Shane Conlan, three time NFL all-pro with the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams, will be the honored guest and keynote speaker at this year’s 34th annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame dinner on Monday, February 16 at Lakewood’s Rod and Gun Club.
“We’ll have a real ‘home grown banquet’ this year,” said Randy Anderson, Hall of Fame president. “Even Shane is a Chautauqua County native. He was a local high school superstar and a 3-time Superbowl star.”
Playing for his hometown Frewsburg Bears, Conlan was voted Western New York high school Football Player of the Year for 1981. In 2014 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame for his record breaking play at Pennsylvania State University. The Buffalo Bills No. 1 draft pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, Conlan was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press and went on to chalk up many more awards throughout an outstanding career.
“It’s incredible how much talent we have right here in Chautauqua County,” Anderson said. “From high school all-staters to Olympic champions and world champion senior citizens, we have it all right here.”
Since its founding in 1981, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee has chosen inductees from the ranks of outstanding local athletes in the professional and amateur ranks. Each year at least four are selected and honored at the annual awards banquet. The Class of 2015 includes 10: Jehuu Caulcrick, Chuck Crist, Bill Davenport, Jack Keeney, Scrubby Olson, Ramsey Riddell, Dan Stimson and Mel Swanson plus two other special honorees.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a finer mix of ages, sports and champions,” said Sharon Robinson, daughter of the legendary baseball star Jackie Robinson, following last year’s Hall of Fame dinner at which she was the keynote speaker. “I go to a lot of these events,” she added, “but this is one of the best I’ve seen.”
In addition to the eight Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame athlete inductees for 2015, two other individuals will also be honored– making this the biggest field of honorees in the history of the CSHoF. Vincent Powers will be inducted from a newly created historical category and Jim Roselle, popular long-time local radio personality, will be enshrined as just the second honorary inductee in CSHoF history.
Rounding out the induction ceremony, 42 additional outstanding Chautauqua County champion athletes will be honored at the banquet. Eligibility for these additional honors means each individual is either a First Team All-New York or All-American player or holds a New York or National first place title in his or her sport.
This year’s slate of champions range from high school age through college and all the way up to the 60-70 year age brackets, and includes players as well as coaches, clubs and a school.
Jamestown High School, for instance, will be honored for its New York State Class AA Championship as well as four JHS football players on the First Team All-State Class AA lineup. Track & Field wins its day at the awards dinner represented by three Chautauqua Striders who earned USATF All-American 17-18 Division steeplechase honors. Jamestown Community College pulls down top honors in its category in volleyball and nine NJCAA All-American swimmers.
At the other end of the age spectrum, banquet attendees will be introduced to a new World Champion Master Bow Hunter in the 60-70 age class and a Hunter Class Nation Archery Champ in the 50-60 age class, both representing Christian Bow Hunters. The wide variety of top flight champions honored will also include a USA 18-22 division National Snowboarding Champion, a New York State Girl’s Basketball Class C Coach of the Year, and whole slate of Champion Trapshooters from Bemus Point, Busti and Cassadaga Valley. All 42 of the Honored Athletes, representing all of Chautauqua County from north to south, will be individually named, introduced and awarded before the banquet hall guests.
“This is our biggest list ever of Honored Athletes,” Anderson said. “We can all be tremendously proud of the talent we have in Chautauqua County.”
The work of reviewing the records and accomplishments of the 10 nominees for the 2015 Hall of Fame induction required 3 months of intense effort on the part of the 30-member, all-volunteer Hall of Fame Board of Directors between September 1 and December 1, 2014.
“We don’t nominate anybody,” Anderson explained. “The public does that for us. There’s nothing like an enthusiastic fan to bring public attention to an outstanding athlete. We had 135 great candidates under review this year.”
The board initially selected half of its members to form a 15-member initial review board to examine all 135 current files and narrow them down to a short list of 25 with the most complete documentation and the highest athletic performance records. The other 15 board members then reduced the list to its final winners, followed by one final round of review by the entire board. Many who didn’t make the final cut are as worthy as the winners, but might only need more documentation for future review, according to Anderson.
“We want the public to have confidence in the whole process,” Anderson said, “so we work hard to get it right.” It is especially important, for example, to eliminate personal bias where board members might have been friends, family members or former coaches of the athletes. With a 30-member review board, impartial judges are always available to step in.
A Fitting Tribute
The banquet will be hosted once again at the Lakewood Rod and Gun Club at 6:00pm on Monday, February 16. The honorees who will be formally inducted at the CSHoF’s 34th Annual Banquet will bring the total number of CSHoF inductees to 163. Tickets for the induction dinner are priced at $50. 2015 banquet reservations can be made by calling chairman Chip Johnson at 716-485-6991.