Athletics welcomes six to Hall of Fame


Fort Hays State Athletics will welcome six new members into the Tiger Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 30, 2021. The class going in to the Hall of Fame this fall was scheduled to be inducted in 2020, but the annual ceremony was pushed to this year due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The inductees going into the Hall of Fame this year include David McLeland (Track & Field, 1968-71), JR Hartig (Football, 1977-80), Richard Lowe (Football, 1982-83), Edgar Eason (Men’s Basketball, 1983-85), Trevell Smittick (Wrestling, 1996-2000), and Jesus Villarreal (Baseball, 1999-2000).

The induction ceremony will take place the morning of Saturday, October 30 inside the Memorial Union on the campus of Fort Hays State University. Registration for the invitation only event begins at 8:30 am and the ceremony begins at 9:30 am. The new Hall of Fame class will then be recognized publicly at halftime of the Fort Hays State vs. Emporia State football game, which begins at 1 pm.

David McLeland – Track and Field/Cross Country (1968-71)
David McLeland, native of Great Bend, Kansas, was the 3000-meter steeplechase national champion in 1971, running a time of 9:26.6. McLeland was the second of three consecutive national champions in the event for FHSU. Larbi Oukada was the national champion in the event in 1970 and Jim Birnbaum won the event in 1972 (both are in the Tiger Sports Hall of Fame as well). McLeland was also the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion in 1971 and the runner-up in the event as a freshman and sophomore in 1968 and 1969. He helped the 1970 cross country team to a national runner-up finish and was a member of the 1969 national championship team, contributing to the team scoring in multiple events though he did not run at the national meet. He contributed to a fifth-place finish for the team at the 1967 cross country championships. He was the runner-up at the NAIA District 10 meet for cross country in the fall of 1971. McLeland went on to serve 27 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and was deployed to Iraq in 1990-91. As a high school coach, he has been recognized as the Kansas Class 4A and 2A Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year.

JR Hartig – Football (1977-80)
JR Hartig, native of Ellinwood, Kan., was one of the top linebackers in school history, earning NAIA All-America Honorable Mention honors in 1979 as a junior. Hartig set the school record for tackles in a season with 150 in 1979, which stood for 32 years until 2011 when Alex Whitehill recorded 164. Hartig also recorded 125 tackles as a senior in 1980. Hartig finished his four-year career from 1977-80 with 379 tackles. He was a three-time all-conference performer and a two-time all-district performer. He signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins following his senior season.

Richard Lowe – Football (1982-83)
Richard Lowe, native of Lubbock, Texas, played football at Fort Hays State from 1982-83 after transferring from New Mexico Military Institute. Lowe was an All-America Honorable Mention selection as an offensive lineman in 1983 and a two-time All-District 10 and All-CSIC First Team selection. The Tigers had a record of 14-6-1 overall in his two seasons on the field, while he helped protect All-America quarterback Robert Long in 1983 who threw for a then school-record 2,600 yards. He helped the Tigers go 8-3 overall in 1983, which tied the program’s single-season record for wins at the time. Lowe helped the Tigers set single-season school records in pass completions (190) and passing yards per game (247.5).

Edgar Eason – Men’s Basketball (1983-85)
Edgar Eason, native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, played basketball at Fort Hays State from 1983-1985. Eason was a first-team All-America selection as a senior in 1984-85 and a two-time All-CSIC selection, helping the Tigers to back-to-back NAIA National Championships. Transferring to FHSU for the second semester of the 1983-84 season from Southern Mississippi, Eason provided an instant impact as the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He helped the team finish 35-2 overall, winning the national semifinal and final games in overtime by just two points over Chicago State and Wisconsin-Stevens Point. As a senior in 1984-85, Eason averaged 19.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game to help the Tigers go 35-3 overall, earning not only All-America First Team honors, but also the MVP of the NAIA Championship. Eason scored a career-high 32 points in his final game as a Tiger, helping the team win another overtime thriller by two points over Wayland Baptist for their second-straight NAIA title. Eason set FHSU single-season records for total points (745), field goals made (322), and field goals attempted (601) during his senior year. Even in just three semesters played at FHSU, Eason scored 1,134 points, one of 22 1,000-point scorers in the program’s storied history.

Trevell Smittick – Wrestling/Football (1996-2000)
Smittick, a native of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, was a standout two-sport athlete at Fort Hays State, competing in wrestling and football. Smittick was a two-time All-American at 197 pounds in wrestling finishing 6th in 1999 as a junior, then was the national runner-up in 2000 as a senior. To reach the national championship match in 2000, Smittick recorded three straight decisions, winning the quarterfinal match by sudden victory in overtime and then the semifinal match by one point. He helped the team to a 9th place finish at the NCAA Championships with his performance. Over four years with the program, Smittick won 70 matches, recording at least 16 victories each season after playing football each fall. He was a tremendous player on the defensive line for the Tigers in football, setting the single-season school record for sacks in 1998 with 12, while also producing 50 tackles (including 18 for loss). He earned All-West Region honors that year. As a senior in 1999, Smittick finished with 52 tackles (18 for loss for a second straight season) along with 8.5 sacks. He set the career record for sacks at FHSU with 21.5, only matched by All-America defensive end Sie Doe 17 years later in 2016. Doe broke Smittick’s single-season record in 2016. Smittick finished his four-year career with 115 tackles and 37 tackles for loss (ranks 3rd in career tackles for loss at FHSU).

Jesus Villarreal – Baseball (1999-2000)
A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Villarreal was an All-America Third Team selection in 2000 as a senior at second base, while also garnering RMAC Player of the Year honors. He was a two-time All-RMAC selection and was an All-West Region selection his senior year after transferring from Cochise College. He helped the Tigers to their best season in program history, finishing national runner-up in 2000 with a record of 54-12. He was also named to the All-World Series Team that year, hitting .438 at the national championship site. An outstanding defensive player with a career fielding percentage of .987 (just 6 errors in 451 chances over two years), Villarreal had a great senior year at the plate finishing with a .393 batting average, 32 extra-base hits (24 doubles, 6 triples, 2 home runs), 71 runs scored, 44 runs batted in, and 13 stolen bases. He had 94 hits in 2000, which ranked second most for a season in program history at the time. In his two-year career at FHSU, Villarreal batted .376 with 41 extra-base hits (30 doubles, 8 triples, 3 home runs), 97 runs, and 73 RBI.

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