KU Trio Inducted into State of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame

Sept. 27, 2010

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former University of Kansas football great Willie Pless, three-sport athlete Steve Renko and volleyball player Joan Wells were inducted into the State of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon in Wichita.

The KU trio is included among five men and four women, marking the largest number of women ever inducted to the KSHOF at one time.

Willie Pless

The all-time leading tackler in Kansas football history, Pless finished his four-year career (1982-85) with 633 stops for the Jayhawks. He is one of just nine players in school history to be named first-team all-conference three times. Pless is also considered the best defensive player ever to play in the Canadian Football League. The Anniston, Ala., native holds the league record for most tackles (1,241), played in 18 playoff games and three Grey Cups and won one championship. He was honored as the CFL’s most outstanding defensive player five times.

Steve Renko

A three-sport athlete for KU, the only one in the Big Eight Conference at the time, Renko shared the same backfield with Gale Sayers on the football field and also played basketball and baseball for Kansas. A graduate of Kansas City’s Wyandotte High School, Renko played 15 seasons in the major leagues and won 134 games. He helped the California Angels win the American League West title in 1982 with an 11-6 record and was a 15-game winner in 1971 and ’73 with the Montreal Expos. In 1973, he was 15-11 with a 2.81 earned run average.

Wells played at KU in 1971 and then earned national acclaim as the long-time girls’ volleyball coach at Lawrence (Kan.) High School. She ranked among the nation’s all-time leaders in wins (866) and winning percentage (90.7 percent), and led the Lions to 15 state championships and seven runner-up finishes. Lawrence High qualified for the state tournament 26 times in Wells’ 27 years as a head coach. A native of Atchison, Kan., Wells is also a member of the National High School Sports Federation Hall of Fame and the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame.

Joan Wells

Other inductees Sunday will include NCAA softball All-American Lisa Carey, gold medal weightlifter Tara Nott Cunningham, two-time Olympic rower Anna Seaton Huntington, Wichita State golf coach and former PGA professional Grier Jones and former major league baseball pitcher Ray Sadecki. Former baseball great `Smoky’ Joe Wood and U.S. Olympic coaches Richard Quick and Gerald Tucker will be inducted posthumously.

The Class 2010 was selected from a group of 25 men and women who were placed on the final ballot from nominations received from the public. A panel of 100 people from across the state, including coaches,

members of the media, KSHOF inductees and those involved in sports-related fields, were part of the voting process. The KSHOF Board of Directors has the final approval on those who are selected for induction.