By DAVE HANNEMAN
Big Ben packed the house.
Little sis brought it down.
Carlee Roethlisberger got a few digs in on her older brother Ben — and some wall-to-wall laughs — as both were inducted into the Hancock Sports Hall of Fame during ceremonies Saturday at Owens Community College.
“Once a decade I get to beat Ben at something,” Carlee said during her acceptance speech.
“Left-handed P-I-G. Yahtzee. Graduating college. The school scoring record …”
Carlee, a two-sport all-Ohio selection, did outscore Ben in basketball at Findlay High School — 1,625 career points to 1,095. Ben says that’s because Carlee started four years on varsity, while he started three.
And Carlee, who played both basketball and volleyball at the University of Oklahoma, did get her degree before Ben. But that’s because Ben made himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior year at Miami of Ohio and was off winning a couple of Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All was in fun, though, on a feel-good night when the Hancock Sports Hall of Fame welcomed its newest class of inductees, who also included two-time all-Ohio football player and state discus champion Mike Dillon; former McComb three-sport standout and 1973 U.S. Amateur golf qualifier Terry Grose; current Adrian College women’s basketball coach Kathy (Lee) Morris, a Vanlue native; and Mianda Watts, the University of Findlay women’s basketball career leader in scoring and rebounding.
All had interesting stories to tell about how they first got involved in athletics.
Watts fell in love with basketball at an early age.
“When I was little, I thought I was going to marry every member of the Ohio State (basketball) team — Jimmy Jackson, Jamaal Brown,” she said. “I asked my dad, ‘What should I do, basketball or cheerleading?’ He said they don’t give scholarships for cheerleading.”
A multi-sport athlete in volleyball and track, she chose basketball and became an NAIA all-American.
Grose recalled growing up in a less-technological time.
“Instead of sitting in front of a computer all day, we went out and played ball: baseball, softball, basketball, golf,” he said.
“I feel fortunate to have grown up in a small town. We had a big yard at our place and all the kids would come over and play ball.”
Before settling on golf, Grose starred in other sports. He helped McComb reach the district finals four straight years in baseball, was the starting point guard on back-to-back league champions in basketball, and quarterbacked the football team to an unbeaten season his senior year.
Growing up in Vanlue, Morris can relate to the small-town theme.
“In a small town everybody knows your first name, and your last,” she said.
“There’s not much to do in a small town, so everybody — brothers, sisters, cousins, kids down the road — get together and play ball,” she said.
Twice an all-Ohio selection, Morris scored 1,492 career points at Vanlue, was a four-time all-Ohio Athletic Conference standout for Muskingum College and is the winningest (266 career wins) women’s basketball coach in Adrian College history.
Morris came from a tradition-rich family when it came to athletics. So did Dillon, whose dad played fast-pitch softball and older brothers Tim and Pat were all-league football players and state discus qualifiers.
“Every day there was competition for something,” he said.
“Dad always made it fun, but he also showed us what hard work could do.”
While Ben and Carlee Roethlisberger are two of the most decorated and successful athletes to come out of Hancock County, both said they were appreciative of the hometown foundation they had to their careers.
“It’s more than just awards and trophies. It’s what you do with the opportunities you’re given,” Carlee said.
“It’s a huge honor to share this with my big brother Ben. We’re grateful, because the support of this town has been awesome.”
“It’s about being able to dream big and go after those dreams,” said Ben, who said he imagined throwing game-winning touchdown passes in his backyard on Woodley Terrace long before he did it in a 31-28 win over Napoleon in high school, a 30-27 win over Akron in college and a 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII win over Arizona in the pros.
“It’s humbling to be up here in front of so many great athletes who have been inducted, and it’s great to be going in (the hall) with Carlee. She’s a phenomenal athlete and an even better person.”
Saturday’s induction was redeeming as well as rewarding as far as Ben Roethlisberger was concerned.
In the past, “Some negative things were said about me by people in this town. I was hurt and I resented that,” he said.
“But I want to say I’m sorry for letting a few bad words cloud the support I’ve had from so many people.
“I’m proud of this town. It means a lot to me and my family to be embraced with open arms like this.
“I’m humble and I’m proud to call Findlay home.”
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