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HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2019: Strong Work Ethic; Love for Panhandle State was a common theme

Dave Beyer, SID on 10/16/2019

 

GOODWELL, Okla. – On October 11, the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Athletics added four members – Carroll Gribble (football/baseball, assistant football coach, head baseball coach and administrator); Caleb Holbrook (football); Norman Deckman (men’s basketball), and Gary Cornelsen (football/track) - to the Aggie Hall of Fame. That brings to 31 the number of former standouts in the Crimson and Blue who have been enshrined during the eight ceremonies over the years.

 

A collection of former Aggie athletes, families and friends – along with more than 100 following via a live video stream – enjoyed a time of recollection, reflection and recognition at the University Ballroom for this quartet of Panhandle State’s finest. Prior to the ceremony, the inductees and presenters were the guests for a reception hosted by President Dr. Tim Faltyn and his family.

 

Gribble – a four-year letterman in both football and baseball from 1950-54 – also served the Aggies as an assistant football (1968-79) and head baseball coach (1972-79). Gribble grew up in nearby Straight, Oklahoma. He came to what was then Panhandle A&M College, thanks to the assistance of a scholarship, under football coach Kenneth Hoyt. Even after stepping away from coaching, Gribble continued on a long career at Panhandle State in various administrative capacities.

 

“I was 140-pound, single-wing back in among several men who had just gotten back from (the conflict in) Korea,” Gribble reflected upon his success on the football gridiron during his speech. “They were bigger and stronger than I was. But they were big enough to open a few holes to slip through.

 

“The real reason for life’s work is the relationship I’ve shared with coaches, faculty, students and athletes. Again, many thanks to the committee. Names and faces may change, but one thing never changes,” Gribble cheered. “GO AGGIES!”

 

When Caleb Holbrook came to the Oklahoma Panhandle State University program, he truly ushered in a new brand of football with a high-octane passing attack and a crowd-pleasing brand. Buoyed by a self-proclaimed intense leadership style, Holbrook became the centerpiece of the recent upswing of Aggie Football from 2012-14.

 

Holbrook produced numbers from the quarterback position which had not been seen in Aggie program history. To put it into perspective, Holbrook had more passing yards – 2,797 – personally as a senior in 2014, than any Panhandle State team on record had amassed in any season, prior to that.

When you consider his entire career in the Crimson & Blue, Holbrook threw for 6,334 yards. That's better than 3 ½ miles of aerial offense in his 29 games as an Aggie! Holbrook was also responsible for 396 points – either via the pass or a rush – in his tenure, which was 41 percent of the Panhandle teams' scoring during those three seasons.

 

Holbrook praised the strides being made at Panhandle State, singling out the leadership of President Faltyn. “I’m more of an ‘observer’ than anything. And the one thing I have observed from this man (Faltyn), is that what he has done for this university is absolutely amazing,” Holbrook praised of the changes he has seen since he was an Aggie.

 

“I absolutely wouldn’t be able to do it without what we built here at Panhandle,” Holbrook continued of his career as a professional quarterback, which has yielded three championships in his four years playing indoor football. “I’m very grateful. This (Hall of Fame induction) is a great honor.

 

“There’s a lot of things I gained from my father,” Holbrook continued. “And it starts with work ethic; I believe I’ve gotten that from him. And (work ethic) was a big part of what we built here. Panhandle will be in my heart forever.”

 

Norman Deckman was the Aggies' version of Lou Gehrig. Much like Gehrig was known as the "Iron Horse" for playing 2,130-consecutive baseball games, Deckman never failed to answer the bell in his four seasons in the Crimson and Blue. From the time he suited up for the first game of his career versus Kansas Conference champion Southwestern Kansas in 1960, until his final contest lacing it up versus Oklahoma Baptist University at home, Deckman started every game as an Aggie. In all, that run covered 98-consecutive contests of having his name checked off for the starting five by Head Coach Jerry Anderson.

By the time Deckman's career – one of the most prolific in school history - came to a close, he had established himself among the premiere men's basketball athletes in Panhandle State history. For his career, Deckman averaged nearly 17 points per game, tallying 1,637 points. Those numbers also came with some personal accolades for Deckman. He earned three all-OIC awards and was an All-America honorable mention as a senior.

 

“We just thought we were supposed to win,” Deckman explained of his years as an Aggie and the support the team received. “We always approached the game that way. The student body was at every game and our faculty was there at every game. And they always supported us.”

 

“To the guys I had the pleasure of playing ball with,” Deckman closed his induction speech. “Many of them are lifetime friends. Either way folks, this is about ‘we’ not ‘me’. I accept this on behalf of my teammates.

 

“I’m humbled. I’m honored. And I’m proud to be an Aggie.”

 

Weened in the college football game for his first three years at Panhandle State by Hall of Fame coach Oscar Williams, Gary Cornelsen also excelled as a member of the track team. He was a four-year letterman (1969-72) as a defensive back for Panhandle State and earned all-conference recognition, as well as a sprinter for track.

 

After graduating, Cornelsen would pay the highest compliment he could to Williams, Gribble, Tom Cross, et al., by embarking on a coaching career of his own, one in which he would both emulate and celebrate those things gleaned as an Aggie. All told, Cornelsen spent 35 years either prowling the football sidelines or standing in the middle of the infield for track and field – or sometimes both – at the high school level, with the bulk of those years at nearby Liberal (Kan.) High School. As a football head coach from 1991-2000 and 2003, he amassed a record of 118-17. His teams made trips to the state finals seven-consecutive seasons and won four championships: 1992, '94, '95 and '97. He led the LHS boy's track team to 13-consecutive crowns as its head coach and the women's program added 10 more, to give him a total of 28 state championships at Liberal. He also won a state title as the offensive coordinator for LHS in 1980. He followed that with a pair of girl's state titles at Pampa (Texas) High School in the early 1980's, giving him a hand in a total of 31 state trophies, in all.

 

Cornelsen fondly recalled one of the biggest upsets in Aggie football history as his fondest athletics memory. “It was Homecoming 1971,” Cornelsen told the gathering. “We were playing Central State; they were ranked No. 1 in the nation. Our defense came out and stuffed them; just shut them down. Our offense came out with (Gib) Dolezal at quarterback and we won. It was the best day I played as a player and one of the best days for our team.

 

“I’m proud to be an Aggie. Enough said. Thank you.” And with that, Cornelsen fittingly capped the induction of the Class of 2019 members to the Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame.

 

“Outside of someone’s love the greatest thing that someone can give is their labor,” Dr. Faltyn summarized about the four new inductees. “The thing that I’ve noticed about our inductees is that they’re not afraid to work. They’re not afraid to give of themselves. And they never take all of the credit for themselves. There’s a great deal to learn from people who are like this.

 

“It is true – based on four inductees that I saw tonight – that we are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.”