's head coach.
Griffin was born June 18, 1956. He was a charter member of the Robeson County Hall of Fame in 2009.
Wake Forest may never again see a hitter like Bill Merrifield. An individual must be judged in comparison with his contemporaries, and in that respect, the All-America shortstop has no equal.
Merrifield came to Winston-Salem after a standout career as a high school player in Rocky Mount, N.C., where he led his team to a state title in 1980. He quickly established himself as a starter on the collegiate level as well, batting .344 and driving in 53 runs as only a freshman. Those numbers were only the beginning.
The next season, still just a sophomore, he set an ACC record with 20 home runs while ripping opposing pitchers for a .389 average and knocking in 61 runs. He was named All-American and ACC player of the Year.
Similar national and conference honors came his junior year as well when he became the first repeat winner of the league's Player of the Year award. There really was no doubt. He hit safely nearly half the time (.476 average) and led not just the ACC but the entire country in both homers (17) and RBI (64). He won the ACC "triple crown" and went on to be named Wake Forest's Athlete of the Year.
Guaranteed to be one of the top professional draft selections in the country, Merrifield elected to leave Wake Forest after his junior season in order to pursue his dream of playing baseball at the highest level. He was a second-round draftee of the California Angels in 1983, and in six professional seasons, he amassed 94 homers and 413 RBI. He played three seasons in Class AAA.
He finished with a career batting average of .400 at Wake and despite playing just three seasons (and far fewer games each season than current college baseball schedules), Merrifield still ranks among the school's all-time list in batting average, home runs and RBI.
Following his professional career, he returned to complete his degree at Wake Forest. His athletic career as a Deacon could be termed complete as well with his most-deserved induction into the WFU Hall of Fame on January 24, 1997.
Merrifield was one of seven Wake Forest players selected to the ACC's 50th Anniversary team which was announced in 2002.
Some of the greatest times for Wake Forest football came during the 1940s when famed coach Peahead Walker's valiant band of Deacons earned respect of every opponent Saturday after Saturday, winning more than their share, and establishing themselves as being one of the toughest teams in the South.
Central to the accomplishments of those Deacon squads was the effectiveness of Walker's single-wing offense. The system was unusual in addition to being productive, in that the quarterback in the single wing backfield was actually, in most instances, a blocker.
The quarterback for Wake Forest and Walker on three winning teams (17-10-1 overall record) in 1945, 1946 and 1947 was Nick Ognovich, one of the finest ever to play that position. How good was Ognovich? In all three of his years on the Deacon varsity, he was named recipient of the prestigious Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the most outstanding blocker (lineman or back) in the Southern Conference.
In its history, Wake Forest has had four individuals win the Jacobs trophy one time each. Ognovich won it three times in three seasons.
The native of Uniontown, Pa., also was an all-conference selection in 1946 and 1947. He obviously was an important figure as well in Wake Forest's memorable 1945 season, which concluded with a victory in the Gator Bowl.
Following a brief professional playing career, Ognovich became a community leader in the Charlotte area, remaining active in football as a Southern Conference official and with the popular Shrine Bowl high school all-star game. He passed away at his home in Charlotte in 1991.
Nick Ognovich was inducted into the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame on January 24, 1997.
Too short, too small. That was why college football recruiters never knocked down the door of his Philadelphia home during high school. And Wake Forest was the beneficiary. He played immediately as a true freshman in 1976 and eventually became one of the central figures in the Demon Deacon's magical 1979 season that saw them climb into the national rankings and earn the school's first bowl trip in more than 40 years.
Those same qualities - or lack of size in the minds of others - remained after Parker completed his outstanding career at WFU. But he was given the opportunity to play professionally in Canada and responded in the same competitive style that had earned him so much respect as a Deacon.
With the Edmonton Eskimos and then the British Columbia Lions, Parker achieved three Canandian Football League "Defensive Player of the Year" awards. His unique skills as a pass-rusher even earned a special name for the combination linebacker/defensive end position that he played - the "Parker Position" it was called in CFL circles.
While some may have been surprised by his success on the professional level, one of America's most well-known college coaches was not. Vince Dooley, the famous coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, said of Parker's performance in Wake's 1979 victory at Georgia, "it was the finest individual performance by a defensive player ever," against his team.
Wake Forest prides itself in producing student-athletes of great character, those who accomplish above the standards set for them by others. James Parker certainly fits that mold and his place in the WFU Hall of Fame is therefore richly deserve.
James Parker was induced into the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame on January 24, 1997.
Thompson came to Wake Forest in 1966 and helped the school add to its impressive collection of Atlantic Coast Conference championships by playing on league-winners in 1967, 1968 and 1969. The Deacs finished among the top five teams in America in each of those years as well.
Individually, Thompson earned his time in the spotlight as well with two individual championships, as well as runner-up honors in the 1967 ACC Championship.
The native of Laurinburg, N.C., went on to make his mark on the professional circuit following his Wake Forest career. His first PGA Tour victory came in 1974 at the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic. For his effort that weekend, he was presented the winner's prize of $52,000 (Remarkably, the second-highest champion's purse on the Tour that year). Thompson immediately donated $10,000 of his first tournament victory to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the charitable beneficiary of that event.
He captured another Tour title in 1977 at Pensacola continued to play well into the early 1980s before reaching a somewhat frustrating point of his career. But he preserved through some trying times, and in 1989 - 12 years after his previous PGA Tour win - he was back in the winner's circle at the 1989 Buick Open.
Thompson also enjoyed a successful stint on the Champions Tour, collecting three victories and 44 top-ten finishes in his career.
Leonard Thompson was inducted into the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame on January 24, 1997.
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