JOLIET – The Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame hadn’t inducted any new members since 2010, but the span between the sixth and seventh classes of honorees was barely noticed Tuesday at Silver Cross Field.
That’s because the newest entrants to the exclusive group is as impressive as any of the previous groups that have entered the hall since its founding in 2003.
The five inductees, which pushes membership in the hall to 50 members, featured a wide spectrum of the best the Joliet area has to offer.
From the late Ken Parker of Joliet Township and Joliet Junior College to Providence Catholic’s Matt Senffner to Joliet Catholic’s Terry Gannon to Morris’ Ed Brady to Joliet Township alum Brent Wadsworth; this year’s class indeed has accomplished a great deal during their careers.
With the introduction of the latest class, it also was announced their accomplishments will receive better recognition with the move of the hall of fame from Silver Cross Field to the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
One of the most surprised new members was Wadsworth, who has been widely honored as one of the premiere golf course designers in the country.
Although his Wadsworth Golf Construction Company has designed over 800 courses and his Golf Charities Foundation has been a wonderful benefactor, Wadsworth still didn’t believe he should be honored when originally told of the award.
“This is something that I never expected and when I was asked to be inducted I thought this wasn’t for me,” Wadsworth said. “But on the other hand, I have two valuable things in my life that I cherish. One of them is the city of Joliet and the other one is golf, and they’re both things of quality. I feel like this is the culmination of many years in the game.
“They call this the City of Champions for good reason and one of those is for the people who were inducted in the hall of fame today. Joliet is full of caring, good people.”
Brady, the standout football player at Morris and the University of Illinois before beginning a 12-year career in the NFL, was excited that an athlete like himself from his hometown was able to be included with such a prestigious group.
“It’s an honor for me to be a part of this,” Brady said. “I thought that I was forgotten about since I was just a little guy from Morris. But it’s something to be included with all of the people that I’ve seen on the walls here and the guys who were going in this year. It’s kind of a humbling experience, and I’m having a lot of fun, but [Tuesday night] is going by so fast.
“Even though I’ve moved around, my roots are still in Morris, Illinois and this area. When I come back here, I become the same hometown type of guy. With the news building and the way they’re setting it up, it’s going to be something for everyone to come there and see all the types of athletes and read the plaques about all of these people in the hall of fame.”
Gannon, the outstanding national broadcaster, who followed up a great basketball career at Joliet Catholic by playing on a national championship team at North Carolina State, said being a part of something special in his hometown is an honor he really appreciates.
“This is a city that has produced so many great athletes and successful people in sports,” Gannon said. “All that I ever wanted to be was almost as good as some of the guys who played for my dad, and who I idolized. To think that I’m coming back years to be honored in the hall of fame for this place is not only a thrill, but it makes me shake my head.
“Because I grew up learning from the guys who came before me, it helped pave the way for every opportunity that I got and some that I didn’t expect to get. I travel the country in sports and I have not found an area that’s more equipped to produce athletes who can compete like Joliet because of the coaches here and just the makeup of the place.”
Senffner, who retired as the state’s winningest football coach after starting the Celtics program 40 years earlier and oversaw the Providence athletic program for much of his career, said entry into this hall of fame may be the most special of all for the oft-honored coach,
“This is probably the most meaningful honor that I’ve had since it is my hometown,” Senffner said. “I was born and raised in the Joliet area and when you talk about the schools from this area, sports here are really big. So to be recognized by your friends and peers in the Joliet area is something that is hard for me to describe how it makes me feel.
“I’m kind of excited to see how the hall of fame will look when they move it from the stadium to the museum. That should be something that will be really nice since people will be able to see it all year-around.”
Because of the delay in induction classes, the honor was bestowed upon Parker following his death last September. Despite that, his family was thrilled to participate in an event in which the longtime fixture in athletics at JT and JJC was recognized along with other greats from the area.
“We feel honored that my dad was inducted,” said his son, Kent Parker. “It’s appropriate when you look at all of the great personalities that are on the walls here. When we had his wake, one of the things that surprised us was that there were 500 people there. We knew that many people felt a real impact from him, but there were many we didn’t know about.
“And it was nice to have him included with a coach who won 300 games, a guy that you hear broadcasting on TV, a football player and a golf course designer. And as much as anything, our whole family was able to come back here to be a part of this ceremony.”