By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
At 54 years old, Walter Abercrombie almost reluctantly figures that he's "not that young anymore."
But the former Baylor and NFL standout running back is one of the "youngsters" in the latest class of inductees for the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame that was released Wednesday.
"You're talking about Olympians, championship coaches and players that have gone on and done quite well," said Abercrombie, who becomes Baylor's third inductee since the SWC Hall of Honor was reinitiated and renamed the SWC Hall of Fame in August 2013. "Otis Birdsong was one of the guys I looked up to as an athlete. I guess I'm not that young anymore, but there are guys a lot older than me that are just as deserving. I'm thrilled to be a part of this class."
Also named to the class were Nolan Richardson of Arkansas, Otis Birdsong of Houston, Harold Solomon of Rice, George McMillion of SMU, Jill Sterkel of Texas, Mark Johnson of Texas A&M, James Cash of TCU and Andre Tillman of Texas Tech.
Sponsored by the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the SWC Hall of Fame will hold an induction ceremony and luncheon for this class at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 20, at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth. You can reserve tickets and access sponsorship information at www.tshof.org.
More than 30 years later, Abercrombie still ranks as Baylor's all-time leader in career yards rushing (3,665), rushing attempts (732) and 100-yard games (19).
Bursting on the scene as a true freshman out of Waco University High School, Abercrombie rushed for a school-record 207 yards in a shocking 24-6 win at 12th-ranked Texas A&M on Oct. 21, 1978. He went on to earn SWC Freshman of the Year honors that season and was a consensus All-SWC pick in 1980 and '81, playing on a pair of bowl teams and the undisputed SWC champions in '80.
A first-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 1982, with the 12th pick overall, he played seven years in the NFL with the Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles. Abercrombie rushed for 3,357 yards and 22 touchdowns and added 139 catches for 1,351 yards and seven TDs.
Inducted into the Baylor Hall of Fame in 1992, Abercrombie now serves as an associate athletic director and executive director of the "B" Association.
"I know the Southwest Conference no longer exists," he said. "But at the same time, this is a huge honor because of the great players that participated in the Southwest Conference. You just go to the history of the Southwest Conference, and there have been some outstanding players that have through there. And to be included among some of the best, it's a real thrill. I'm gaining that perspective every day."
Richardson led Arkansas to three Final Fours and the 1994 national championship, finishing as the school's all-time winningest coach with a record of 389-169. Birdsong was a consensus All-American at UH and was named the SWC Player of the Decade for the 1970s.
Solomon was part of back-to-back conference tennis championships at Rice and earned All-America honors before going on to a highly successful pro career. Part of the Texas Swimming & Diving Hall of Fame, McMillion led SMU to eight consecutive SWC titles and 14 top-10 national finishes while coaching 78 All-Americans, 15 NCAA champions and four Olympic medalists.
Named the Nation's College Female Athlete of the Year in 1981, Sterkel was a four-time Olympic swimmer who won 16 individual national titles at Texas and returned as the school's swimming coach. Johnson, who had a career record of 876-433-3 at A&M, led the Aggies' baseball team to three SWC championships, 13 NCAA playoff appearances and two College World Series appearances.
Cash finished in the top five in career points and rebounds at TCU and was part of an SWC championship team and was later a part owner of the Boston Celtics. Tillman was an All-America tight end at Tech who helped the Red Raiders to an 11-1 season as a senior in 1973 before a five-year career in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.
"We are delighted with this class of inductees," said Carroll Dawson, president of the SWC Hall of Fame and a former Baylor basketball player and coach. "They exemplify the high quality of athletes and coaches found in the Southwest Conference. They were an essential part of the prestigious 82-year history of the conference."
The SWC Hall of Fame is housed in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame along with the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.