Michigan State Athletics Announces 2014 Hall of Fame Class
July 14, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University will induct six members into its Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 18, as part of the "Celebrate 2014" weekend. The Class of 2014 includes: Flozell Adams (football), Greg Johnson (wrestling), Carl "Buck" Nystrom (football), Sue Selke (tennis), Kathy Strahan (softball/basketball) and Dave Thor (gymnastics).
The "Celebrate 2014" weekend includes the fifth-annual Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation and Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 18; announcement of the Varsity S Club award winners on Friday, Sept. 19; and culminates Saturday, Sept. 20 with a special recognition of the Hall of Famers during the Michigan State-Eastern Michigan football game in Spartan Stadium (kickoff TBA).
"We're excited about inducting another elite class into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame," Michigan State Athletics Director Mark Hollis said. "We really look forward to the unique opportunity to celebrate the achievement of student-athletes being awarded their first varsity letter jacket in conjunction with honoring our best of the best with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This is one of my favorite weekends of the fall.
"What strikes me is that these former student-athletes not only achieved individual success, but they excelled on some outstanding teams.
"Flozell Adams is one of the finest offensive linemen in Michigan State history. He was a dominating run-blocker as well as an outstanding pass-blocker. Flo was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior and went on to become a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
"Greg Johnson had a remarkable career, winning 90 percent of his matches while becoming the first wrestler in Big Ten history to win three National Championships. His accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider the injuries he had to overcome.
"Carl `Buck' Nystrom was an undersized lineman, who became a great leader, MVP and All-American on Michigan State's 1955 National Championship team. He later became an institution as a line coach in college football. It's amazing to think about how many players he impacted during his 38-year career in college coaching.
"Sue Selke is simply the greatest women's tennis player in MSU history, and she played in an era with extremely limited resources. She won 92 percent of her career matches and won three Big Ten individual titles at No. 1 singles.
"Kathy Strahan was a two-sport athlete, who made a name for herself while playing second base for Michigan State's 1976 AIAW National Championship team. She went on to have an outstanding career as a softball coach, reaching the 800-win milestone.
"Dave Thor was an elite gymnast not just in the Big Ten and NCAA but in international competition as well. A three-time Big Ten all-around champion, Dave closed out his college career by being named the Nissen Award as the nation's outstanding senior gymnast."
The MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, located in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, opened on Oct. 1, 1999, and displays key moments in Spartan Athletics history as well as plaques of the 119 previous inductees. The charter class of 30 former Spartan student-athletes, coaches and administrators was inducted in 1992.
Bio sketches for the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2014 appear below:
A four-year letterman and three-year starter from 1994-97, Flozell Adams closed out his Michigan State career with three-straight postseason bowl appearances (1995 Independence Bowl, 1996 Sun Bowl and 1997 Aloha Bowl). In 35 career starts, the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Adams helped Spartan running backs record 21 100-yard rushing games. Former MSU head coach Nick Saban best described him as a "road-grader."
As a sophomore, Adams received honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and media after starting 11 of 12 games at right tackle in 1995.
He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media as in junior in 1996. Adams started all 12 games at right tackle and helped the Spartans rank among the Big Ten (second) and NCAA (28th) leaders in total offense, averaging nearly 400 yards per game. He anchored an offensive line which helped produced a 1,000-yard rusher in freshman Sedrick Irvin (1,067 yards). Michigan State gained 200-plus yards on the ground eight times in '96, with the Spartans posting a 6-2 record in those games.
As a senior in 1997, Adams was named Walter Camp First-Team All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He also earned All-America honors from The Associated Press (second team), Football News (second team) and The Sporting News (third team). A first-team All-Big Ten pick by both the coaches and media as a senior, Adams started all 12 games at left tackle and helped the Spartans rank No. 24 nationally in rushing offense, averaging 199.5 yards per game. He opened holes for MSU running backs, who combined for seven 100-yard rushing games in 1997. Adams graded out better than 80 percent seven times and recorded 37 pancake blocks. He saved his best for his final game in Spartan Stadium, grading out 89 percent overall with a season-high six pancakes against Penn State, as the Spartans gained 452 yards on the ground in a 49-14 victory over the Nittany Lions. Following his senior season, Adams was selected to play in the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl all-star games.
"I honestly thought Mark Hollis was calling to provide me with an update or talk about the dedication of the new locker room at Spartan Stadium," Adams said. "The news he delivered blew me out of the water. Never in my lifetime have I thought about being inducted into any hall of fame: high school, college or pro. I was definitely shocked to hear about my selection, but I appreciate it.
"I have a difficult time visualizing the 1997 game at Notre Dame, but that was an important stepping stone for the team to get that road win. It helped provide some momentum for a winning season and a bowl bid. Of course, the 1997 victory over Penn State is one of my most memorable games. It was my final home game in Spartan Stadium and Penn State came in ranked fourth in the country, and we just ran the ball down their throats (49-14). The Nittany Lions had a highly touted linebacker unit and we had two backs (Sedrick Irvin and Marc Renaud) each run for more than 200 yards. We had lost close games to Penn State in 1995 and 1996, so they deserved a little payback.
"What I appreciated the most was the camaraderie. I built relationships that will last the rest of my life. There are 10 to 12 of my former teammates that I regularly talk to. We can be anywhere in the country or world and we always answer the call. We're from diverse backgrounds, but we built a brotherhood that will last a lifetime. The bond created on football Saturdays is special. You gather for a common purpose and put all of your effort and energy into helping each other attain the goal of winning a game."
The Bellwood, Illinois, native was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round (No. 38 overall) of the 1998 National Football League Draft and became a five-time Pro Bowl selection (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008). Adams spent 13 years in the NFL, including 12 seasons in Dallas (1998-2009) and one year with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2010). He started 194 of 198 career games. Adams was named First-Team All-Pro by The Associated Press in 2007. His five Pro Bowl appearances are the second most by a Cowboy offensive tackle in team history. In 2009, Adams was ranked among the Cowboys' Top 50 all-time players (No. 43). He played for the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and started in Super Bowl XLV against Green Bay.
Even though he battled multiple injuries throughout his career, Greg Johnson overcame those obstacles to become the first wrestler in Big Ten history to win three national titles.
The 118-pounder not only claimed three-straight national titles from 1970-72, he also took first place three years in a row at the Big Ten Championships during that same time span. In addition, he helped lead the Spartans to three Big Ten team titles during MSU's unprecedented run of seven consecutive Big Ten Championships (1966-72) under former head coach Grady Peninger.
After sitting out his first year at Michigan State, Johnson fractured his ankle and missed the entire 1968-69 season as well. The hard-luck Johnson broke his leg the following summer and had to sit out six more weeks, but in his third year in school, he finally made his varsity debut in January 1970. In his second match, he dropped a decision to Oklahoma State's Ray Stapp, but it would be his only loss of the season. Johnson ultimately had the final say with a victory over Stapp in the 1970 national final to win the first of his three national championships.
Johnson was named the Michigan State Athlete of the Year in 1971 after tallying a 19-2-2 record with seven pins, including a 6-5 triumph against Navy's Ron Schuler in the national final. He also was victorious in the 1971 East-West All-Star Meet in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with a 5-2 decision over Stapp.
After receiving an extra year of eligibility due to missing the entire 1968-69 season, Johnson closed out his career in style as a captain in 1971-72, leading the Spartans to their seventh-straight Big Ten Championship and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships while winning the 118-pound crown at both the conference and national meet for the third year in a row. For his efforts, he was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the 1972 Big Ten Championships. He defeated Oklahoma's Gary Breece, 9-5, in his last collegiate match in the 1972 NCAA final at 118 pounds.
Johnson finished with a career record of 54-5-2 and 17 falls, and his .902 winning percentage still ranks 10th best in Michigan State history.
A native of Lansing, Michigan, Johnson won two state titles at Everett High School (1966-67) and was a member of the 1968 U.S. Junior Olympic team, finishing second at 114.5 pounds at the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials. He also won the Junior World Tournament in the summer of 1967.
"He was absolutely the toughest wrestler I've ever had," Peninger told the Lansing State Journal in 1987. "He's an amazing little guy who has a lot of quality.
"He's one of the super kids that was put in this world. I consider myself super fortunate to have had an association with him.
"He's deserving of all the honors he gets. He was blessed with undying determination and blessed with having high ideals. They don't always go together, but in Greg's case, they did."
Johnson went on to coach as an assistant at Clarion State and Utah before becoming the head coach at Illinois from 1978-83. After helping Peninger at MSU for a brief period as a part-time assistant, Johnson coached at the New South Wales Wrestling Federation in South Wales, Australia, in the mid-1980s and then served as the head coach at Alfred State Junior College in New York.
Johnson was a charter member of the Michigan Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1978 and also was named to the Greater Lansing Hall of Fame in 1987. He was tabbed the "Wrestler of the Decade" in the 118-pound weight class by Amateur Wrestling News.
Johnson passed away at the age of 52 in 2001 from a rare blood disorder.
Carl "Buck" Nystrom
A three-year letterman and two-year starter as a lineman, Carl "Buck" Nystrom helped Michigan State to a combined record of 21-8 (.724), including a share of the 1953 Big Ten title, 1955 National Championship and two Rose Bowl victories (1954 and '56).
"I'm ecstatic," Nystrom said. "I'm really looking forward to the induction ceremony this fall. This marks my third Hall of Fame selection, and this is obviously the frosting on the cake. I'm thrilled to death to be named to the Hall of Fame at my alma mater."
A former all-state fullback at Graveraet High School in Marquette, Michigan, the 5-foot-10, 194-pound Nystrom moved to the line, thanks to his blocking ability and toughness on defense.
As a sophomore for Clarence "Biggie" Munn in 1953, he played back-up left tackle for a Spartan team that won a share of the Big Ten Championship in its conference debut and finished 9-1, including a 28-20 victory over fifth-ranked UCLA in the 1954 Rose Bowl.
"The 1953 season was special for so many reasons," Nystrom said. "To play our first year in the Big Ten was a thrill in itself, but then to win a share of the conference title and beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl was amazing. Michigan State had been denied admission into the Big Ten for a number of years because Michigan stood in the way. Minnesota finally helped put us over the top (for admission), and we certainly made the most of it. Both `Biggie' Munn and (assistant coach) Duffy Daugherty emphasized the importance of making an impression in our first season of Big Ten play, and we all embraced the challenge."
Nystrom earned first-team All-America honors from both Radio-TV Guide and Frank Leahy as a senior in 1955. He captained the'55 team that went 9-1, including a 17-14 triumph over fourth-ranked UCLA in the 1956 Rose Bowl, and won the National Championship, according to Boand. Nystrom was named the team's Most Valuable Player and head coach Duffy Daugherty called him the greatest guard he had ever coached. A middle guard on defense, he played all 60 minutes in a 21-7 win over No. 4 Notre Dame. Nystrom also became the first MSU football player to earn All-America recognition as both a player and scholar, garnering first-team Academic All-America honors as a senior.
"We had some good athletes in 1955," Nystrom said. "We had a long season the year before (3-6 in 1954), but we thought we had a chance to be a great football team. We had some good, young skill players, in Clarence Peaks and Walt Kowalczyk, and a great nucleus of seniors, led by Earl Morrall, Norm Masters and Gerry Planutis. It was a true team. We won the opener (against Indiana), lost a close game (at Michigan) and entered the third game with a lot of confidence. We had a feeling about the team, and we knew we had a chance to become a helluva team. We had a tremendous amount of respect for each other and closed out the season with another Rose Bowl win over UCLA (17-14)."
He played in the Senior Bowl and was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 30th round of the 1956 National Football League Draft.
Nystrom spent 38 years as a college coach, including a total of six seasons at Michigan State. He coached two years (1958 and '71) under Daugherty and four more seasons under George Perles (1983-86). His college coaching credits also include stops at Colorado, North Dakota State, Oklahoma and Northern Michigan. As a player or coach, Nystrom played a role on five teams that won National Championships at the NCAA Division I or II levels. He has been involved in coaching for 58 years, including high school, college and summer camps.
"There's no question both `Biggie' and Duffy played a major role in my decision to go into coaching," Nystrom said. "It's what I wanted to do and those men had a great impact on my life. I was drafted by the Washington Redskins after my senior year and invited to camp, but I knew my future was in coaching because I didn't quite have the size to play in the pros.
"Both `Biggie' and Duffy influenced by coaching philosophy and you're talking about two different personalities. `Biggie' emphasized the psychological aspect of the game, and he was both demanding and confronting. Duffy had a great rapport with his players because he was constantly seeking ways to make the game fun."
Sue Selke was a trailblazer for Michigan State women's tennis, and now will become the first Spartan women's tennis student-athlete to be inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame. Selke was a member of the first MSU women's tennis team, moving to East Lansing prior to Title IX and women's athletic scholarships.
Selke made the most of her opportunity, winning three Big Ten individual championships from 1973-75 at No. 1 singles, while also helping the Spartans to two Big Ten team titles (1973, 1974) and an overall record of 30-2-1 in her four seasons.
"I am one of these people who talk a lot, but I was honestly speechless when Mark Hollis called," said Selke. "I help with the festivities of the Celebrate Weekend with the Varsity S Club, so I thought he was calling about that. I am very honored to be part of this class and it is a real `wow'. It still hasn't settled in."
Currently, Selke is the executive director of the Court One Athletic Club facilities in Lansing and Okemos. Her main focus is to oversee the tennis department, but also assists with the day-to-day operations of both facilities. She has been with the company for over 35 years, starting as a desk receptionist while in college, and eventually working as a tennis teacher and instructor, a head pro, the director of tennis, and now in her current role. Selke left Court One on two occasions to be a tennis pro in Toledo, Ohio, for a year and a half, and to work five years at the USTA as a tennis service representative for the state of Michigan.
"Michigan State was willing to give me an opportunity," added Selke. "It was pre-Title IX with no scholarships, so we just played for the love of the game. I only applied to three colleges and Michigan State was the only one who would give me financial aid and I knew I needed that to go to college.
"That opening gave me the opportunity to leave Detroit and get my education, but also still play the game I love. All we wanted to do was play tennis and win. We had a coach that made us the best and a great group of teammates to play with. So what I remember is having that opportunity to play a sport and still get an education. Michigan State opened so many more doors, as now here I am an executive director of two clubs."
Selke graduated from Michigan State in 1975 with a degree in physical education with a minor in geography.
Kathy Strahan's athletics career saw her experience high-level success from coast to coast, whether winning amateur softball championships in Connecticut, collegiate championships in Michigan, or her more than 800 coaching victories at colleges and universities in California. Strahan retired in 2013 after a career in collegiate athletics that spanned five decades.
"When Mark Hollis told me, I had goose bumps up-and-down my arm and I teared up," said Strahan. "It was emotional for me. Michigan State was my beginning. I grew up in Lansing. I have been a Spartan ever since I was old enough to be conscious of it. It really is the cherry on top of my career. To be honored by my alma mater is the best there is."
A Lansing native, her father recalled for the Lansing State Journal that he had an idea that his daughter would be a standout athlete when he watched her hit a baseball at age 3. She excelled for the Lansing Laurels in her youth, made the boys varsity baseball team as a senior at Lansing's Harry Hill High School, and parlayed that into a standout career at Michigan State (1974-78), lettering in both basketball (1975-76 season) and softball (1975-78).
Fastpitch was her passion, and in the early era of women's athletics, she helped put MSU on the map by helping the softball team to the AIAW National Championship in 1976 and a third-place finish in 1977. As the leadoff hitter in '76, Strahan led the team in runs scored (25) and triples (7) while striking out only once in 93 at-bats. Overall, the softball team went a combined 90-37-1 in her four seasons, and she also helped the basketball team to a 42-27 record from 1974-77. Strahan was MSU's Outstanding Softball Athlete in 1978.
"It was such a wonderful time to be a college student-athlete at Michigan State," added Strahan. "There were so many good experiences; it is hard to pinpoint one. We won the AIAW Championship and that was obviously the hallmark. I was also fortunate to be able to play two sports.
"I had a wonderful experience with all the instructors and professors, and playing for Karen Langeland and Dianne Ulibari, who were both great mentors. So many wonderful people who made it feel like home and a big Spartan family. I have never forgotten that and that's how I have tried to operate my programs as a coach."
Strahan was a shortstop for the Raybestos Brakettes of Stratford, Connecticut, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) national champions in 1977, 1978 and 1980. A smooth-fielding second baseman, she was also a member of the United States gold-medal winning team at the 1979 Pan American games, while also playing with the 1978 U.S. World Championships team.
After her collegiate playing career, Strahan taught and coached in Connecticut while playing for the Brakettes, then came back to East Lansing and spent two seasons as an assistant to MSU's new coach, her former collegiate teammate Gloria Becksford, while pursuing her master's degree from 1980-81. Strahan then went on to assistant coaching positions at Housatonic Community College (1982) and Santa Monica Community College (1983) before getting her first head coaching position at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Strahan moved on to San Jose State the following year, and posted a 201-187-1 record in seven seasons (1986-92) with the Spartans. During that span, Strahan's teams had just two losing seasons, won 30 or more games each of her last four seasons, and won 20 or more each season of her seven-year tenure. She earned Big West co-Coach of the Year honors in 1989.
In 1993, she began her tenure at Sacramento State, a place she would spend 20 years until her retirement in 2013. She surpassed the 800-win milestone during the 2012 season and finished her career with an overall record of 823-780-3 in her 30-year coaching career.
Under Strahan's watch, Sacramento State made three NCAA Regional appearances (1993, 1995, 2008) and the team finished below the .500 mark in conference play just once during her final 11 years. Her Hornet squads posted at least 25 wins on 15 occasions, including nine 30-win seasons and one 40-win squad.
Individually, she oversaw the development of five All-America selections, one Olympian (Susie Bugliarello, Italy, 2000 & 2004) and Ismena Cabrera who played for the Puerto Rican National Team in 2009. In addition, a total of seven Sacramento State players advanced into the professional ranks during Strahan's tenure, including five in her final 10 seasons.
Strahan was inducted into the Michigan Amateur Softball Association's Hall of Fame in 1995. Six years later, in 2001, Strahan was inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame, and then was inducted again in 2013 as a member of the 1974-75 Lansing Laurels Fastpitch softball squad.
Strahan earned her bachelor's (1979) and master's (1982) degrees from Michigan State in physical education, graduating with honors both times.
Dave Thor enters the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame as one of the most decorated gymnasts in school history. A Nissen Award winner, a three-time Big Ten all-around champion, NCAA bronze medalist and a 1968 Olympic competitor, Thor was one of the nation's elite gymnasts throughout his time at MSU.
"It was definitely a surprise when I got the call from Mark Hollis," said Thor. "I really appreciated the opportunity that Michigan State afforded me to get my education as well as compete."
Thor quickly made a name for himself in his first year of competition as a sophomore. The native of Reseda, California, won his first of three Big Ten all-around championships, along with the pommel horse and floor exercise titles, in 1966. In his first year competing at the NCAA Championships, Thor placed third in the all-around.
Thor's junior season in 1967 brought about another Big Ten title in the all-around. He was forced to miss the NCAA Championships due to an injury, but got a taste of international competition that year by taking part in the Pan-Am Games. Thor proved he belonged on the international stage, earning bronze medals in the floor exercise, pommel horse and high bar.
As a senior in 1968, Thor became just the third three-time all-around Big Ten champion, cementing his name in conference gymnastics lore. Thor also won the pommel horse and took second in the floor exercise and high bar at the conference meet, helping MSU to a share of the Big Ten title.
Thor capped his collegiate career in tremendous fashion as he was voted the winner of the Nissen Award, which goes annually to the nation's outstanding senior collegiate gymnast. Thor became the second Spartan to win the Nissen Award in a three-year span, joining Jim Curzi.
Thor took second in the pommel horse and third in the all-around in his final collegiate appearance at the 1968 NCAA Championships and was dubbed "the best all-around performer we've ever had at Michigan State," at the time by the late MSU head coach George Szypula.
As one of the nation's elite gymnasts, Thor earned an invitation to the 1968 United States Olympic Trials. Despite suffering an injury before the trials, Thor healed in time to compete and was named to the Olympic team.
Competing against the world's best at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, Thor tied for fourth in the pommel horse. However, due to a now-outdated scoring rule, he was held back from moving on to the event's medal round.
Thor, who now resides in Utah, was inducted into the United States Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1999.
"I was able to come back to Michigan State and visit Jenison Field House a few years ago," Thor said. "It brought back some great memories, so I'm looking forward to returning again."