Seven athletes inducted into Saluki Hall of Fame Class of 2021

DeAnna+Price%2C+2021+SIU+Hall+of+Fame+inductee+and+2021+SIU+Homecoming+grand+marshall%2C+smiles+towards+the+crowds+of+people+lining+Illinois+street+for+the+SIU+homecoming+parade+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+16%2C+2021+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+Price%2C+an+American+hammer+thrower+that+has+completed+in+the+2016+and+2021+Olympics.+She+also+set+the+American+hammer+throw+record+at+2021+Olympic+trails+with+80.31+meters.+

Jared Treece | @bisalo

DeAnna Price, 2021 SIU Hall of Fame inductee and 2021 SIU Homecoming grand marshall, smiles towards the crowds of people lining Illinois street for the SIU homecoming parade on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 in Carbondale, Illinois. Price, an American hammer thrower that has completed in the 2016 and 2021 Olympics. She also set the American hammer throw record at 2021 Olympic trails with 80.31 meters.

Seven former Salukis, including three first-time eligible athletes, became the newest members of the Saluki Hall of Fame on Oct. 15, during a ceremony at the Charles Helleny Pavilion in the Banterra Center. The ceremony was part of Homecoming 2021, taking place the night before the annual Homecoming football game.

Randal Falker was a two-time First-Team All-MVC selection, helping lead Saluki men’s basketball to three NCAA Tournament appearances including a Sweet 16 run in 2007. Thirteen years removed from his final game, the school’s all-time leader in blocks doesn’t remember all the accolades he earned at Southern Illinois, but instead the memories he made with the people he met along the way.

“I learned here that the memories of things that happened once the ball stopped bouncing was what mattered to me the most,” Falker said.

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Another basketball player joined Falker in the Class of 2021: Saluki women’s all-time leading scorer Cartaesha Macklin. Macklin was a three-time All-MVC selection and, in 2016, led SIU to a 20-win season and the program’s first postseason appearance in nine years.

Macklin came into a program that had won eight games the previous year. In her freshman and sophomore years, the Salukis won five games each. Despite Macklin performing well on the court, the team was not in a good position.

“I was getting a lot of individual awards, but my team, I didn’t feel we were where we needed to be,” she said.

Macklin discussed her unexpected pregnancy in the winter of 2013-14, which was an emotional and difficult time for her in the middle of her collegiate career.

“I really began to reflect and appreciate the people who came before me,” Macklin said. “I look out in the crowd and I see Miss Charlotte West, who was a pioneer for Title IX. And a person like me who was pregnant, in the past wouldn’t have had the opportunity to continue to play.”

With Macklin’s induction, she became the first women’s basketball player in the Saluki Hall of Fame out of more than 300 inducted since 1978. Since she graduated in 2016, this was Macklin’s first year of eligibility.

Also inducted was fellow 2016 graduate and first-year eligible athlete DeAnna Price. Price was a two-time NCAA Champion and five-time All-American primarily competing in the hammer throw. She set the U.S. record for the hammer throw and became just the second woman in history to surpass 80 meters. She finished eighth in the hammer throw event at both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics and won gold in the 2019 World Championships.

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Price was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing softball, volleyball, and basketball. Track and field was meant to just be “something I can enjoy,” she said. Three trips to state and two school records later, Price was on her way to Carbondale to throw for Southern Illinois.

“I say being a Saluki means everything to me, because this is where it all started,” Price said. “I didn’t know where my life would begin. I remember that I was so scared of where I would go.”

“I’m a firm believer that when you surround yourself with positive people, you get positive back in your life,” Price said.

One of those positive people Price cited was John Smith, who was the next former Saluki to be inducted into the Class of 2021. Smith was an eight-time MVC champion thrower, and an All-American in the indoor shot put in 1984. Smith held both the indoor and outdoor shot put record at SIU. Smith went on to become the throws coach at SIU, mentoring 49 All-Americans and 63 MVC champions, including Price.

“Pretty much all I did growing up was play sports and work,” Smith said. “The more I played sports, the less I had to work.”

Smith was a thrower for SIU in the ‘80s. When SIU eliminated the throwing coach job during his freshman year, somebody needed to step in and coach.

“That was my introduction,” Smith said. “And we just started getting it done.”

Southern Illinois’s reputation as a powerhouse in track and field was promoted by Smith, who has spent four years with the program as a student-athlete and 12 as a coach.

“You think of SIU as a mid-major school. SIU is known for basketball,” Smith said. “But around the world, SIU is known first for track and field.”

Smith was one of two inductees from the 20th  century. The other was Damon Jones. Jones was a three-time All-Conference tight end, including first-team in 1995 and 1996, and was named to SIU’s All-Century team in 2013. Jones finished third all-time in receiving yards and fifth in receptions at the end of his Saluki career.

In accepting his enshrinement, Jones acknowledged some mistakes he had made along the way. Specifically, he mentioned when he had transferred to Carbondale from the University of Michigan.

“I came here not knowing what I was going to be,” Jones said. “I thought I had lost my way as a young adult.”

When he arrived at SIU, Jones remembers being anxious about joining a new team. On his first day, Jones noticed he was getting looks from people on campus. When he saw the newest edition of The Daily Egyptian, he figured out why.

“I was on the cover of [The Daily Egyptian]. It was a big full page, like I was some football savior,” Jones said. “And I was like, ‘oh my lord, what are my teammates gonna think of me?’”

Jones would eventually live up to that hype,becoming the 23rd Saluki to be drafted into the NFL, where he spent 5 years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 27th Saluki to be drafted in the NFL – coincidentally also a tight end – joined Jones in the Class of 2021. MyCole Pruitt was a two-time First-Team All-American, three-time First-Team All-MVFC, and set the school record for career catches and catches in a season.

Pruitt now plays for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, which prevented him from attending the ceremony in-person.

Also missing the ceremony was Meg Viggars, who plays volleyball professionally in France. Viggars was a two-time All-MVC selection and helped lead Saluki volleyball to 23 wins and a bid in the NCAA Tournament in 2015. She is the only player in school history with at least 800 career kills, 2,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 300 blocks.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Brandyn_2020

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