Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The three former student-athletes in the Greenfield School Athletic Hall of Fame’s first induction class share a common trait that takes precedence over their obvious athletic greatness — modesty.
Spaced over 20 years, Badie T. Clark III (Class of 1983), Catherine Thomas Andrews (1996) and Anthony Atkinson Jr. (2003) all were humble in their remarks at the induction ceremony, a characteristic that was in place during their teenage years as well.
Andrews, who may very well be the greatest all-around athlete Wilson has ever produced, was a force of nature while playing for the Damsels (now the Lady Knights). She was a four-time North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A all-state selection and earned that distinction three times in soccer. Only a broken leg as a sophomore kept her from doing it four times. She also was part of a state championship tennis team and had her basketball and soccer jerseys retired at Greenfield.
Andrews once outscored the Greenfield varsity boys basketball team by pouring in 38 points in a Damsels’ win while the Knights could only muster 37 in a loss.
That’s the stuff of legend.
As a senior, Andrews was one of 28 players to be invited to play in the inaugural PUMA Cup national all-star game in St. Louis. She was a member of the Capital Area Soccer League ’77 Spartans that won the U.S. Youth Soccer Association U18 girls national championship in 1995 and the only one who didn’t go on to play collegiately despite fielding offers from many NCAA Division I programs for basketball and soccer.
Just like her father — the late Vincent Thomas, who was an all-state quarterback at Coon High in Wilson — Andrews left her athletic career behind. Instead, she went to the University of North Carolina, where she had to turn down famed Tar Heels women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance’s request that she play for him.
“I played so many different sports,” she explained. “I went straight from basketball to soccer to tennis and then I played select soccer on weekends and summers. I just felt like it was a lot and my dad always stressed education over sports. His dad wouldn’t let him play in college. … So that kind of got in my head because my dad was always education first. So in college that’s what I went to school for.”
Also like her father, Andrews also has preferred to not make a big deal out of her own athletic excellence — with a little help from her older brother, Charles, who introduced her Saturday in classic big-brother style with two parts admiration and one part good-natured jabs.
“I think just growing up because my dad was a great athlete and he never talked about what he did, so we found out from other people how great he was,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow! That’s really cool that he doesn’t share that.’ But also I think growing up with an older brother who kind of kept me in my place, I knew that if I bragged what the consequences would be!”
She thanked her uncles, Allen and Albert, for being there Saturday, as they often were during her high school games.
More than anything, Andrews was remembered as being a great teammate by her former coach and fellow inductee Ben Forbes. When she had her jerseys retired late during her senior year at Greenfield, she said in an interview with the Times, “I just thanked by coaches and teammates, because I couldn’t have done anything without them.”
Two of her former teammates and good friends, Lauren Forbes Goode and Eleanor Jenkins Haney, were on hand at the induction ceremony.
Clark also understand the value of teammates at a young age. The first Greenfield athlete to have his jersey retired, Clark was one of 33 players nationwide named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s McDonald’s All-American team, an honor for which Clark was thankful at the time but would have rather helped the Knights win a state title. Reflecting on that achievement 36 years later, Clark said Saturday night, “ To me, it was just being part of a team. I really was humbled by it because I thought the guy next to me deserved it just as much as I did.”
Now a pediatrician like his grandfather and namesake, Clark was modest about his accomplishments, which include being named to Campbell University’s all-decade team for the 1980s. He noted that because he and most of his friends at Greenfield all played multiple sports together.
“And we spent so much time together, they were your brothers,” he said. “We just did stuff together and I say this most sincerely, any award I’ve won, I won it for us — my teammates and myself. I really never thought I was anything special.”
Interestingly, Vincent Thomas and Clark’s father, Badie T. Clark Jr., were football teammates at Coon in the 1950s.
Atkinson, of course, is perhaps Wilson’s most famous athlete. Not so much for the first two boys basketball state championships to which he led Greenfield in 2001 and 2002 but for the miracle comeback he engineered to propel Barton College to the 2007 NCAA Division II national championship in 2007 and his 12 years as one of the leaders of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Atkinson had already made a name for himself at Beddingfield before he transferred to Greenfield in 10th grade but his legend started when he donned the Knights’ kelly green-and-white. Greenfield won state championships his first two years and lost in the finals in 2003.
Atkinson recollected that the first two people to hug him after Greenfield “upset” Raleigh Word of God in the 2001 championship game were senior teammates Justin Godwin and Joe Warenda. Speaking of not only all his former Greenfield teammates but those at Campbell (where he played two seasons), Barton and even the Globetrotters, Atkinson said with assurance at the lectern Saturday evening: “Without my teammates, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Athletic greatness comes from natural ability and a willingness to work hard to hone it, but the ability to remain humble and recognize that nobody ever makes it to the top alone is the mark of true greatness.
As Atkinson reminded, “You can’t be selfish and happy.”