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Longtime Madison Academy basketball head coach Andy Blackston is among those selected for the 2024 class of the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame. Photo- Bob Labbe

Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall Of Fame- Class Of 2024

HUNTSVILLE- A pair of high school teammates whose parallel paths led them to the University of Alabama and then to the National Football League are among the 12 athletes, coaches and officials who comprise the Class of 2024 of the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame banquet, presented by TOC, will be Monday, April 15, 2024 at the Von Braun Center. The class of 2024 was selected by a vote of the Hall of Fame board of directors based on nominations from the public.

The members of the Class of 2024 are: Ron Alexander (softball officiating), Andy Blackston (basketball coach), Greg Brown (basketball coach), Kenneth Darby (football), Annette Fletcher (basketball), Ruthie Hambrick (softball), Kathy Hauff (tennis), Ramzee Robinson (football), Jay Scherer (basketball), Angie Stafford (volleyball), Clifford Toney (football) and Brawnski Towns (football coach).

The Special Achievement Award will be presented to Bobby Pierce, a former University of Alabama player who started the University of Alabama in Huntsville baseball program and later led Troy to four NCAA tournaments. Pierce was 276-108 at UAH and had 450 wins at Troy.

For the 49-year old Blackston, who coached the boys program at Madison Academy for 2006 to 2022, the placement among the most elite in Madison County is indeed a great honor. He said, “When you have the support of the administration at a place like Madison Academy, when you get to work with highly talented student-athletes and when you have loyal and hard-working assistant coaches, you get to be a part of a lot of excellence. I guess you could say that I am blessed to be getting the opportunity to ride that wave.”

While with the Mustangs Blackston won five State Championships (2007, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2016), three runner-up spots in the state title game (2009, 2010, 2018) along with 11 Final Four appearances. In both 2008 and 2014 he was named the Class 3A Alabama Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year and was also named the 2008 Alabama’s National Federation of High Schools Coach of the Year. In addition to his coaching and teaching duties at the private school, Blackston was also the Athletic Director from 2006-2016.

At the conclusion of the 2022 season, Blackston took the position as head coach at Brentwood Academy located just outside Nashville where he is currently in his second season with the private school and has already established his continued winning ways as his team won the Private School Division II State Championship last season.

Prior to coaching at Madison Academy Blackston’s influence in Madison County was felt while coaching at UAH. In 1999-2001 he was assistant coach on the men’s team and from 2001-2003 was the women’s team head coach. He then took the job as head coach of the women’s program at Austin Peay State University located in Clarksville, Tenn. where he remained until returning back to Madison County with his position at Madison Academy.

“It is such an honor for me and my family to be recognized by the sports community in Madison County, added Blackston, a graduate of both Lipscomb University and Austin Peay, earning a master’s in Health and Human Performance, along with a masters of Theological Studies at Lipscomb University. He and his wife, Stacy, have two sons, Drew and Reese.

Here are the remainder of the class of 2024 inductees:

Ron Alexander has a softball ump in the SEC for 24 years and is one of the most respected umpires in college softball. He worked the NCAA Division I championship from 1997-2021 and twice umpired in the College World Series.

Greg Brown, aside from coaching his son Kobe into the NBA where he is a rookie with the L.A. Clippers, has superbly coached Lee High School for more than 20 years. He has led Lee to three ASHAA state championships, reached the Final Four seven times and won 13 area titles.

Kenneth Darby, who enters the Hall of Fame alongside former Butler High and Alabama teammate Ramzee Robinson, rushed for 4,674 yards at Butler and became a starter at Alabama as a soph. He was All-SEC first-team as a junior and twice second-team All-SEC. He was drafted in the seventh round by Tampa Bay in 2007, but later became as starter at St. Louis.

Annette Fletcher was an All-City basketball player at Johnson High in 1980-81 and played on a state runner-up team. She played collegiate at UAH, leading the team in 3-pointers during her career and she still owns seven Charger records.

Ruthie Hambrick, a graduate of Buckhorn, was the first African-American cheerleader at that school in the days when interscholastic opportunities for female athletes were rare. After graduation from Alabama A&M, she became a slowpitch softball standout, with more than 40 years on the diamond. She also became an official, umpiring softball and referring basketball.

 Kathy Hauff graduated from Huntsville High, then attended the University of Alabama, where she tried out for the Tide’s first women’s basketball team. Tennis, however, was her sport and she played as No. 2 and No. 3 for the Tide before transferring to UMass and becoming the No. 1 player there. She was ranked No. 1 in doubles in the USTA Southern District.

Ramzee Robinson, who was Kenneth Darby’s teammate at Butler, was a defensive back for Alabama, starting in 36 games. He was chosen by Detroit with the last pick of the 2007 NFL draft, earning the “Mr. Irrelevant” title. He played briefly with the Lions, and is now owner of a Super Bowl ring as the Director of Player Engagement for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jay Scherer was a high school All-American at Grissom and the 1988 Player of the Year in Huntsville, while also making All-City in baseball. He played collegiately at Northwestern State in Louisiana, where he was league Newcomer of the Year and named second-team all-conference. He was fifth in the league in scoring and once hit 29 consecutive free throws.

 Angie Stafford was a standout in both track and volleyball at Hazel Green High. She played on two state championship volleyball teams, winning All-County and All-Area honors and being named MVP in the state tourney. In track, she won more than six state titles, including three in the pentathlon. She attended Montevallo on a volleyball scholarship.

Clifford Toney was a running back at Butler High in the 1970s and was selected for the AHSAA All-Star Game. He also ran track for three seasons, competing in the 100, 220 and triple jump. He signed with Auburn, and led the Tigers in interceptions in 1980. He then played five seasons in the Canadian Football League, with 12 interceptions in five seasons.

Brawnski Towns was a defensive back at Alabama A&M, where he set a school record for interceptions, but it was after graduation he made his greatest impact at AAMU. He coached 34 years at his alma mater, as defensive backs coach and as defensive coordinator, with his teams having dominating performances in the SWAC.

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