E.A. Sports Today


Battles’ induction to Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame validates an era of Wellborn High School football, old-school approach

Cover photo: New Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mike Battles (center) poses with (from left) Judd Smith, Jeff Smith, David ‘Wormy’ Haynes and Chucky Miller during Saturday’s induction activities at the Oxford Civic Center. (Photo by Joe Medley)

OXFORD — There’s never been a high school football coach and community more perfectly matched than Mike Battles and Wellborn.

It doesn’t really have to be said. It couldn’t have been more clear as Wellborn faces turned out to celebrate Battles’ induction with the 18th Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame class on Saturday.

Joe Medley, editor

Battles joined the Class of ’23, which also featured the following:

—June Evans, former Wellborn High softball, track and volleyball coach.

—Chris Garmon, former White Plains High athlete, Jacksonville State baseball player and high school football coach.

—Jason Jack, former Oxford and Alabama quarterback.

—Terry McCord, former Anniston High and Troy University basketball player.

—Barney Wilson, former Oxford baseball and football player and JSU baseball player.

Every community represented turned out for its inductees, enough to fill the tables that covered the Oxford Civic Center gymnasium floor. Jack’s fans included Larry and Connie Davidson, the long-time Oxford athletics director and his wife.

McCord’s crew included his Anniston coach, Brenard Howard, and recent former Anniston basketball standout Miajah Bullock. There in spirit was McCord’s mother, the one of his many thank-yous that stopped his voice long enough to gather his emotions.

Hours before Father’s Day, McCord told the story of the late single parent who raised him, worked “several jobs” to keep him in sports and took taxi cabs to see his games.

“Without her, I wouldn’t be standing here,” he said. “That’s for certain.”

As much as induction itself speaks to the impact inductees leave on the trails of their accomplishments, who turns out to celebrate their inductions speaks volumes.

So, consider the picture of Battles, standing with Chucky Miller, David “Wormy” Haynes, Jeff Smith and his son, Judd.

Miller coached at Wellborn before earning a basketball court with his name on it at Talladega.

Current Wellborn head coach Jeff Smith stands ready to enter his 15th season on the job. He played for Battles, and son Judd played for his dad and coaches on his dad’s Wellborn staff.

Haynes played for Wellborn when John F. Kennedy was president and Ed Deupree was coach. He evolved into Wellborn’s long-time stats keeper and has seen every Wellborn game since 1962.

Posing in later pictures with his dad was Mike Battles Jr., who played for his dad at Wellborn and won Alabama Class 5A player of the year as a senior, in 1989.

They were there, and they described a man who doubled as quintessential Wellborn.

Evans, who started girls’ sports at Wellborn, brought her own fan base, and it crossed over with Battles’ fan base. She told why with unsolicited praise for Battles, who coached with her at Wellborn.

“I want to tell you how much I appreciate, and how much the girls appreciated, how much you appreciated the girls ,” Evans said to Battles during her turn at the podium. “He always asked about our scores. He’d be sure our volleyball nets were up. It was just the little things.”

File that under a community that Haynes calls “family.’

File the rest under old-school toughness from a coach who won state championships and 287 games across three states in 44 years of coaching. He won 97 of those games in 15 years over two stints at Wellborn.

Former Wellborn coach and Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mike Battles poses with current Panthers head coach and former Wellborn player Jeff Smith. (Submitted photo)

“He took it and made it whole, I guess you could say,” Haynes said. “He set it on a plane and worked hard doing it. After that, we started winning, and that’s the name of the game.

“He just did a whole lot out there, and usually with very few kids, but he got everything he could get out of kids. Folks out there have always been tough people. He was like that, and Jeff took right after him with just good, tough, physical football. Good old football, back in the good old days.”

The elder Smith considers himself “totally indebted” to Battles for life lessons.

“He taught me to be a man,” he said. “Not just as a football player and a coach, but how to be a family man. Just very proud to be around him.”

Battles coached his final state champion at Handley, in 2011. He retired in 2018, after spending his final three seasons at B.B. Comer. Retired five years, he jokingly describes his life as “making bogeys and shooting deer.”

He said he misses football. Little secret, but he might’ve kept coaching, if not for the daily drive between Roanoke and Sylacauga.

He reminisces about the thousands of kids he coached, for whom football ended at age 18. Many of them wore Wellborn black and white.

“I love football, and I got to be on scholarship for nearly half a century,” he said. “It was hard for me to retire, because if you love something like you love football, I didn’t never work no way. I thought, ‘This was great!'”

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