When Will Hesmer takes the field in goal for the Columbus Crew in Sunday's MLS Cup final against the New York Red Bulls in Carson, Calif., he will join a very short list of area athletes to participate in a professional sports championship game.
Hesmer was the 1999 Wilson Daily Times Athlete of the Year as a senior at Hunt High School before going on to a standout career at Wake Forest University.
Without having done extensive research, I can think of four athletes who hail from the WDT readership area who played in a pro sports championship. Most notably are former Southern Nash High School star Julius Peppers and SouthWest Edgecombe product Yancey Thigpen. Peppers was a defensive stalwart for the Carolina Panthers in their 32-29 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII while Thigpen started at wide receiver and caught a touchdown pass for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.
Former Hunt High School multi-sport star Octavus Barnes was a member of the Atlanta Falcons when they lost Super Bowl XXXIII to the Denver Broncos. I don't remember Barnes, who lettered in football and basketball at the University of North Carolina, getting into the game or if he was even on the active roster. He only played two years in the NFL.
Former Fike High School standout Glenn Bass was part of two American Football League championship teams with the Buffalo Bills in 1965 and 1966.
Then there was Red Barrett who pitched in the 1948 World Series for the Boston Braves against the Cleveland Indians. Barrett was not a Wilson native but lived here for many years and raised a family here.
If there are any other athletes from the Wilson area who played in a pro sports championship game, please give me a shout because I would love to know who they are.