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Georgia Athletic Trainers' Association

GATA Hall of Fame

Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor the Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association can bestow.  The GATA invites its members to nominate eligible and deserving candidates for this prestigious distinction. 

Candidates are reviewed based on their contribution to the GATA and the profession of athletic training.  A significant portion of the nominee's athletic training career must have taken place in Georgia, or the nominee should have made a significant contribution to the profession of athletic training in Georgia.  Exemplary contributions to the profession of athletic training--at the local, state, or national level--to include education, speaking, research, scholarly writing, community involvement, or clinical practice can be considered.  The nomination must originate from a GATA member and will be received and reviewed by the Honors and Awards Committee and forwarded for approval to the GATA Executive Committee.  Nominees must have at least 20 years membership in the GATA and/or the profession of athletic training to be considered for this honor.

The GATA is pleased to honor the following members of the Hall of Fame:


Henry "Buck" Andel

An native of Atlanta, Buck Andel played football for and graduated from Boys High.  He went on to graduate with a bachelor's and master's degree from Georgia Tech where he lettered in both baseball and football.  Mr. Andel was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II receiving a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts for his service.  From 1948 until 1969, he was the head athletic trainer of all sports including track, basketball, baseball and wrestling at Georgia Tech during which time he served 14 Bowl teams.  For 18 of those years, he was a key member of the staff of Bobby Dodd, legendary head football coach from 1945 to 1966.  He also worked as an athletic trainer for the 1960 Olympic Games.  He was one of the NATA founders and served on the original board of directors in 1950.  He also served as District IX Secretary from 1951 to 1953.  He was honored with induction into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame in 1968 and received a citation from the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Buck Andel passed away February 13, 2005 at age 83.(1) (Webber, 2014)

Warren Morris

Warren Morris learned athletic training from two of the profession’s most notable athletic trainers - A.D. Dickinson of Northern Iowa University and Alfred “Duke” Wyre at the University of Maryland where he received his M.Ed.  From that solid background, Morris first served as an assistant at the University of Maryland, then served as an assistant at the University of North Carolina before he was named Head Athletic Trainer at the University of Georgia in 1965.  He served as District IX Vice–Director from 1967 to 1971 then as District Director from 1971 to 1973.  Morris has also been the NATA’s representative on the NCAA Football Rules Committee and the Secretary and Representative on the Joint Commission for Science and Sports.  He has been, and remains, committed to athletic training efforts in Georgia as well; he was the first athletic trainer to be licensed in Georgia and has held the position of Chair of the Georgia Board of Athletic Trainers, a governor appointed position, for over 25 years.  He was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame in 1981 and received the AOSSM Distinguished Service Award in 1986.  Warren was an inductee in the inaugural Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2004 which also honored him with an annual award in his name, the Warren Morris Sports Medicine Person of the Year Award. (1) Morris passed away in April 2019. 

Dave Pursley

Dave Pursley had a pivotal role in Georgia regarding licensure of athletic trainers.  He retired from the Atlanta Braves organization at the end of the 2002 season after more than 40 years.  Pursley started his career as an athletic training student at Central Evansville (Ind.) High School at age 14.  From there, he worked in the summers with the Braves' farm club, the Evansville Braves, that played just a few blocks from his house.  After graduation from high school, Pursley worked as an athletic trainer at Evansville College and later at Clemson University, while still working summers with the Braves farm teams. He gradually worked his way to the major league team, working with many of the Braves' greats-- Niekro, Aaron, Smoltz, Maddux, and hundreds of others--along the way.  He and his wife, Ruth, were married over 50 years and had two sons, Neil and Gary.  Pursley has also been inducted into the NATA and Atlanta Braves Halls of Fame.  Pursley passed away in 2020.

Jerry Rhea

Jerry Rhea entered the athletic training profession in 1956 while a student at Texas A&M working under NATA Hall of Fame member Smokey Harper before graduating in 1958.  Jerry worked eight years in the Odessa (Texas) Schools, where he was Head Athletic Trainer before serving the Los Angeles Rams as Assistant Athletic Trainer for 2 years.  Jerry was the Head Athletic Trainer for the Atlanta Falcons from 1969 until 1994 and was a frequent convention and clinic speaker.  From 1994 to 2001 he worked as Assistant to the President of the Falcons.  During this time he also served as President of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.  He was elected President of SEATA in 1982 and became District IX Director in 1984.  He was then elected president of the NATA for 1986-88 and served on many NATA committees.  Jerry was named the NATA Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year 1979 and 1982.  He was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Southwest Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 1987.  He received the SEATA Award of Merit in 1988 and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Distinguished Service Athletic Trainer Award in 1991.  In 2001 he received the Tim Kerin Excellence in Athletic Training Award.  Jerry was a 2004 inductee in the inaugural Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame which also honored him with an annual award in his name, the Jerry Rhea Athletic Trainer of the Year Award.  The Atlanta Falcons furthered honored Jerry by endowing an NATA Foundation Scholarship and as well as both an undergraduate and graduate SEATA Scholarship in his name.   Rhea was inducted into the first-ever Pro Football Hall of Fame Award of Excellence class in 2022.


Tom "Doc" Smith

Georgia Southern's first full-time head athletic trainer from 1971 to 1994 built school's sport medicine division from scratch -- beginning with staff of only one student handling seven intercollegiate sports (all men) to a four-man, 13-student department handling 15 sports.  He initiated the departmental physician and orthopaedic surgeon program, recruiting area doctors to serve all of Georgia Southern's student-athletes.  As a well-respected member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, he maintained a thorough knowledge of athletic training dynamics -- a fact recognized when he served as chairman of the United States Baseball Federation's sports medicine committee in 1981.  Smith served as assistant athletics director from 1975 to 1980 before assuming role of interim athletic director during the 1980-81 academic year.  Smith attended Indiana State University and starred on the basketball court.  He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from ISU, then spent 15 years coaching basketball at the high school level in his home state.  Said former Georgia Southern head football coach Erk Russell, "What happened with football at Georgia Southern could not have happened without Doc." (2) Smith passed away in October 2013. 


Jay Shoop

Serving as the Head Athletic Trainer and Director of Sports Medicine for the 17 intercollegiate teams at Georgia Tech from 1987-1999 and again from 2002-2018, Jay Shoop was the first person inducted into the GATA Hall of Fame prior to retirement.  He has over 10 years experience in professional football, serving as Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Atlanta Falcons and later as Head Athletic Trainer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions of the NFL as well as a stint as the Head Athletic Trainer with the Michigan Panthers of the USFL.  Shoop has also had extensive experience working with elite athletes in the 1994 Goodwill Games and the 1996 Olympic Games. He is an avid collector of athletic training and sports memorabilia, and authored the official history of the Southeastern Athletic Trainers' Association (SEATA) in 1988. Shoop retired from Georgia Tech in 2018. 


Lori Mobley Groover

Lori Mobley Groover was actively involved in the athletic training profession since 1992.  She began her career as Chair of the GATA High School Committee, followed by Vice President of the GATA for two years.  She then served as GATA president before being elected SEATA Secretary.  During her time as a GATA officer, Lori helped develop the Annual High School Student Athletic Trainer Meeting, GATA membership growth, and state practice act improvements. 

Lori served on the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for the Georgia High School Association and was an inaugural member of the Gatorade High School Athletic Trainer Board and was an instructor for the Georgia High School Association Coaches’ First Aid Course.

In 2004 Lori worked closely with WAGA Fox 5 television on a story portraying the need for better regulation of licensed athletic trainers in Georgia.  The story led the GATA and State Board of Athletic Trainers to work together to close large loopholes in the practice act, strengthening the profession and protecting the citizens of Georgia.    

Lori worked as an athletic trainer since receiving her undergraduate degree in Sports Medicine from Valdosta State.  She worked as a Staff Athletic Trainer with Candler Sports Medicine and Memorial Sports Medicine and South Effingham High School in Savannah, as the inaugural full time Athletic Trainer at Woodward Academy, as a Physician Extender Fellow at University Orthopaedics in Decatur, Georgia and most recently Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Health Sciences at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA.

Lori passed away on August 6, 2009 after being diagnosed with cancer in June of that year.  In 2009 Nicholls State University named a Student Leadership and Professionalism Award in her honor and in 2010 the Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association named their scholarship program in memory of her and the leadership she provided.  


James 'Radar" Brantley

James “Radar” Brantley of Newnan, GA was inducted to the Hall of Fame on Jan 19, 2013. “Radar”, as he is known to everyone all over the state, has been an athletic trainer in the state of Georgia for 32 years. More astounding than that fact, he has been at the same job as the Athletic Trainer for Newnan High School for that same period of time. Tom Bair nominated Brantley and noted, “Radar’s longevity is a testament to his ability to adapt and keep himself evolving, not only with new concepts in the world of sports medicine, but also to a new generation of students, parents, coaches and administration.”  Stephen Allen, Newnan’s Athletic Director and Assistant Principal says he has always found Radar to be a great family man working with his children tirelessly and still having time to be a good athletic trainer to the rest of “his kids” at school. His oldest son Asher worked for him as a student athletic trainer and his youngest son Mason was on the football team all four years he attended Newnan.  In the 32 years of service, he never missed a single football game and certainly played a major role in the health and well being of all the students at Newnan High School.  


Tom Bair

Tom Bair has been a significant part of the GATA since arriving in the state in the late 80s. Much of his support and work has been behind the scenes, but he has held several offices in the organization including Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President, and President (2001-2002). He has served as the Governmental Affairs contact for the association throughout most of his time in Georgia as well.

Tom has served as a mentor and guide to many in the profession—especially the presidents— whether it be in the field of clinical skills, AT legislation, or long-range organizational planning and vision. His time on the SEATA Executive Board as well as the Georgia Board of Athletic Trainers while also working as a practitioner have given him a unique perspective and involvement in the profession and an exceptional ability to see the field from the proverbial 30,000 foot view as well as an in-the-trenches perspective.

In his capacity as Governmental Affairs Chair, Tom has served as liaison to GeorgiaLink our public affairs firm and has been instrumental in working with them to guide to successfully guide athletic training legislation through the General Assembly on more than one occasion. These efforts have protected and sometimes even created employment opportunities for ATs in our state.

Indicative of the support and admiration of his peers, Tom was named the GATA Jerry Rhea Athletic Trainer of the Year in 2008.  Tom’s devotion to the athletic training profession is unparalleled and he has continuously sought to better the profession as well as to encourage, mentor, and educate those of us in the field and those outside the field to better understand who we are and what we do every day in the lives of the physically active.  

William Lloyd Knott

Lloyd Knott is originally from Yazoo City, Mississippi and graduated from Yazoo City (Miss.) High School in 1970 and went on to Mississippi State University where he earned his Physical Education Degree in 1974 and his M.S. in P.E. in 1975. He also served as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State from 1974-75. Knott is a 40-year member of the National Athletic Trainers' Association {NATA). Lloyd started working for Paul Bass at East Coweta as the Head Athletic Trainer in 1983. He has served on the staff under Vernon Kidd, Danny Cronic, Clint Wade and Steve Pardue.  He served tirelessly and helped stabilize all East Coweta High School athletes for over 35 years. He is well versed in dealing with sports injuries and has helped many student athletes seek ยทfurther medical treatment. He has inspired many young athletes to follow in his footsteps. He was the Head Athletic Trainer there for 31 years before retiring from full-time following the 2013 football season. His wife, Lisa, retired from East Coweta High where she taught Social Studies and Economics for many years at the school. They have two grown children, Christina and William.

Lloyd Knott is nothing short of an asset when it comes to the athletic training profession. His hard work and dedication to the players he works with is to be admired. He is always the first one there and the last to leave. He truly cares for those he works and does an excellent job of sharing his knowledge. To say that you know Lloyd Knott is to say you know a legend in Athletic Training. We are grateful for his service as well as his friendship.

Lloyd has always willing to lend some advice and help whoever with whatever needs to be done. He really cares about his athletes and does not "leave his work at work".  He's called families to check on their student athletes and provides excellent follow up care to all athletes of all sports at ECHS. He also conducts the community coaching classes and provides classes for CPR certification.  

Knott was inducted into the Coweta County Sports Hall of Fame in 2020. 


Ron Courson

Courson is active in research and education in the field of sports medicine, having authored a textbook, "Athletic Training Emergency Care", a number of professional papers and text chapters and presents frequently at regional and national sports medicine meetings. Courson also serves as an adjunct instructor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Georgia, teaching in the nationally accredited athletic training education program.

Prior to joining the staff at UGA, Courson previously served as Director of Rehabilitation at the University of Alabama from 1991-95 and Director of Rehabilitation with Samford University from 1989-91. Courson received his undergraduate degree in education/physical education from Samford University, performed two years of graduate work at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and graduated with honors from the Medical College of Georgia with a degree in physical therapy. He is a national registered advanced emergency medical technician as well as a certified strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Ron received the Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer award in 2005 from the National Athletic Trainers' Association and was inducted into the Southeast Athletic Trainers' Association Hall of Fame in 2011 and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2013. 

Joe O'Toole

In the 1970's he was a catalyst in the formation of the National Basketball Trainers Association, helped write its constitution, served as its chairman, and, in 1983, received the first "NBA Trainer of the Year" award, an award renamed in his honor in 1997. In 1990, he became the first athletic trainer to receive the Society of NBA Physicians' Irwin E. Vinnick Award for contributions to professional basketball.  Serving as athletic trainer at several NBA All-Star Games, O’Toole also received the NATA Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award in 1996. During his 28 years with the Atlanta Hawks, O’Toole never missed a game, including 2296 regular season games, 224 exhibition games, and 128 play-off games.  He was a part of every professional basketball game played in the Omni Coliseum from 1972-1997.  A native of Chemung, N.Y., he played football and ran track at SUNY Cortland. He also served as a student football coach and an athletic trainer. O'Toole earned degrees from the Mayo Clinic School of Physical Therapy and Indiana University. He was an assistant athletic trainer at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Hawks.  In 2018, the athletic training room at Strong Rock Christian School was named in his honor.

Charles R. “Bobby” Tucker

The bulk of Tucker’s career was been spent at Valdosta State University, where he has served many roles in his time there, beginning as a student manager/athletic trainer from 1970-75.

Tucker returned to VSU as a men’s assistant basketball coach in 1978 and served in the role until 1986, when he began a 20-year run as an assistant athletic trainer and professor for the school.  In 1990, “Coach Tucker” as he is known at VSU took on the job of faculty athletic representative for the athletic department before also becoming the department’s compliance director in 2006, all while continuing to teach for the university and serve as an athletic advisor.  Tucker was inducted into the Valdosta State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.

He retired from Valdosta State in 2014, but continues to help out in the athletic department as an advisor. Tucker received the GATA’s Warren Morris Sports Medicine Person of the Year Award in 2007.


Paul Higgs

The Albany, Georgia native earned his bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine from Valdosta State in 1989 and his master’s degree in Health and Physical Education from Georgia Southwestern in 1996.  He was certified as an Athletic Trainer (ATC) in 1989 and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in 2007.  Prior to returning to Valdosta State in 2019 for a teaching position, Paul worked 20 years as the Head Athletic Trainer at Georgia College where he also taught in the accredited athletic training program and co-authored a textbook, Perspectives in Athletic Training.

Paul was named the 2006 Warren Morris Sports Medicine Person of the Year by the GATA. He was named Distinguished Alumnus for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Valdosta State in 2014.

He has served as the SEATA Governmental Affairs Committee and the NATA Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine.   In 2021, he was named chair of the NATA COPA Rehabilitation Clinic Committee. 

He served twice as the GATA President, along with stints as the Secretary and Parliamentarian. He has served as the GATA Governmental Affairs contact for several years. 

The strength of his legislative networking has propelled athletic training forward in the state of Georgia. He continues to tirelessly pursue strengthening of the practice act, making Georgia one of the best states in the country to work as an athletic trainer.

   1Information from the SEATA Hall of Fame website.
2Information from the Georgia Southern University Athletics Hall of Fame website
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