The state of Alabama has a history of producing athletes that put it on par with any state in the Union. With 10 baseball Hall-of-Famer’s, 7 baseball Hall-of-Famer’s, 3 basketball Hall-of-Famer’s, 3 boxing world heavyweight champions, and a litany of other decorated athletes, our great state is a factory of greatness. Throughout the next few weeks, I thought it’d be fun to take a deep dive into the best athletes from each county, from Autauga to Winston, one through sixty-seven.
Because we love all of our counties, we’ll go through them individually. Today, we kick things off with Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, and Cherokee counties.
County Seat - Union Springs
Best Athlete - Jimmy Hitchcock (Union Springs HS)
“The Phantom of Union Springs”
That was Jimmy Hitchcock’s, the namesake of Auburn’s baseball field, nickname.
Hitchcock might rival Bo Jackson for Auburn’s most successful two-sport athlete. The halfback was a 1932 football All-American (Auburn’s first) and 1954 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, while also garnering some All-American buzz as a shortstop in his time at Auburn (eh... API).
After spending a few years in the minor leagues and a brief cup of coffee with the Boston Bees (now the Braves), Hitchcock returned to Auburn as head baseball coach and assistant football coach in 1941 and 1942. After serving in the US Navy in the second World War, he came back to Auburn to serve on the Board of Trustees, and helped bring in Shug Jordan as football coach.
Not a bad career, if you ask me.
Honorable Mention - N/A
County Seat - Greenville
Best Athlete - Marlon Davidson (Greenville HS)
Marlon Davidson came to Auburn out of Greenville HS in the 2016 signing class, and he was so polished that he became an immediate starter as a freshman. Davidson was an everyman on the Auburn defensive line, lining up both inside and outside and totaling 174 tackles and 14.5 sacks over his career. He also made a name for himself on special teams, tallying a blocked field goal in three straight games as a junior.
Davidson went on to be a second round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons last month, and he’ll (presumably) begin his NFL career this fall.
County Seat - Anniston
Best Athlete - Eric Davis (Anniston HS)
Eric Davis wasn’t a big name coming out of Anniston High School, but the defensive back made name for himself at DII Jacksonville State in the late 1980’s. He helped lead the Gamecocks to the 1989 DII National Championship, and was selected in the 2nd round of the 1990 NFL Draft.
Davis put together a 13 year NFL career, including being named an All-Pro corner for three straight seasons. If there was ever a case of “clutch” being real in sports, it was Davis. He set an NFL record for most consecutive playoff games with an interception (5), and keyed the 49ers to a Super Bowl title in 1994 with a pick-six and forced fumble against the Cowboys in the NFC Title Game.
For his career, Davis totaled exactly 50 turnovers, with 38 interceptions and another 12 fumble recoveries.
Honorable Mention - John Reaves, Kwon Alexander
County Seat - LaFayette (luh-FETT)
Best Athlete - Joe Louis (LaFayette)
This was one of the easier decisions we had to make.
Quite possibly the best boxer of all time, Joe Louis was born near Lafayette, AL in 1914, and lived there until he was around 12 years old.
Louis had a long professional career, with 69 professional fights across 17 years. His record over that span? 66-3. In Louis’s 33rd career fight, with a 32-1 record, he finally got the chance at the World Heavyweight Title. He knocked out James Braddock in the 8th round, and began what is still today the longest title reign in history of 11 years. Louis never lost a title defense, going 26-0 until he decided to retire and vacate his title at the age of 35.
Louis later decided to box again in 1950 and 1951, compiling an 8-2 record. His final fight, against some nobody named Rocky Marciano, ended with Louis getting knocked out in the 8th.
Louis’s athletic exploits weren’t limited to the ring, though. The boxer became the first African-American to play in a PGA event, breaking the color barrier on Tour in 1952. He only played in one tournament, the San Diego Open under a sponsor exemption, but Louis was active in helping other African-American golfers fight their way onto the Tour over the years.
Louis, who died in 1981, is buried in Arlington Cemetery with full military honors, as he served in the US Army during WWII.
Honorable Mention - Dave Butts, Jennifer Chandler
County Seat - Centre
Best Athlete - Brad Johnson (Cherokee County HS)
After four big names so far, this is one you probably won’t know.
Brad Johnson, of Cherokee County High School, was one of the recruits out of the state of Alabama in 1986. Recruiting wasn’t as much of a national thing at the time, but Johnson was rated by The Birmingham News and The Birmingham Post-Herald as the #2 player in the state.
Johnson came to Auburn, where he was an immediate starter as a freshman. As far as I can tell, he played right tackle his whole career, which included three SEC championships.
Honorable Mention - N/A