COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – He went from player to mayor, and
filled the time in between as coach of the best defensive secondary
in school history. Few people have served the University in so many
In recognition of his success as both a player and coach, and for his contributions to the Golden Eagle athletics program and Cookeville community, Tony Stone is one of five people who will be enshrined into the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame October 30 as the school honors its athletic legacy with the 35th annual induction ceremony.
Stone’s playing and coaching career, from high school through college, is entwined with numerous men who have also been enshrined in the TTU Sports Hall of Fame, so he takes his place among peers.
The 2009 Hall of Fame Class will be honored during Homecoming weekend, Oct. 30-31. The induction will take place at the Hall of Fame Dinner Friday evening, and the group will also be recognized at the Homecoming football game Saturday against Tennessee State.
Stone first came to Tech from his hometown of Columbia, Tenn., as a student and walk-on member of the football team in 1955. He went from playing his prep football for future Tech Hall of Fame coach M.P. “Mutt” Quillen at Columbia Central to playing under future Hall of Fame coach Wilburn Tucker at Tech.
After the 1955 season he was promoted to the varsity, and he lettered in his final two seasons in 1957 and 1958, splitting time between center and guard on offense, and linebacker on defense. As a player, he was part of two OVC championships squads in 1955 and 1958 and a combined 25-14-1 overall record and 16-5 conference mark.
Following graduation, he joined Tucker’s coaching staff as part of an impressive list of four student assistants, coming on board along with Jim Ragland, Gordon Mason, both in the Hall of Fame and Carlton Flatt, who would go on to a legendary high school coaching career.
He spent seven years coaching on the high school level, returning to Tech in 1967 as defensive secondary coach, a post he held for two years under Tucker and six more under Don Wade. Stone coached a secondary that earned the nickname of the “bumble bees” because of their aggressive and hard-hitting style of play, and were considered the best secondary in school history.
In 1972, Tech won the OVC championship with a 7-0 overall record and played in the Grantland Rice Bowl, finishing the year with a 10-2 overall record. His secondary led the nation in pass interceptions with an OVC record 30 picks. That squad had nine players named first-team all-OVC, led by defensive back John Fitzpatrick who set school and OVC records with 12 interceptions. Tech’s defense ranked first in the league, allowing just 84.2 yards per game on the ground.
David Francis played four years under Stone and credits his former coach with having a major influence on his life.
“Coach Stone was a great teacher of the game,” Francis said. “He coached mental and physical toughness. He always set a great example for his players to follow. The lessons I learned from coach Stone and TTU continue to be a large part of my life today.”
After leaving the University, Stone achieved notable success as a businessman and supporter of Tech Athletics and Golden Eagle football. He helped establish what would become the popular Golden Eagle Scramble and did the cooking for the annual gathering for 10 years.
Stone was also an active civic leader, being elected Mayor of Cookeville in 1988 for a four-year term.
Joining Stone in the Class of 2009 are Dena Adams Fairley, Jim Bishop, John Moorhead and Branon Vaughn. With their induction, the Hall of Fame will grow to 153 since it was established in 1975.
Tickets to the Hall of Fame Dinner and the game are available by calling (931) 372-3940, or through the Athletics ticket office in Eblen Center. Reservations must be made for the dinner, and tickets are $25 each.