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November 10, 2010

Five more named to Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

By: Jimmy Robertson

On Friday, Oct. 22, the Virginia Tech athletics department inducted five former student-athletes into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. The five new honorees bring the total number enshrined to 152.


Tech AD Jim Weaver presented a Hall of Fame plaque to former defensive back Gene Bunn.

Sport played: Football

Years played: 1975-78

Notable accomplishment: Still holds the Tech career record for interceptions with 18

Gene Bunn’s career accomplishments are pretty remarkable considering the era in which he played and the great players who have played at his position – cornerback – over the decades.

Bunn’s 18 career interceptions amazingly still stand as a career mark at Tech. He played in the mid-1970s during a time in which most teams ran the ball more than they threw it. He also played in an era in which freshmen were not eligible to play. So he recorded his 18 interceptions in one less season than most of the players on Tech’s career interceptions list.

He also played in a zone scheme, as opposed to a man-to-man scheme, and he attributes one man as the key to his success.

“Coach Buddy Bennett,” Bunn said, referring to head coach Jimmy Sharpe’s secondary coach. “There was something about Coach Bennett. He was like a scientific genius. We played zone. We didn’t play man-to-man.

“There were way more people who ran a faster 40 time than me – I ran a 4.7 downhill with the wind at my back. And there were many more who bench-pressed more than me. But Coach Bennett always had me in the right spot.”

Bunn made an impact as soon as he got on the field. He intercepted seven passes during the 1976 season, including one in each of the Hokies’ last five games. He finished the season tied for seventh nationally in interceptions.

As a junior in 1977, Bunn picked off six passes to tie the school career mark held by Ron Davidson and become the only Tech player ever to intercept six or more passes in more than one season. He also contributed 40 tackles on the way to being named second-team on The Associated Press All-South Independent squad and honorable mention on the AP’s All-America team.

Bill Dooley replaced Sharpe in Bunn’s senior season and moved Bunn to free safety. He became the Hokies’ all-time interception leader with a pick in the 1978 season-opening game against Tulsa. He posted five interceptions over the team’s first six games, including a pair against West Virginia, to finish with a career total of 18 picks over 33 games.

Only a couple of players have come close to Bunn’s record. Tyronne Drakeford intercepted 16 in his career (1990-93) and Macho Harris intercepted 15 in his career (2005-2008). But both of those players played well over 40 games.

“I thought both of those guys were going to break it,” Bunn said. “I absolutely thought it was going to be broken because I didn’t play as a freshman. To think that it would still be there 32 years later … I wouldn’t have had a clue.”

Bunn still holds the current Tech season (5) and career (6) records for consecutive games with an interception. He currently lives in Charlotte, N.C., where he owns and runs BE Bunn Appraisals, a residential home appraisal company.


Michelle Meadows became the first Tech softball player to be inducted into the Tech Hall of Fame.

Sport played: Softball

Years played: 1997-2000

Notable accomplishment: Three-time Academic All-American who still holds school records for career doubles (48) and ranks second in career batting average (.347) and hits (254)

Interestingly, despite her accomplishments, Michelle Meadows still wasn’t sure she had made it into the Hall of Fame when she received her letter in the mail.

“When I got the letter in the mail, it said, ‘You’ve been elected to go in the Hall of Fame,’” Meadows said. “But I thought it would have to go to a vote or something like that.

“Then I read it again and realized that I had made it. I was speechless.”

Meadows made history by becoming the first softball player to be inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. She was a member of Tech’s first recruiting class and became eligible for the Hall this year. Hall of Fame guidelines require a person to be out of school for at least 10 years.

“It’s always nice to be a ‘first,’” she said. “But I also know that the program will continue to grow and continue to get better, and there will be others who are better than me. I’m excited to see where the program goes. I’m excited to see how much it’s already grown.”

She essentially laid the foundation, wasting little time in making an impact once she arrived in Blacksburg out of Monacan High School in Richmond. As a freshman in 1997, she led the team with a .376 batting average. That average still stands as the second-highest single-season mark in program history, and helped her earn a spot on the Atlantic 10’s All-Conference team.

Meadows hit .354 her sophomore year and then helped lead the Hokies to a program-record 54 wins and a spot in the conference championship game as a junior in 1999. She batted .338 that season.

During her senior season, Meadows again led Tech, batting .324 as the Hokies won 41 games and returned to the conference title game. That final year, she was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete of the Year for softball.

Meadows was equally successful in the classroom, earning Academic All-America honors three times, including first-team honors twice. She also earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and was awarded the prestigious Skelton Award by Tech.

She still holds the school’s career record for doubles with 48, stands second at Tech in career batting average (.347) and hits (254) and ranks third in career RBI (131). She played in and started 250 games during her career, with almost all of those starts coming at shortstop or second base.

Meadows works as an associate AD for student-athlete enhancement and senior women’s administrator at Longwood University.


Former Tech women’s tennis player Laurie Shiflet Hackbirth was introduced at Lane Stadium during halftime of the Duke game, along with the other inductees.

Sport played: Women’s tennis

Years played: 1987-91

Notable accomplishment: Was the first Tech female tennis player to be rated nationally in singles (123rd in 1989)

Laurie Shiflet appeared destined to go to the University of South Carolina. After all, he father, her older brother and her older sister all went to the Columbia, S.C., school, so the family connections to that school ran quite strong.

But Virginia Tech’s head women’s tennis coach in the late 1980s, Anne Jones Thompson, convinced Shiflet to take an official visit to Tech, and to make a long story short, Shiflet became the first member of her family not to go to South Carolina.

“I knew a couple of girls on the team through junior tennis,” Shiflet said. “But I had never been to Blacksburg. Then I went for my official visit, and three weeks later, I told my parents I wanted to go back just to be sure of my decision.

“My parents didn’t really try to influence me. They told me to go where I felt the most comfortable. When I took my visit to Virginia Tech, I had never seen a campus so beautiful. It just felt like the right place for me. It’s where I felt the most at home.”

She obviously felt at home on the tennis courts at Tech as well – her star-studded career enabled her to become just the second female tennis player to be inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame behind her coach, who was inducted in 2003.

Shiflet’s first season, she won 19 matches (combined fall and spring) to lead a young team that won 16 matches overall. Shiflet became the first female tennis player at Virginia Tech to hold a regional singles ranking. She finished the 1988 season ranked 13th in the final Volvo Tennis Collegiate Regional rankings.

Shiflet took over the No. 1 singles duties as a sophomore and won the Eastern Collegiate Tournament Flight 1 singles championship at Trenton, N.J., during the fall of 1988.

She won All-Metro Conference honors in the spring and finished the season with a combined 27-15 record that earned her a No. 10 regional ranking. She was ranked 123rd nationally, becoming the first Tech female tennis player to be rated nationally in singles.

As a junior, Shiflet teamed with Leslie Seward to finish third in the No. 1 doubles competition at the Metro Conference Championships. A year later, Shiflet and Seward combined for a 28-8 record in doubles play, and Shiflet added 14 wins in singles to spark the team to an 18-6 record.

Her No. 10 ranking in 1989 still stands as the fourth-best all-time regional rating for a Tech women’s singles player, further cementing her overdue inclusion into the Hall of Fame.

“It was a nice, big surprise,” she said. “It’s thrilling to be in with Anne. She was a wonderful coach and a good friend, and I have a lot of respect for her.”

Laurie Shiflet Hackbirth – she married former Virginia Tech football player David Hackbirth – is currently the general manager of the Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club, where she oversees all aspects of the facility. She has run the prestigious USTA Girls’ 16 National Clay Court Championships for the past 18 years.


Corey Moore, one of Tech's greatest defensive players ever, returned to Blacksburg for the first time in 11 years and was inducted into the hall of fame.

Sport played: Football

Years played: 1997-99

Notable accomplishment: Won the 1999 Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the 1999 Lombardi Award

For those who know Corey Moore well, they know that he absolutely hates to talk about his individual accomplishments during his playing days at Tech – and there were plenty of accomplishments.

The undersized defensive end with the oversized heart played with a passion that enabled him to become one of Tech’s all-time great defensive players. His penchant for making big plays, whether it be sacking a quarterback or forcing a fumble or blocking a punt, often whipped Tech’s crowd into frenzy. Because of that and because of his fearless spirit, he ranks as one of Hokie Nation’s all-time favorites.

“I think the typical Virginia Tech fan appreciates hard work,” Moore said. “They knew I was undersized, too, so I think the way I played meant a lot to them. It’s not surprising because they can relate to hard work.”

Moore, who spent a year at Holmes Junior College in Mississippi before enrolling at Tech, played in every game during the 1997 season. Then, as a junior, Moore moved into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact.

His 13.5 sacks led the BIG EAST Conference and helped him earn the league’s defensive player of the year award. He finished the season with 67 tackles, 18.5 total tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hurries, while adding three blocked kicks on special teams. Moore capped the season by earning MVP honors during the Hokies’ win over Alabama in the inaugural Music City Bowl and by garnering first-team All-America honors.

“That season was the most fun I had,” Moore said. “I grew up an Alabama fan, so beating them was a great accomplishment.”

A year later, Moore was voted first team on all six major All-America teams to become only the second unanimous All-American (at the time) in school history. He earned the honor by posting a BIG EAST-record 17 sacks to go with 11 other tackles for loss and 60 total tackles. He was named the winner of the 1999 Bronko Nagurski Trophy as college football’s defensive player of the year and won the 1999 Lombardi Award as the college football lineman of the year.

Moore ranks third all time at Tech in career sacks (35) and total tackles for loss (58). He graduated from Tech with a degree in finance and went on to get his master’s at Michigan State in student affairs administration.

He is working toward a doctorate degree in higher, adult and lifelong education. He currently works as an undergraduate advisor in the college of communication arts & sciences at Michigan State, where his passion these days is helping students.

“I love the college environment and I love impacting students’ lives,” he said.


The late Duke Thorpe was inducted into the Tech Hall of Fame after a career in which he scored more than 1,200 points and still holds the career record for field-goal percentage.

Sport played: Basketball

Years played: 1973-77

Notable accomplishment: His career 60-percent field-goal percentage is still the all-time record at Tech

Charles Elliott Thorpe’s popularity extended to people of all ages – teammates, coaches, friends, and family members. But kids, in particular, adored him.

When Thorpe – better known as Duke Thorpe – went to pick up his kids at day care, he usually grabbed them and threw them playfully up in the air. The other kids wanted part of that action, and before long, his arrival became the most anticipated of each day, as he started tossing all of them playfully up in the air.

“That’s just the way he was,” said his wife, Anise Thorpe. “He loved kids and kids loved him.”

Unfortunately for his family and the Tech family, this gentleman passed much too young in life. Thorpe passed away from cancer this past June, and his wife accepted his honor in his place.

“He got the letter on a Friday right before he went back in the hospital,” Anise said. “He opened it and read it, and we both just sat there and cried.”

During his first season, Thorpe managed to average 7.9 points and six rebounds a game despite a foot injury. He also led the team in field-goal percentage (54.3), a sign of things to come.

After averaging 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore starter, Thorpe took on a different role in 1975-76. Head coach Don DeVoe used his popular front-liner as a sixth man to give the team a boost and reduce the risk of foul trouble. Thorpe responded by averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and shooting a school-record 66.9 percent from the floor. The Hokies went 21-7 that season and appeared in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time.

Thorpe moved back into a starting role when Charles Moir took over the helm for the 1976-77 season. He led the team in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (8.3) as Tech advanced to the quarterfinal round of the National Invitation Tournament. He finished as the squad’s top shooter for the fourth consecutive season.

“Duke didn’t brag on things he did,” Anise Thorpe said. “But he was competitive. He’d be out playing with a group of kids and he’d never let them win. He was the same way with our children. If you played Duke Thorpe, you were going to earn every point.”

Thorpe’s career field-goal percentage of 60.0 still ranks as the top all-time shooting mark for a Tech player. He finished his career with 1,294 points.

After graduating from Tech, Thorpe played professionally overseas and served as a graduate assistant coach under DeVoe at the University of Tennessee. While at Tennessee, he met Anise, and the two later got married.

Thorpe worked for Chrysler for quite some time and was transferred to Florida. He ultimately left Chrysler and worked as a store coordinator for Walt Disney World in Kissimmee, Fla.

He passed away on June 23 and leaves behind his wife, his daughter (Jacquelin) and his son (Charles Elliott, IV).