Liberty Athletics announces 2017 Hall of Fame Class
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - Liberty Athletics Wednesday announced its Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Five new members will be inducted into the Hall during a ceremony on Friday night, September 29. The ninth class to be inducted includes cross country and track star Sam Chelanga, basketball's Julius Nwosu, softball's Katie Phillips Bigham, football's Richard Shelton and longtime strength and conditioning coach Dave Williams. Capsules on the five inductees, provided by Liberty Athletics, are listed below.
Men’s Cross Country/Track & Field: 2008-11
Sam Chelanga is Liberty’s most successful student-athlete at the NCAA Division I level, having won four individual national championships during his time with the Flames’ cross country and track & field programs.
Chelanga burst onto the scene in 2009, winning the first of two consecutive national titles in men’s cross country (2009 and 2010). The long distance runner would also go on to claim national championships at the NCAA Outdoor Track Championships in the 10K in 2010 and the 5K in 2011. He is the first student-athlete in school history to win multiple national championships.
Chelanga set a new NCAA record in 2009, clocking a time of 27:28.48 in the men’s 10K on April 24, 2009, and broke his own record with a time of 27:08.39 on May 1, 2010, which still stands today. He was a two-time finalists for the Bowerman award (2010 and 2011) and a three-time Big South Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year award winner (2009, 2010 and 2011).
The 14-time All-American and native of Nairobi, Kenya, started competing professionally in 2011 and is sponsored by Nike. He gained United States citizenship in 2015 and led Team USA with an 11th-place finish at the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
Men’s Basketball: 1991-93
Julius Nwosu did not start playing organized basketball until the year before he joined Liberty’s roster. However, those around the Big South Conference would never have known, as he finished his career as one of the premier centers during the early years of the conference.
Nwosu sat out his first year at Liberty to gain academic eligibility, but still managed to become the 14th 1,000-point scorer in school history in three seasons (1,248 career points). The two-time All-Big South honoree ranked among the league leaders in scoring and rebounding as a junior and senior and was second in the conference as a senior in field goal percentage (61.5 percent). He also finished his career with 112 blocked shots.
With the help of Nwosu’s development, Liberty finished its first season in the Big South with a 22-7 overall record in 1991-92. The mark was a 16 1/2 game win-loss improvement from the previous season, which still ranks as the fourth best in NCAA history.
Nwosu became the first player in program history to earn a spot on a NBA roster, playing for the San Antonio Spurs (1995), Boston Celtics (1997) and the Utah Jazz (2000). The native of Owerri, Nigeria, also played professionally in Spain, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Japan and France for eight seasons, helping his teams win three conference titles.
Katie (Phillips) Bigham
Katie (Phillips) Bigham was one of the driving forces that helped Liberty’s reinstated softball program quickly rise to be a power in the Big South Conference. Nearly two decades after her playing career finished, she still holds the program’s career record for ERA (1.59), wins (62) and shutouts (23).
Two years prior to her freshman season, Liberty won eight games during its first season back as a varsity program (146-90). However, Bigham guided the Lady Flames to 146 wins (146-90) over her four-year career, including the team’s first-ever 40 win season in 1999 (41-25).
A local product from Concord, Va., Bigham was twice named to the All-Big South second team (1996 and 1997) and twice selected to the VaSID All-State first team (1997 and 1998). She became the program’s first-ever 20-game winner, posting a 20-12 record as a sophomore, while finishing her second year at Liberty with a 1.66 ERA, 26 complete games, seven shutouts and 137 strikeouts.
During her junior season, Bigham was named to the Big South Softball Championship All-Tournament team and shared co-MVP honors for the event. Bigham’s efforts in the circle helped the Lady Flames make their first-ever Big South Softball Championship title game appearance in 1998.
Richard Shelton, a two-year starting cornerback and special teams standout, made a lasting impact on the Flames football program and he is still influencing the sport nearly 30 years following his final days in a Liberty uniform.
The Marietta, Ga., native was the recipient of Liberty’s “Most Improved Freshman Award” in 1984, and completed the final two years of his career with a combined 100 tackles. He finished his career with 126 tackles (56 solo, 70 assisted), to go along with 11 interceptions and 26 pass breakups.
Shelton’s clocked 4.45 40-yard dash speed made him a dynamic part of the Flames’ special teams units. He still holds program records for career punt return yardage (563), punt returns for a touchdown (3) and punt return average (12.5 yards per return).
Shelton became the third player in program history to be selected in the NFL Draft when he was taken by the Denver Broncos in the 10th round in 1989. He had a five-year playing career with the Broncos (1989) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1990-93), while also playing one season in the World League of American Football for the Montreal Machine in 1991. Following his days on the gridiron, Shelton has worked as an NFL scout for the last 15 years and was named the 2015 AFC Scout of the Year during one of his 10 years with the Tennessee Titans.
Strength and Conditioning Coach: 1984-2017
Dave Williams is considered one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country. He helped to develop Liberty’s student-athletes for more than 30 years before his retirement in the spring of 2017.
Williams is a certified strength and conditioning coach (C.S.C.S.), who served as Liberty’s head strength and conditioning coach for 21 years (1984-2005). Following the 1992-93 athletic year, Williams was named a finalist for the national Strength Coach of the Year, an honor given to strength and conditioning coaches in the professional and collegiate ranks.
Williams was honored by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association when he was named a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach. Williams, along with head strength and conditioning coach Bill Gillespie, were the first pair of honored coaches at the same institution at the NCAA Division I FCS level with this distinction.
Williams earned Associated Press Little All-America honors while playing collegiately at Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.Va. He played both offensive and defensive line and was a two-year co-captain at Fairmont State, who was NAIA National Champion in 1967. In 2003, the school honored Williams as he was inducted into the Fairmont State College Athletic Department Hall of Fame.
Class of 2017
Sam Chelanga (men’s cross country/track & field)
Julius Nwosu (men’s basketball)
Katie [Phillips] Bigham (softball)
Richard Shelton (football)
Dave Williams (strength and conditioning coach)