Dec. 11, 2006
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois University Department of Athletics announced its 2007 Hall of Fame Class today. The four-person class, which will be inducted in a ceremony on Friday, Jan. 26, 2007, features football player John Harper, baseball player Rick "Buster" Keeton, track athlete Richard Rock and women's golfer Paula Smith.
Harper played defensive line for the Salukis from 1979-82. He was named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1982 and was selected to play in the Blue-Gray all-star game that year. Harper ranks among the school leaders in career tackles with 337 and sacks with 11. A First-Team All-MVC pick in both 1981 and 1982, Harper was drafted in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He played in 13 games for Atlanta in 1983. Harper works in Memphis, Tenn. with the Memphis Police Department and is also a minister at the New Life of Hope church.
Keeton pitched at SIU from 1976-78 and was a First-Team All-MVC performer during his last two seasons with the Salukis. He still ranks among the career leaders in wins with 25, and winning percentage at .806. A member of the Salukis 1977 College World Series team, Keeton was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played part of two seasons with the big-league club (1980-81). He is still involved in baseball, working as a pitching instructor in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Rock was one of the most accomplished long jumpers in the country from 1976-79. He was the MVC champion in both the indoor and outdoor long jump in 1976 and competed on behalf of his native Canada in the summer Olympics that year. Rock earned All-America status in 1977 by finishing third at the NCAA national meet. His outdoor long jump mark of 26-feet, 8-inches still stands 28 years later. Rock resides in Richmond Hill, Ontario, where he is an account executive for MCI of Canada.
Smith starred on the Saluki women's golf teams from 1964-68. She won numerous individual titles, including the Tri-State (Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky) Invitational in 1967, the Lake of the Woods Open in 1968 and 1969 and the Southern Illinois Women's Golf Association Championship in 1969. SIU participated in the national championships each of her four seasons, and Smith was selected to give the senior farewell speech at the National Championship awards banquet. After graduation, she continued to compete, winning back-to-back Illinois Women's Amateur Championship titles in 1971 and 1972. Smith became the head women's golf coach at the University of Illinois in 1978 and twice guided the Illini to the NCAA Regionals (2002 and 2003) before retiring last spring. She is also a member of the National Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1997) and the Southern Illinois Golf Association Hall of Fame (1994).