Northeastern State Athletics Inducts Four Into Hall of Fame

Northeastern State inducted four former student-athletes into its Athletic Hall of Fame during a banquet in the University Center's Herb Rozell Ballroom on Feb. 20.

Enshrined as Class XXV are: Carl “Corky” Cunningham; Cecil Devine; Angela (Prewett) Gleason; and Billy Joe Releford.

Cunningham graduated from Northeastern in 1959 and excelled as a tennis player by earning four letters during his career. He played two years for the Redmen, in 1952 and 1953, before joining the United States Marine Corps. He returned from military service and finished his career in 1958 and 1959 where he was captain of the squad those two seasons. He also was a senior class officer at Northeastern in 1959.

Even while he was serving our country, tennis was a big part of his life. Cunningham was a member of the All-Marine Tennis team for four years while stationed in Newport, R.I. Upon graduation, Cunningham embarked on a career in education where he was a teacher and wrestling coach at Ponca City and Wichita South high schools. He also served as a teacher and administrator at Fountain Valley (Calif.) School District where he was Teacher of the Year in the 1970s. After retiring, he became a city commissioner in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and served on the Board of Directors of Sunrise Country Club.

Cunningham passed away on Dec. 24, 2009.

Cecil Devine graduated from Northeastern in 1953. An all-district football standout at Westville High School and All-JUCO at Connors, Devine was a two-year starter at defensive end for the Redmen football team where he helped lead the teams to back-to-back Oklahoma Collegiate Conference titles in 1951 and 1952. He also played baseball at Northeastern State, which may have affected his career choices later in life.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Devine went on to teach and coach at Catoosa and Burkburnett (Texas) high schools. Between those coaching stints he founded the football program at Apache High School and went on to string together an impressive 27-game winning streak before departing for a career in higher education.

Devine served as the head baseball coach and an assistant football coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State for 10 years and took the Bulldogs to the 1972 NAIA College World Series. He ended his professional career with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association as director of officials.

Angela (Prewett) Gleason graduated from Northeastern State in 1991. An All-State product from Muldrow High School, she was a four-year letter winner in basketball for the Lady Reds from 1986-1990.

Angela immediately impacted the Northeastern State women’s basketball program and started 107 consecutive games during her career. She was chosen the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference Newcomer of the Year in 1986, was an Athlete of the Year nominee as a senior, selected to both the All-Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference and All-District IX teams and earned distinction as an Oklahoma All-Star. She also excelled in the classroom by being honored as an Academic All-Conference student-athlete.

A member of Tau Eta Tau Honor Society, Northeastern State Alumni Association and the Northeastern State Athletic Association, Gleason now shares her academic and athletic experiences with her students as a teacher and coach at Belfonte School in Nicut, a position she has held for 16 years.

Billy Joe Releford graduated from Northeastern in 1974. Following an outstanding junior college career at Henderson County, Releford transferred to Northeastern State where he lettered twice for the Redmen football squads in 1972 and 1973. He was captain of the 1973 team, an All-Oklahoma Collegiate Conference running back for two years and an Honorable Mention All-America in 1973.

He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, scored a 95-yard touchdown in his first game as a Redman and established a then-record of 39 carries in a game against Panhandle State in 1972.

Upon graduation, Releford signed a free agent professional football contract with the Pittsburg Steelers in 1974. However his calling was in education. For more than 30 years, Releford has served as a football and track coach at Fort Smith (Ark.) Northside school district. He teams have proven success under his guidance by claiming the Arkansas High School track runner-up titles in 1993, 1994 and 1995. His track and football teams have also won numerous conference championships as well. Releford was honored by being inducted into the Fort Smith Northside Hall of Fame last year.

Published: 2/23/2010 1:45:43 PM

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