The journeys of the seven new members of the Stark County High School Hall of Fame may have differed, but they arrived at the same destination together on Friday. The Class of 2023 features illustrious names from the world of sport, including talents from the 1950s, 1990s, and 2010s, along with a celebrated county coach.
The inductees include athletes from the ’50s – Ron Carnahan and Ron Worstell; from the ’90s – Bob Hendry and Steve Smith; and from the 2010s – Devin Smith and Dymonte Thomas. The group is rounded out by Keith Wakefield, one of the county’s most successful coaches.
The journey wasn’t easy for all. Bob Hendry, former Hoover and University of Akron standout, came into his own as a first-team All Ohio running back in his senior year. “I didn’t start for a lot of my high school career,” shared Hendry. “There were always faster and stronger guys ahead of me. But my parents never let me stay discouraged.”
Steve Smith, ex-McKinley Division I All-Ohio offensive lineman, had a similar experience. A baseball player for much of his early life, he only started his football career as a high school junior. Yet, he later contributed to the Bulldogs’ state titles in 1997 and 1998.
In contrast, Marlington’s Dymonte Thomas was a football prodigy, showing promise as early as his freshman year. After a successful college career at Michigan, Thomas went on to play for the Denver Broncos in the NFL.
“None of this would’ve been possible without my stepmom and my dad,” said Thomas. “This award is the result of the sacrifices that they made for me.”
Devin Smith, former Massillon wide receiver, and Ohio State Buckeyes star turned New York Jets draftee, echoed similar sentiments. “I got to live my dreams,” he said, “I hope that maybe some young kids can take inspiration from that.”
Ron Carnahan, a former McKinley running back, shared an unforgettable story about a crucial game in his senior year, 1955. Waking up to four inches of snow, his team still managed to secure victory and an undefeated state championship.
Ex-Lincoln running back Ron Worstell credited his success to a simple philosophy: “You hit the other guy harder than he hits you.”
Lastly, Keith Wakefield, the esteemed Perry coach, reminisced about his early career. Starting as an assistant coach in Massillon, Wakefield now stands among the legends in the Hall of Fame.