SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- The Shepherd University Athletic Hall of Fame inducted five new members at the annual induction banquet on Friday night at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown. The quintet was also honored in a pregame ceremony at today's Shepherd-Fairmont State football game.
Trainer/coach Gayle Conner (’75), Tommy Diehl ’86 (baseball), and Norman “Smoke” Johnson (’58) (football), join Wayne Riser ('89 and ‘07) (baseball coach) and Bill Thompson ('71) (men’s basketball) as the 23rd class to be inducted. The "fantastic five" bring the total number of members in the Shepherd Athletic Hall of Fame to 113.
Conner (Martinsburg, WV/1970 graduate of James Wood (Va.) High School) began his service to Shepherd athletics in 1970 when began a four-year stint as manager for the Shepherd football team. He eventually joined the team as a walk-on in 1973 and became a standout on special teams. Conner returned to his alma mater in 1984 to serve as defensive coordinator on the football staff and served in that capacity for five years before becoming Shepherd’s first full-time trainer in 1989. His 1986 WVIAC Champion defense set records that still stand today. One of the most respected trainers in the WVIAC, Conner has put in countless hours to fill the needs of Shepherd’s student-athletes in every sport. His work often goes unnoticed, yet he has played a huge part in the success of Shepherd athletics over his tenure.
Diehl (Charles Town, WV/1981 graduate of Jefferson High School) was a standout baseball player for the Rams from 1982-84. He helped lead Shepherd to back-to-back WVIAC titles in 1983 and 1984. Diehl garnered First Team All-WVIAC honors in 1984 as he batted .361, stole 14 bases, and tied a single season record with seven home runs. Despite only playing for three seasons, Diehl wrapped up his career as the program’s all-time leader in home runs (19) and grand slams (4). He is still ranked in the Top Ten in several career and single season categories. He joins his brother, David Diehl (’83), a class of 1998 inductee, in the hall.
Johnson (Columbus, NC/1953 graduate of Charles Town (W.Va.) High School) was a four-year starter at tackle for the Shepherd football team from 1954-57. The Rams recorded a 22-8-1 (.726) record over that period – highlighted by an undefeated season in 1955. A two-way player, Johnson was a two-year All-Conference selection and served as team co-captain his senior year. Johnson went on to a successful teaching and coaching career. He was physical education department chair at Middle River (Md.) Junior High School for 21 years where he started the lacrosse program and also coached wrestling. He also had a 15-year football coaching stint at Eastern Vocational Technical (Md.) High School where his 1972 team posted an undefeated season. Johnson moved to Overlea (Md.) Senior High School where he served as athletics director, head football coach, and head lacrosse coach from 1985-89. His 1986 football team posted a perfect 10-0 mark.
Riser (Martinsburg, WV/1984 graduate of Hedgesville High School) is the school’s all-time winningest coach in any sport with a 410-315-2 record over his 18 years at the helm of the Shepherd baseball team. Riser has led the Rams to nine WVIAC Northern Division titles (1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006) and three NCAA II regional appearances (1997, 2002, 2006). His 2004 team captured the WVIAC championship, while his 1997 team posted a 39-7 overall mark with a flawless 20-0 conference record. The 39-7 (.848) record gave Shepherd the top win-loss percentage among all NCAA II baseball schools that year. Riser has garnered four coach of the year awards over his career. He transformed Fairfax Field from a multi-purpose field into one of the premier Division II baseball facilities in the East. Riser has produced numerous All-Americans, Academic All-Americans and Regional Players of the Year. He finished his term as chair of the NCAA II Baseball Committee.
Thompson (Weirton, WV/1962 graduate of Weir High School), one of the men’s basketball program’s all-time greats, played for the Rams from 1962-65 and 1968-69. He led the team in scoring all four years with an impressive 26.0 average as a senior. The first player in school history to score 50 points in a game, Thompson completed his career with over 1,800 career points and still ranks eighth on the Shepherd all-time scoring list. Thompson, a two-time first team All-WVIAC choice, became the first Ram to be selected in the NBA draft when he was chosen by the Baltimore Bullets in the 13th round in 1969.
The Shepherd University Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2008
(L-R): Thomas M. Diehl, Bill "Tobe" Thompson, Norman "Smoke" Johnson, Wayne Riser, Gayle Conner.
Norman "Smoke" Johnson
Bill "Tobe" Thompson
Thomas M. Diehl