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March 8, 2007

L Club announces 2007 ULM Sports Hall of Fame class

The L Club in conjunction with the ULM Alumni Association and ULM Athletic Foundation has announced its 2007 ULM Sports Hall of Fame induction class.

The class of Carlos Funchess (men's basketball), Gary Roberts (baseball), Ben Sheets (baseball), Ronnie Washington (football), Coach Devon Payne, Sr. (football), and Curtis Nichols (administration) will be inducted at ceremonies held during ULM Hall of Fame weekend, April 20-21, 2007.

"This is an exciting time for the L Club and its sponsorship of the Sports Hall of Fame," said Scott McDonald, president of the L Club. "Each of these inductees represents former letter award winners and the university in a way we can all take pride. They are now formally recognized as a permanent part of the most distinguished letter award winners from ULM and we look forward to honoring their selection."

Carlos Funchess was the Men's Basketball Co-MVP of the Southland Conference as a senior with Anthony "Greyhound" Jones. He won the national slam dunk championship, and helped ULM to SLC titles and NCAA berths in 1990 and 1991 after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College. Funchess took fourth on ULM's all-time two-year scoring list with 1,044 points, which ranks 28th overall.

He averaged 16.6 points for his career, ranks seventh among ULM's all-time field goal percentage leaders, and seventh in blocked shots. With first team all-Southland honors in 1990 and 1991, Funchess led the SLC in 3-point field goal percentage in 1990, and led the team in rebounding, blocks and in 3-point percentage both seasons. After playing three years of professional ball, Funchess graduated and joined the ULM staff fulfilling his dream of becoming a coach.

Gary Roberts played infield for the then-Indians, twice leading ULM in batting with an average of .362 in 1977 and .307 in 1978. He ranks among the top 20 on the ULM career list for batting average at .318, sixth in career runs batted in with a .509 average per game and seventh in career stolen bases with 39.

Ben Sheets, a freshman all-American in 1997, was a first team all-American, and the 10th overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in 1999. Sheets set a ULM pitching record for season victories, 14-1 in 1999 and holds second place with 158 strikeouts in the same season. His 20 strikeouts against Louisiana Tech that year set the single-game standard at ULM and he is fourth all-time in career strikeouts with 283. He was the Southland Conference and Louisiana Player of the Year in 1999. In 1998 he pitched Team USA to an Olympic gold medal over Cuba. Sheets is currently a starting pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Ronnie Washington was named third team Associated Press all-America linebacker and first team all-Southland Conference in 1984 and second team all-SLC in 1982 and 1983. As ULM's third-best career tackle leader, he had 396 total tackles and 160 tackles as a senior, the second-highest single season total in school history. Washington made 23 tackles against Southeastern Louisiana in 1984, achieving the second-highest number of tackles in a game for a ULM player. Washington went on to play pro football with Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Raiders, and Indianapolis Colts.

Coach Devone Payne, Sr., was the head football coach at ULM in 1954-57 with a record of 15-22-1. He was hired two weeks before the season in 1954, with an incomplete team, but succeeded in recruiting and coaching one of the most successful teams with only three assistants, and a roster filled with walk-on players.

Coach Payne was honored as the Gulf States Conference Coach of the Year in 1956 when he guided the then-Indians to one of their greatestseasons, an 8-2 record. He died after spring practice in 1958, leaving behind many prominent, successful and involved alumni that he recruited and coached, "his boys", who continue to honor him today.

Curtis Nichols, an honorary L Club member, is one of the founders, if not the founder, of the ULM Athletic Foundation. Nichols was one of the first organizers of what is now known at the ULM Athletic Foundation. He began the support group as the Quarterback Club of Northeast Louisiana State College in 1953 and moved the organization to include all sports as the Booster Club in 1956.

Nichols served as the organization's first president of the Quarterback Club in 1953-54, the first president of the Booster Club in 1956-57, and served as president of the L Club and the Booster Club in 1963-64. He remains the only person serve two non-consecutive terms of the ULM Athletic Foundation.

The 2007 Class will bring the number of members in the ULM Sports Hall of Fame to 108.

The 2007 ULM Sports Hall of Fame Weekend activities begin with a two-person golf scramble on Friday, April 20 at Calvert Crossing Golf Club in Calhoun, La. with a 1 p.m. shotgun start.

The Induction Banquet and Ceremony will be held at 12 noon on Saturday, April 21 in the ULM Conference Center. Tickets for the banquet are $20 and available to the general public. Later that evening, the inductees will throw out the first pitch at the ULM vs. Western Kentucky baseball game at 6 p.m. at Warhawk Field.

For more information on the 2007 ULM Sports Hall of Fame Weekend, contact L Club Executive Director Billy Laird at (318) 342-5420 or (866) WARHAWK.

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