If you spend much time around the Osborne Athletics program, one word you will hear mentioned often is "grit." When you hear it, many mental images may come to mind, but the one Osborne's Athletic Director Ron Boggs wants you to have is "mental toughness."
In fact, "grit" is enshrined in the program's Mission Statement: "To develop gritty humble leaders." It is also implied in their Vision Statement: "To see all our athletes more prepared for life because they participated in our athletic program." At Osborne, winning games and championships is only the short-term goal. Winning in life is the long-term.
As the oldest high school in the District, it seemed appropriate that Osborne should wait until 2024 to launch their Sports Hall of Fame. The school has certainly had its fair share of athletic success stories over the years, but with a mindset where athletics is but a part of the whole, choosing the right inaugural class was an important decision. The group honored on January 20, 2024, as this first class of Hall of Famers exemplifies "grit" perfectly.
The members of the 2024 class are Donnie English, Todd Jones, Mike Nordholz, and the 1960 Men's Basketball team.
Coach Donnie English was at Osborne for 29 years (1973–2002) and coached baseball, basketball, football, and softball. He also coached at Kell High School for nine years (2005–2013). His Cardinal baseball teams won over 500 games, and his softball teams won over 150. He was selected as Region Coach of the Year eight times and MDJ Coach of the Year five times. He has won a total of 716 baseball games over a 40-year coaching career, which is 6th all-time among Georgia coaches. The Osborne Baseball and Softball Complex was named in his honor in 1993, and he was selected as the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2013. He is also a member of the Hall of Fames for Georgia Southwestern University, Georgia Dugout Club, Kell High School, and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.
A dual-sport athlete (baseball and basketball) at Osborne, Todd Jones graduated in 1986. During his senior year as a Cardinal, he was 10-3 on the mound with an ERA of 0.74 and 144 strikeouts. He went on to pitch for Jacksonville State for three years and was drafted in the first round of the 1989 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. His professional career took him all around the country: from Houston to the Detroit Tigers, to the Minnesota Twins, then the Colorado Rockies, the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, and finally back to Detroit, where he finished his career in 2008. He is the Tigers' all-time saves leader with 235 and is 23rd in the league with 319 total. He was selected as the Rolaid's Relief Pitcher of the Year and an American League All-Star in 2000. During his nearly 20-year MLB career, he pitched 1072 innings and struck out 868 batters.
A 1964 graduate of Osborne, Mike Nordholz also became a state champion that year as a member of the Osborne basketball team. He was chosen MVP of the 1964 state tournament and the All-Star Game. He was an All-American in 1964 and All-State in 1963 and 1964. He also received All-State recognition in baseball in 1964 and won fourth in the state high jump in 1963. After high school, Mike took his hoops game to Alabama, where he made the SEC All-Freshman Team in 1965 and the All-South College Team in 1967. He still holds the single-game scoring record for the Crimson Tide with 50 points (long before three-pointers). As the leading scorer, he was named Team MVP for Alabama in 1967 and 1968 and named All-SEC. He was drafted by the Houston Mavericks in 1968. In 2007, he was officially designated as an SEC Legend and is Alabama's second-highest average game scorer with 19.9.
Four seasons before Mike's team won the title, the 1960 Basketball Team won the school's first state championship. The team had an 18-8 record and beat Statesboro in the quarterfinals, 56-53, and Ringgold in the semifinals, 60-55. In the finals, they handed a talented Winder-Barrow team their fourth loss of the season to win the Single-A State Championship trophy with a decisive 42-35 victory. Three members of that historic team from 64 years ago—Bobby Moore, Dean Anderson, and Howard Cook—were able to attend the Induction event, and Mr. Cook spoke briefly on behalf of the team. The other members of the 1960 team are Charles Kennedy, Billy Noggle, Bobby Davis, Frank Nations, Kenneth Dobbins, Larry Leig, Paul Moore, Richard Partain, Roy Noggle, and Jerry Warren.
It was also announced that three numbers would be retired in recognition of a distinguished high school career. Coach English's #17 and Todd Jones' #14 were both retired from the baseball team, as was Jason Jones' #21. Mr. Jones graduated from Osborne in 1995 and played for Kennesaw State, where he was selected an All-American in 1998 and 1999 and won Division II Player of the Year in 1999. He played six years of professional baseball with the Texas Rangers Organization and was a minor league All-Star in the A, AA, and AAA levels. He was called up to the majors in 2003 and had 107 career at-bats for the Rangers. He is a kidney cancer survivor, and despite having difficulty speaking due to speech aphasia, Mr. Jones still addressed the crowd and thanked them for their support and recognition.
AD Boggs was encouraged by the turnout and how the inaugural ceremony went. "It was great to see and hear from our inductees and number of retirees," he said proudly. "The stories and memories these individuals shared were priceless. It was great to have many alumni come back to support Osborne. Our inductees and alumni were able to connect, share stories, and get caught up on life."
Congratulations to Osborne and the very first Hall of Fame class! This is the beginning of a great Cardinal tradition, and we can't wait to see who gets selected for next year's class. Well done, Osborne Athletics, and thanks for showing us what "grit" is all about!