Billy Hargrove
Class of 2018

Billy Hargrove

Many aspiring young athletes have people they look up to. Most of the time, it is a college or professional athlete they see on television or in person if they are lucky enough to attend a game.

But for many athletes at Athens High School in the late 1960s, there was one person who stood out as a hero to many — Billy Hargrove.

“I was an eighth-grader when Billy was a senior, and Billy was one of my first real heroes,” teammate and retired Limestone County Circuit Judge Jimmy Woodroof Jr. said. “He probably only weighed about 165 pounds, but he was the hardest hitter out there. He made everyone around him better by being a leader on the field and off the field as well.”

Hargrove, a 1969 graduate of Athens High School, was a four-sport letterman at Athens. He was a three-year starter in football as a safety and was named permanent captain his senior season. Hargrove earned a football scholarship to Carson-Newman but later transferred to Florence State, now the University of North Alabama. He was a three-year starter for UNA and led the team in interceptions as a sophomore while posting 98 tackles during his senior season.

Woodroof said football might not even have been Hargrove’s best sport. He was also a track star who ran the mile in 4 minutes, 36 seconds, an Athens High School record that still stands 50 years later. “When it came time for them to announce the mile run, everybody on the fence would line up to watch Billy run,” Woodroof said. “He was just a different kind of cut. He was something special. He inspired me to be better and inspired all of his teammates to be better.”

Hargrove was much more than just a sports star, Woodroof said. He was basically the face of Athens High. He served as class president, was named most popular and was selected Mr. Athens High School. “When it came time for the high school graduation, typically a guest speaker would be invited to speak at commencement,” Woodroof said. “But the class of 1969 thought so much of Billy, they asked him to give the commencement speech, and he did. He was just special. Personality, work ethic, leadership and intelligence, anyway you want to define what we’re aspiring to be, he had it.”

Woodroof said he is proud of his former teammate and friend being honored with a selection into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame.

“It is a well-deserved, overdue honor,” Woodroof said. “There are a lot of tremendous people belonging in the hall of fame who haven’t made it yet. But Billy is most definitely due to be in there. Personally, I’m very excited because he means a lot to me.”