Hall of Fame keeps growing each year

WINTERSVILLE – The color scheme remains similar, but the stage becomes grander each year.

On Monday at St. Florian Hall, the 17th class of the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame was honored and enshrined.

“We keep growing,” said Frank “Digger” Dawson, president and founder of the Hall of Fame. “We started small and had our first ceremony on the street outside of East Liverpool High School. Each year, more and more people get involved and attend this special ceremony.”

That included Holtz himself and keynote speaker Ben Roethlisberger – two-time Super Bowl champion and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

“Ben has been wonderful,” Dawson said. “They told me that Ben always arrives early to events and he was way ahead of schedule for us. That means a lot.

“You never know what you’re going to get when dealing with celebrities, but Ben has treated us all like friends.”

More than 600 people attended the dinner to honor the 2014 Hall of Fame class which includes former Major League Baseball player Bernie Allen, Olympic wrestler Bobby Douglas, founding partner of the Washington Speakers Bureau Harry Rhoads and retired chairman of PNC Financial Services Group Tim Rohr.

“This is our biggest turn out, by far,” Dawson said.

Doug Grove and his son, Collin, traveled from Phoenix for the festivities. They were able to meet Holtz and Roethlisberger before their respective speeches.

“It was such a cool moment for us,” Doug said. “We got in this morning and having the chance to get up close and personal with these legends makes the long trip worth it.”

Keynote speakers for the event are hand-picked by Holtz. In the past, Reggie Jackson, Joe Montana, Urban Meyer and Regis Philbin have been among the speakers.

“We’ve had some great speakers,” Holtz said. “We do not pay for transportation or give them any money for doing this. We just say it’s a great cause and they jump at the chance.”

Roethlisberger begins minicamp with the Steelers today at the team’s practice facility on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

“When Coach (Holtz) asked me to be a part of this, I knew it would be a great opportunity to tell some stories, meet some people and enjoy a nice evening before the grind of football season starts back up again,” Roethlisberger said.

Holtz, a Follansbee native who graduated from East Liverpool and played college football at Kent State, based his speech around his humble beginnings living in a small house with his parents and younger sister.

“I just try to speak from my heart,” said Holtz, who is currently an ESPN football analyst, renowned motivational speaker and author. “People need love and understanding the most when they deserve it the least – remember that – and stay true to yourself.”

Since its inception, the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame has contributed more than $500,000 to students and educators in the Upper Ohio Valley.

“We’re already starting to plan for next year,” Dawson said.

(Peaslee can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com)