The Georgia Southern Department of Athletics announced Monday its Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2022, a group of seven that left a lasting mark on Eagle Athletics and will be bestowed the highest honor later this fall.
The 2022 class of inductees includes:
- Taz Dixon, an All-American football player who left Georgia Southern holding six school records; and
- Alex Mash, a two-time All-American football player who was the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year in 1993; and
- The Nelson Family, who have donated millions of dollars to multiple athletics projects; and
- Elizabeth Nieto Searl, the most decorated player in Georgia Southern women’s tennis history who won six Southern Conference titles; and
- Mike Shepherd, a three-time first-team all-conference selection in baseball who is still among the all-time leaders in program history; and
- Kate Van Dyke, the only player in Southern Conference volleyball history to earn first-team all-league honors all four years and was named the league’s Player of the Year in 2012; and
- David Young, a two-time All-American who helped Georgia Southern to four Southern Conference Championships and two NCAA Division I-AA National Championships.
The 2022 class will be inducted at a Hall of Fame luncheon during the South Alabama football weekend, Nov. 4 and 5. The seven additions bring the total number of former coaches, student-athletes, supporters and administrators in the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame to 168.
2022 Hall of Fame Class Bios (in alphabetical order)
TAZ DIXON (Football, 1986-89)
A 1989 All-American who lettered four times as a safety for the Eagles … A major part of the defense that led the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 12.1 points per game, as the Eagles went 15-0 and won the national title … Left Georgia Southern holding six school records: passes intercepted in a game (2), most career interceptions (12), most interception return yards in a career (182), most interception return scores in a game (1), most interception return scores in a season (2) and most interception return scores in a career (3) … Had 233 career tackles, 23 pass breakups, 12 interceptions and had 19 solo tackles in a playoff game against Appalachian State in 1987.
ALEX MASH (Football, 1990-93)
A four-year letterman who earned First-Team All-Southern Conference honors in 1993 and was chosen as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year by both coaches and media association … A two-time All-America selection, earning first-team honors from five different agencies (Associated Press, Football Gazette, Kodak, Sports Network and Walter Camp) as a senior … Also chosen to the first unit of the Kodak All-America squad as a junior in 1992 … Still ranks second on GSU’s career sack list (25) and third on the fumble recovery list with five … His 10.5 sacks in 1993 were the fourth-most ever produced in a season … Played in 47 games while helping GSU to a pair of NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances (1990, ’93) and one national title (1990) … Credited with 210 total tackles (133 solo), 25.0 sacks, 42.0 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles … Scored a pair of touchdowns, returning an interception 15 yards for score versus Nevada in 1990 I-AA National Championship game before bringing back a fumble 28 yards to account for GSU’s only points against the Miami Hurricanes in 1993 … His top season came as senior with 77 stops (52 as junior, 60 as sophomore).
NELSON FAMILY (Donors)
The Nelson Family (Rotary Corporation, Glennville, Ga.) has pledged nearly $2 million dollars to the Athletic Foundation … The group, which includes Ed and Jeannie Nelson, Don and Tara Nelson Martin, and Traci Nelson Heilman, gave the full amount to fund the Field of Dreams at Allen E. Paulson Stadium … The group pledged $1 million to name the Hall of Fame in the Ted Smith Family Football Center, which is named in memory of their late father, Bill W. Nelson … Several members of the group are part of The Transition 20 … The family pledged a significant amount for Hanner Fieldhouse and J.I. Clements Baseball stadium projects … The Rotary Corporation has leased a VIP Suite at Paulson Stadium since 1984.
ELIZABETH NIETO SEARL (Women’s Tennis, 1993-1996)
The most decorated player in Georgia Southern women’s tennis history who won six Southern Conference titles … Compiled a 68-4 singles record during her time with the Eagles … A three-time Southern Conference Player of the Year … Was named the Southern Conference Tournament and Georgia Southern University MVP four times … Earned seven all-conference singles and doubles honors … Won four consecutive conference No. 1 singles championships, the only player in SoCon history to accomplish that feat … Also won a pair of doubles titles … Was ranked as high as 35th in the Rolex Collegiate rankings … Was ranked 37th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) in her senior year … Led the Eagles to back-to-back SoCon Championships in 1995 and 1996 … Served as an assistant for the team following her graduation … Served as the head tennis coach for Clayton State University from 1999-2006, winning the 2001 Peach Belt Conference Championship … As a junior player in Venezuela, she ranked 13th in the world in singles and 14th in doubles … Competed in several tournaments around the world as a junior player, including such high-profile events as the United States Open, Wimbledon and the French Open.
MIKE SHEPHERD (Baseball, 1985-87)
Is the only individual player in Georgia Southern baseball history to achieve all of the following: first-team all-conference three consecutive years (1985, 1986, 1987); team won regular season conference championship three consecutive years (1985, 1986, 1987); conference all-tournament team three consecutive years (1985, 1986, 1987); and team won conference tournament three consecutive years (1985, 1986, 1987) … Was the MVP of the conference tournament in 1986 and helped lead the Eagles to the semifinals of the NCAA Southeast Regional tournament in 1987 … Was recognized as a member of the Division-I All-Atlantic Region first team in 1986 … Named to the Preseason All-America Team by Collegiate Baseball prior to the 1987 season … Is still ranked in the top 10 in a number of offensive categories including: No. 7 in single-season doubles; No. 8 in single-season slugging percentage; and No. 7 in career slugging percentage … Had a 20-game hitting streak at one point during his final season … Selected in the 32nd Round by the Cincinnati Reds.
KATE VAN DYKE (Volleyball, 2009-2012)
The only player in Southern Conference history to earn first-team all-league honors all four years and was named the league’s Player of the Year in 2012 … Was the first Eagle to be named Player of the Year since GS Athletics Hall of Famer Martina Veiglova in 2003 … Finished her career with a school-record 5,348 assists to go along with 1,240 digs, 464 kills, 208 blocks and 106 service aces … As a senior, ranked 26th in the country in assists per set in 2012, averaging 11.24 … Earned SoCon Tournament MVP honors after leading the Eagles to the 2010 SoCon Tournament title and subsequent NCAA Tournament appearance … Helped Georgia Southern win the SoCon South Division regular-season title in 2012 … Was also a three-time SoCon All-Academic selection and four-year member of the league’s academic honor roll.
DAVID YOUNG (Football, 1999-2002)
A four-year letterman and a four-year starter at strong safety … Played in 57 games with 39 career starts and 33 consecutive starts … Selected to three All-America teams as a senior and one All-America team as a junior (Associated Press (third team), Sports Network (third team), and Football Gazette (honorable mention) honors in 2002 and Football Gazette (honorable mention) honors in 2001 … Helped Georgia Southern to four Southern Conference Championships, four NCAA Division I-AA semifinal playoff appearances and two NCAA Division I-AA National Championships … A two-time Southern Conference All-Conference selection (first-team Coaches and Media for 2001 and 2002), a three-time Southern Conference Player of the Week and two-time All-American Freshman of the Week … Ranked first in school history for most tackles by a safety with 289 and second for blocked kicks in a career with six, tied for first in school history for most blocked kicks in a season with three, tied for sixth in interceptions with 10 and tied for sixth pass break-ups 20 … Career totals include 289 tackles (177 solo), 10 interceptions, 20 pass breakups, six blocked kicks, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries and three touchdowns … Eagles went 49-9 (.845) during his four-year career, compiled a 31-3 (.912) record when playing at Allen E. Paulson Stadium and helped program establish a 39-game (1999-2001) home winning streak … Shined in post-season play, recording 89 career playoff tackles … Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in sport management and drafted in sixth round in 2003 to Jacksonville Jaguars.