Former Eagle Donnell Woolford has been selected for induction into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in Raleigh while Earl “Air” Harvey has been picked to be inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia. The two were high school teammates at Byrd in the early 1980s and helped form the foundation of an Eagle program that would play for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A football championship five times during the 1980s and 1990s.
Here is some background information on both inductees.
Woolford called his selection to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame a humbling experience and a great honor.
A native of Dunn, Woolford toured the world with his military family before returning to Fayetteville to play high school football at Douglas Byrd under Bob Paroli.
Byrd was the final stop in a long coaching career for Paroli that started at Benson in 1958. At one point, Paroli was the winningest high school football coach in North Carolina history. During his career, he coached in three North Carolina All-Star games, the East-West coaches game, the Shrine Bowl and the former North-South game sponsored by the North Carolina Jaycees.
“I was proud to be an Eagle and under the mentorship of Coach Bob Paroli,’’ Woolford said. “He was a great coach. He stayed on you and made sure you did the right thing.’’
Woolford called Paroli the support and foundation of his career.
Woolford was a standout running back during his playing days at Byrd, but when he arrived at Clemson University in 1985, he decided to switch to defensive back. Woolford was personally recruited to come to Clemson by former Tiger head coach Danny Ford, who led Clemson to the school’s first national championship in college football in 1981.
Woolford was twice chosen to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team, helping Clemson win three ACC championships.
In addition, he was a second team All-American and a consensus All-American in his final two years with the Tigers. He finished his career with 10 interceptions. Also a punt returner, he averaged 15.5 yards per return and scored two touchdowns in 1987.
In Woolford’s final three seasons at Clemson, the Tigers compiled a record of 28-6-2. They finished in the top 10 in the national college football rankings in 1987 and 1988.
Upon graduation, he was the No. 11 overall selection in the 1989 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Woolford was attending a family cookout when he got the call confirming he was drafted from Bears Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Mike Ditka.
Woolford spent 10 years in the NFL, nine with the Bears and one with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Woolford was chosen to the Pro Bowl in 1993 and named All-Pro in 1994.
He once owned the Bears’ record for interceptions by a cornerback with 36. He also was credited with 603 tackles.
As part of the NFL’s observance of the league’s 100th anniversary, the Bears selected their top 100 players of all time. Woolford made the list
at No. 78.
Woolford and the rest of this year’s North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame selections will be officially inducted on Friday, May 1, at the Raleigh Convention Center.
This is the second hall of fame that Harvey, another former Douglas Byrd standout, has been chosen to. He was previously picked for the CIAA Hall of Fame in 2016.
Harvey played his college football at North Carolina Central University. It was while he was there he earned the nickname “Air” for his prowess as a passer.
He was a four-time first-team All-CIAA pick at quarterback from 1985-88.
In 1985, he was the first rookie quarterback in the history of the CIAA to throw for more than 3,000 yards.
For his performance he was chosen to the Black College Sports All-American second team. He was also named the Black College Sports Freshman of the year, completing 188 of 392 passes. He threw for 22 touchdowns and ran for seven more.
Harvey set records for NCCU, the CIAA and NCAA Division II. His marks included 690 career completions, 10,621 passing yards, 10,667 career total offensive yards and 86 career touchdown passes.
In all, Harvey broke 15 NCAA Division II career records and held eight NCAA Division II single-season records.
Twice during his college career at North Carolina Central, Harvey was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, which recognizes the NCAA Division II football player of the year. He finished third in the voting for the award in 1988 and fifth in 1986.
In 1988, he was chosen as an American Football Coaches Association All-American. He led North Carolina Central to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Harvey and the rest of the 2020 Black College Football Hall of Fame class will be inducted on Feb. 22 at the College Football Hall of Fame in