October 8, 2019–7:30 a.m.
The five newest members of the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame were announced during an early-afternoon press conference at Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority on Monday. Randy Davis, a member of the Hall of Fame, served as the master of ceremonies, kicking everything off by praising the five newest members. WRGA’s Tony McIntosh from the First News show was also in attendance for this event.
“These five individuals exemplify the attributes needed to be elected into the Rome Floyd Sports of Hall of Fame,” Davis said. “They are all great athletes, but what is just as important is that they are all great people as well.”
The five people, who will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday, Feb. 10 at the Forum, are Charles Smith, Toryan Smith, Charles Culberson, Charlie Culberson, and Jaleel Riaz.
Jaleel is well known throughout Rome, the state and the Southeast for tennis. Jaleel was an All-America tennis player at Shorter College. Over the years, Jaleel has served as assistant or head tennis coach at Berry College, West Georgia College, and Shorter. In the early 1980s, he also served as captain and head coach of the Pakistani Davis Cup Team.
Along with that, Jaleel has been an avid tennis instructor for all age levels in the Rome and Floyd County area, having given instruction to thousands of players over the last four decades.
“I tell kids not to worry about becoming a pro but to focus on getting an education. Then if you’re good enough give it a try,” Riaz said. “I played professional tennis and it’s fun, but it’s tough. The competition is very strong.”
Davis pointed out before introducing the next four inductees that the quartet offers something unique for the Hall of Fame. For the first time in its history, two father-son combinations will be inducted into the hall at the same time.
“We have fathers and sons that are in the hall,” Davis said. “But this is the first time we’re inducting fathers and sons at the same time.”
Charles played football and baseball for East Rome High School in the late 1970s playing a key part as the Gladiators won state football titles in 1977 and 1978. Upon graduation, he went to the University of Georgia and played on three SEC Championship winning teams while at Athens, including the 1980 national championship team.
Charles returned home to Rome after graduation and has been a fixture in the community and on the sidelines since. He’s helped coach Rome Middle School football teams for several years leading many of those teams to the playoffs and championship games. He and his family are very involved in the community as well.
“This is so special to grow up here and compete in athletics here. And to have your peers think of you in this light is pretty special,” Smith said. “You set goals in life but you never think of anything like this. It’s overwhelming for me right now.”
(Photo by First New’s Tony McIntosh)
Smith starred for Rome High in football and basketball, earning a slew of accolades, including being named the Region 7-AAA defensive player of the year, the Rome News-Tribune Player of the Year and earning All-America honors from USA Today. Toryan had too many offers from Division I schools to list before he chose to play at Notre Dame. During his time playing for the Fighting Irish, Toryan played in more than 40 games, lettered all four years and managed to graduate in less than four years with a double major in sociology and computers.
“My dad and I had always talked about wanting to build a special legacy in Rome and to have something that we can always remember and be proud of,” Smith said. “It’s just great that I now get that opportunity and get to enjoy this with my dad and this great group of athletes. Words just can’t describe this feeling.”
After earning a uniform from Jacksonville State University with a tryout, Charles Culberson proved the uniform was well worth it compiling astonishing statistics during his time on campus ending with an All-America selection. After college, he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played five years in their organization, reaching AA with the Memphis Chicks.
After his playing career ended, he spent time as a minor league hitting instructor for the Chicago White Sox before returning to Rome and opening a baseball training facility for local youth now known as Charlie Culberson Baseball.
(Photo by First New’s Tony McIntosh)
Charlie proved baseball was his sport from a young age, playing on several championship-winning travel teams before starring at Calhoun High School, where he played major roles on the 2005 state champion team and the 2007 state runner-up team. The San Francisco Giants drafted him that summer. Since then, Charlie has played for the Giants, the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a member of the Atlanta Braves.
The Culbersons were not able to be in attendance on Monday but plan to be at the banquet in February.
The Willard Nixon Hall of Fame Golf Tournament is also approaching on Friday, Oct. 25 at Stonebridge. All proceeds from the tournament go to help fund scholarships for athletes from local high schools. Schools will be selecting those athletes over the next couple of months and they will be honored at the banquet.
Nominations for the Rome Floyd Sports Hall of Fame are open and individuals wanting to nominate athletes can find the information at www.rfpra.com