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School Hall of Fame Includes Some in NFL, NBA

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Seven prominent sports figures from San Antonio ISD’s will be inducted into the fourth annual SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame during a special ceremony to be held in their honor on Aug. 25. Master of ceremonies will be Gary DeLaune, a legendary TV and Radio newsman whose career spans nearly 60 years in broadcasting.

Following their induction, bronze plaques commemorating the honorees will be on permanent display at the east visitor’s entrance of Alamo Stadium.

The honorees are:

Fennis Dembo – an All-State basketball player at Fox Tech HS. This 1984 graduate starred at point guard. Dembo helped lead his high school team to the UIL state semi-finals in 1984. He played college basketball at the University of Wyoming. He rose to stardom, becoming the Cowboys all-time leading scorer and rebounder in school history. He accumulated 2,311 points and 954 rebounds in four years at Wyoming. He helped lead the team to the Sweet Sixteen of the 1987 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.  At the 1987 NCAA Tournament, Dembo was the leading scorer averaging 27.8 points a game. He was drafted into the National Basketball Association and helped the Detroit Pistons win the 1989 NBA championship.

Tai Dillard – a 1999 Sam Houston HS alum who was an All-State and All-City basketball player. She was a star shooting guard and helped lead Sam Houston to back-to-back UIL state basketball championship tournament appearances in 1998 and 1999. She played college basketball for four seasons at the University of Texas at Austin (1999-2003). She was a two-time Big 12 All-Academic honoree and she was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll five times. Dillard went on to play in the inaugural season for the San Antonio Silver Stars of the Women’s National Basketball Association in 2003. She played for the Silver Stars from 2003-2005. After her playing career ended, she became a high school and college women’s basketball coach.

Dolores “Delo” Dyer – regarded as a pioneer in high school girls athletics. She coached volleyball for 16 seasons at Jefferson HS and built a winning dynasty for the Mustangs. Dyer became the first-ever volleyball coach for Jefferson in 1972 when the UIL officially recognized volleyball as a championship sport. In her coaching career, she amassed an incredible 410-80 overall record for a winning percentage of .837, the winningest percentage for volleyball in San Antonio history. Dyer guided the Lady Mustangs to nine straight league championships. In 1979, she led her Mustangs to the UIL state championship finals against Cypress Creek HS. Jefferson won an amazing 92 straight district matches between 1978-1984 under Dyer.

Darryl Baris Grant – a star offensive and defensive lineman for the Highlands HS football team. The 1977 graduate played college football at Rice University. In 1981, he was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the National Football League. Grant helped the Redskins make the playoffs six times, including three trips to the Super Bowl (two wins) and four conference championship appearances (three wins). He is best remembered for his 1983 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, where he intercepted a pass for a 10-yard touchdown. Grant played in 141 games for the Redskins from 1981-1990, finishing with 27 sacks and two interceptions. His best season was in 1984 when he recorded a career-high eight sacks.

Clifford Johnson – a 1966 graduate of Wheatley High School and a standout athlete in baseball, football, basketball and track. He was the star catcher for the Wheatley Lions in his senior year. In 1966, he was drafted into professional baseball by the Houston Astros. After six seasons in the minor leagues, he made his major league debut for the Astros in 1972. He played catcher, first base and outfield in the early part of his professional career before becoming primarily a full-time designated hitter. Johnson played a total of 15 years and for seven different teams in Major League Baseball. Two of those seasons, he helped the New York Yankees win back-to-back World Series championships in 1977 and 1978.

David Vela – a 1979 Burbank HS alum, who was an All-City football player and was named to the 1970’s All-Decade high school football team by the San Antonio Express-News. He helped lead his Burbank Bulldogs to the school’s only undefeated regular season at 10-0 in 1978. He was a Little All-American football player at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, now called Texas State University. He set a school record in most receiving yards and touchdown receptions in 1981, a record that stood until 2008. With Vela, the Bobcats won two National Division II Football Championships in 1981 and 1982. He played professional football for the Oakland Raiders (National Football League) and San Antonio Gunslingers (United States Football League) from 1983-1986.

Julius Whittier – a 1969 Highlands HS graduate who was a star football player and team captain. He made an historical impact by becoming the first African American to ever letter in football at the University of Texas at Austin. He played offensive tackle and tight end for the Longhorns. He helped the team win three Southwest Conference championships (1970, 1971 and 1972) and one National Division I Championship in 1970. Following college graduation, he earned a graduate degree at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1976 and completed a law degree.

About the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame

Each year, the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame honors alumni who have made a positive impact in sports, either through excellent athletic achievements or excellent athletic program contributions. In addition to outstanding athleticism, inductees were chosen for their distinction and excellence to the District by their conduct both on and off the field, or court, of competition.

Nominations for the class of 2018 were received this past year and selection was made by a committee. The SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame is sponsored by the SAISD Athletic Department and receives support from the SAISD Foundation. For more information, go here: www.saisd.net/athletichalloffame2018.

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NFL’s First Black Woman Referee

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Maia Chaka made history in early March becoming only the second woman and the very first Black woman to be hired as an NFL referee since the league was founded in 1920. Chaka was added to the NFL roster of game officials for the 2021 season.

“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” Chaka said in a statement. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”

“It didn’t really hit me until just now,” Chaka said on The Today Show. “When I saw the introduction, I’m like, ‘This is really real,’ because this is just something that we’re just always taught to work hard for. Sometimes we just don’t take time to stop and smell our own roses.”

Chaka, a 2006 HBCU graduate of Norfolk State University earned her Bachelor’s degree in education. Currently she is a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy where she teaches at-risk youth. She once received a Teacher of the Year award a few years back.

In 2014, Chaka made history as one of the first women officials to work a FBS bowl game. She has worked NFL preseason games as part of the developmental program, but now she will be part of the crew for regular-season action. She began her career in 2006 officiating high school games and then moved up in the college ranks to Conference USA and then the Pac-12 Conference, according to The Virginian-Pilot. Chaka most recently has been working Pac-12 games and also worked the sidelines for the short-lived XFL last year.

Chaka hopes to encourage young people, especially her students to reach for their dreams.

“I just want them to know if you have a passion for something and if you have a drive for something, don’t let it hold you back just because you think that something may give you some type of limitation,” she said. “Just continue to work hard and always, always, always just follow your dreams.”

What a proud and distinguished honor to earn during Women’s History Month! Congratulations Maia Chaka!

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SPURS WELCOME FANS BACK TO THE AT&T CENTER STARTING MARCH 12

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Arena Prepared with New and Enhanced Safety Measures Focused on People, Surfaces and Air 

Starting Friday, March 12 the AT&T Center will once again be home to the best fans in the NBA when the San Antonio Spurs host the Orlando Magic. Spurs Sports & Entertainment today announced its health and safety plans to welcome back fans for the first time since March 10, 2020. 

“We are thrilled to welcome our fans back to the AT&T Center,” said RC Buford, Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO. “We’ve always said we have the best fans in the NBA and playing in an empty arena has reminded us all of how fortunate we are to enjoy the amazing support we receive from our fans. We can’t wait to see, hear and engage with our fans again starting March 12.”

Fans will be invited back at a reduced capacity of approximately 3,200 to help maintain physical distancing. The March 12 game will be the first of 17 home games for the Spurs in the Second Half of the 2020-21 season, presented by H-E-B. 

“For the last 10 months our team has been laser focused on implementing heightened health and safety measures, concentrating on three key areas, people, surfaces and air,” said AT&T Center VP and General Manager Casey Heverling. “The entire organization has gone above and beyond to make sure that the AT&T Center is a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone in attendance.” 

Since April 2020, SS&E has made numerous changes to policies, procedures and operations within the AT&T Center. For a full list of enhanced health and safety updates and protocols, visit Our Commitment to you. Highlights of the arena’s new safety enhancements include:

People

Our fans come first and we are also counting on them to help keep everyone in the arena safe:

  • Wear face masks from the moment you enter the AT&T Center. Masks may be removed when eating or drinking
  • Complete the mobile health screening before you arrive. The health pass is required for entry. It takes a few minutes to complete so be sure to download the CLEAR app before you go
  • Temperatures will be checked at the door. Remember to stay home if you’re not feeling well
  • Bags up to 6” x 8” with a maximum of one compartment are allowed. If your bag is too large, we now have Binbox as an option for you to store your bag onsite for a small fee
  • Maintain physical distancing while navigating the venue, including elevators. We’ve added signage and directions throughout to help with this
  • Fans will have a cashless and touchless experience at the arena, from paying for parking, to scanning your ticket at touchless ticket-scanning pedestals, to ordering food and beverages,  paying for it with Spurs Pay and picking up your order at one of our 22 express lines throughout the arena. It’s all a tap away in the Spurs app. Be sure to download the app and your mobile tickets prior to arrival
  • To help make the digital experience as seamless as possible, we’ve upgraded the arena with AT&T’s latest 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technology. The AT&T Center is the first arena in the U.S. to have AT&T Wi-Fi 6 and 5G services.
  • We will continue to regularly seek input from local, state and national public health experts and the NBA for guidance on keeping our fans and staff safe

Surfaces

We are putting meticulous cleaning measures in place to deliver enhanced surface cleaning for each game:

  • Electrostatic sprayers will sanitize the arena from floor to ceiling with a hospital-grade disinfectant
  • Thanks to a partnership with Xenex, UV robots will be used for surface cleaning
  • Designated crews will clean all surfaces including seats, cupholders, handrails, elevators, concession stands, restrooms and other high-touch areas before each game
  • A dedicated “Clean Team” at each game will focus solely on disinfecting high-touch points, with every restroom featuring a “Clean Team” attendant
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers will be available throughout the arena

Air

Thanks to a new innovative partnership, the air inside the arena now has increased purification and filtration:

  • We are using the highest rated filtration systems possible and increasing the fresh air circulation throughout the arena 
  • Through GermLogic, new units provide advanced and comprehensive disinfection services and products to help prevent the spread of numerous types of viruses, bacteria, mold and fungi that can develop in the air. Air purification units have been installed in offices, locker rooms, VIP areas and meeting rooms

Season Ticket Members and partners will have priority access to available ticket packages for the second half of the season beginning March 2. Fans can receive exclusive presale access beginning March 5 at 12 p.m. CST by joining the Official Spurs Fan Club. Single-game tickets and suites go on sale to the general public March 5 at 2 p.m. CST. Seating pods of two or four seats will be available throughout the arena to maintain six feet of physical distancing between each group of fans.

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More Than A Major Leaguer

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A Final Farewell for Hank Aaron

Hall of Famer and baseball legend Henry Louis Aaron nicknamed Hammerin’ Hank was laid to rest today. Aaron died of natural causes (not COVID related) last Friday at the age of 86. Regarded of as one of baseball’s greatest players of all time, he played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), 21 of those seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. While enduring racists threats and using hate mail from fans as motivation to surpass Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, with a career 755 home runs, Aaron held the home run record for 33yrs before it was broken by Barry Bonds who was later investigated for possible enhancement drugs violations.

Many have paid their respects to the legend including former Presidents Jimmy Carter, 96; Bill Clinton, 74; George W. Bush, 74; and Barack Obama, 59. To the world Aaron was more than a baseball player, he was a pioneer in the sport, a cultural icon, civil rights advocate and barrier breaker. He broke records and held many titles and his record of representing the Braves at the All-Star games 25 times remains untouched to this day.

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