Two prep football players who excelled in college and competed in the pros plus one of the top track sprinters in area and state annals will be inducted at the 14th annual Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday, August 19 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
Tapped from the 1950s decade are Tom (Knute) Franckhauser of Steubenville Catholic High School and William (Catfish) Hearst of Wellsburg High School plus 1940s honoree Bill Gompers of Wheeling Central High School. Franckhauser and Hearst will be enshrined postumously.
The OVAC Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Robinson Automotive Group, and the OVAC Sports Museum are located inside WesBanco Arena.
Capsule summaries of the three honorees follow:
Tom "Knute" Franckhauser (Steubenville Catholic Central High School, Class of 1955).The 6-foot, 195-pound offensive end-defensive back was the leading scorer as a senior on a 9-1 record Crusader team, the school's best record since 1946. He landed nine touchdown passes--high for that era, and returned three pass interceptions for scores. His best output was in a 45-6 win over Wellsville when he scored on an 81-yard TD reception and returned two interceptions for 57- and 69-yard scores.
An All-Valley and All-Eastern Ohio honoree, he competed in the Ohio-W.Va. All-Star game won by Ohio, 31-20.
He accepted a scholarship to Purdue University where he lettered three years and started as a junior and senior as the team's leading pass receiver. He was named team MVP as a senior. He helped the Boilermakers upset the nation's No. 1 ranked team, Michigan State, in 1957. A second team All-Big Ten honoree as a senior, he played in 17 career games with 30 receptions for 611 yards and four TDs.
He was the 33rd overall selection in the 1959 NFL Draft third round by the Los Angeles Rams. In his rookie season, the cornerback had three interceptions.
In 1960, he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Expansion Draft and became the first Cowboy to carry the ball by returning the opening kickoff in the inaugural regular season game.
After two years with the Cowboys, he capped his five-year, 58-game pro career with a two-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings. He was forced to retire in 1964 after suffering a brain injury during a tackle in a training camp scrimmage. He had 13 career interceptions.
A first cousin of OVAC Hall of Famer Danny Abramowicz, he passed away in 1997.
William "Catfish" Hearst (Wellsburg High School, Class of 1959).The first sprinter in the Ohio Valley and W. Va. to break the 50-second barrier at 440 yards, he was dominant at the quarter mile, which he didn't start running until his junior season, and 220 yards while also competitive in the 100 and long jump.
As a senior, he was unbeaten in the 440 with wins at the W.Va. Regional and state meets--a repeat title -- the one-class OVAC meet where he was top scorer, the Bellaire, Toronto, Wellsburg and Mansfield Relays, and was one of only two Ohio Valley athletes to ever win an individual event at the most prestigious Midwest invitational meet. His 49.6 mark at Bellaire was the first Ohio Valley sub-50-second clocking, and he time and all-time best 49.1 at the W.Va. regional meet. At the one-class state meet, he repeated as 440 champion with a record 49.5 mark and also won the 220 with a record-tying 22.1 time. As a junior, he won the state 440 in 50.05 seconds.
He was high scorer at the Bellaire Relays event featuring athletes from three states and won by a Paul Warfield-led Warren Harding team. Hearst won the 100 (10.0), was second in the 220 and won the 440 (49.6) with two meet records.
A two-time All-Valley Track honoree at 100, 220 and 440, the Wellsburg Express was selected captain as a senior and noted as "the greatest quarter-miler produced in these parts.".
Hearst also was a four-year football and three-year basketball player and competed in the 1959 W.Va.-Ohio All-Star football game won by W.Va., 7-6.
He attended W. Va. State and also served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
After returning home, he was a long-time coach of the Ohio Valley Track Club, a certified track official and helped coach at Bethany College. An annual Memorial Scholarship in his name is presented each year at Brooke High.
Hearst passed away in 2002.
Bill Gompers (Wheeling Central High School, Class of 1945).He was an honored running back on two top Maroon Knight football teams and also lettered on two state Catholic Tournament championship basketball teams.
A two-time selection on the five-team All-City football honor roll, the two-way standout helped Central win the 1943 City Championship with a 9-1 regular season record before the Knights competed in a post-season Steel Bowl contest won, 20-19 by Rochester.
As a senior in the first year of OVAC competition, he was team co-captain on a 6-3-1 record Knight squad.
In basketball, Gompers competed on two teams which extended the Knights' streak to five consecutive W.Va. Catholic Tournament championships.The 1944 team went 22-3 in regular season and Catholic Tournament play before the Knights won two of three games in the Eastern States Catholic Tournament. That team was coached by charter OVAC Hall of Fame coach Jim Foti.
Both Gompers and Foti were among inductees into the charter Wheeling Central High School Sports Hall of Fame.
During Gompers' senior season, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound back was offered football scholarships at several colleges but opted for Notre Dame where he lettered for three seasons and played both ways on two Irish teams proclaimed as National Champions - 1946 (8-0-1 record) and 1947 (9-0), which was led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack. Gompers, cited as a top blocker, averaged 6.8 yards a carry. He played in the 1946 scoreless tie vs. Army which was labeled the "Game of the Century."
Gompers was selected to play on the College All-Star team which played the NFL champions, the Chicago Cardinals, in a post-season game.
Drafted by the Buffalo Bills of the pro All-American Football Conference, he played both ways for one season as the team bowed to the Cleveland Browns in the championship game.
Gompers resides in McMurray, Pa.