Jermon Bushhrod in King George

Miami Dolphins lineman Jermon Bushrod helps 8-year-old Donnie Bakker with his three-point stance during the annual Visualize & Rize Youth Football Camp at King George High School in June 2017.

C hampion athletes come in all shapes, sizes—and species.

Smaller in size than many localities, the Fredericksburg area has produced more than its share of Olympic and Super Bowl champions through the years. But the most accomplished athlete to hail from this area played on four legs, not two.

Here’s an unscientific list of the top 10 athletes from the area:

10. KEITH JENNINGS

Despite standing just 5 feet 7 inches, this Culpeper County native with the memorable nickname “Mister” cast a tall shadow on the basketball court. After starring at Culpeper High School, he became a third-team All-American at East Tennessee State University and still ranks fifth in NCAA history in assists (983) and 15th in steals (334). He briefly played for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and played professionally overseas. He’s now the women’s coach at Lees-McCrae (N.C.) University.

9. STEVE ATKINS

Long before Rivals.com or Mel Kiper Jr., Atkins was the area’s first football mega-recruit. He starred as running back at Spotsylvania High School and the University of Maryland in the 1970s, but knee injuries limited his NFL career to three seasons with Green Bay and Philadelphia.

8. TORREY SMITH

Here’s another Maryland grad with a strong résumé. The Westmoreland County native set school records for touchdown receptions in a season (12) and game (four) and held the Atlantic Coast Conference mark for career kickoff return yardage (2,983). He spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens (winning Super Bowl XLVII) and two with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles last spring.

7. RANDY RENFROW

This Stafford County native was far more famous in Europe, where he competed often and where motorcycle racing is a much bigger deal than it is in the U.S. He won three American Motorcycle Association national championships in the 1980s and competed worldwide. Ironically, after risking life and limb for more than two decades, he died in 2002 from injuries suffered in a fall at his home.

6. JERMON BUSHROD

This King George County native served as blind-side bodyguard for NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Jay Cutler, among others. He started at left tackle for the New Orleans Saints in their Super Bowl XLIV victory and later for the Chicago Bears. He’s about to begin his second season with the Miami Dolphins after helping them break a lengthy playoff drought in 2016.

5. DAVID AND KAREN

O’CONNOR

This Fauquier County husband and wife teamed up for glory in equestrian eventing. They were teammates on the U.S. Olympic squad that won the team silver in 1996 and bronze in 2000.

David O’Connor also won individual gold in 2000 and later served as chef d’equipe (manager) of the U.S. team. Karen was named U.S. female equestrian of the year 10 times and was named to four U.S. Olympic teams.

4. AL BUMBRY

The Baltimore Orioles never had a losing record during the dozen years (1972–84) this King George native was on their roster. He was named the 1973 American League rookie of the year, was a 1980 All-Star and won a World Series ring in 1983. He was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1987 and still ranks third in team history in career stolen bases (252) and triples (52). He later served as a coach for the Orioles and other teams.

3. MARK LENZI

This former Stafford High wrestler took up diving after watching Greg Louganis dominate at the 1984 Olympics. Eight years later, he followed in his idol’s footsteps, winning gold on the 3-meter springboard, and after a brief retirement, returned to win silver at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. He also won eight national titles, two World Cup crowns and a Pan American Games gold. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2003. He died in 2012.

2. JEFF ROUSE

Rouse, who graduated from Stafford High School two years after Lenzi (long before the Indians had a swim team), won three Olympic golds and one silver as a backstroker.

Rouse held the world record in the 100 backstroke for nearly a decade and nearly earned a third Olympic berth in 2004 at the advanced age (for a swimmer, at least) of 33. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2001.

1. SECRETARIAT

Widely considered the greatest racehorse in American history, he renewed sagging public interest in the sport.

With jockey Ron Turcotte aboard. he ended a quarter-century Triple Crown drought in 1973, including a legendary 31-length victory at the Belmont Stakes. A 2012 revision gave him the fastest time ever in all three Triple Crown races.

He died in 1989 but is still spoken of in reverential tones. He’s also the only one on this list who’s been the subject of a movie biography.

HONORABLE MENTION

Justin Anderson (Westmoreland County) plays for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

Tony Beasley (Caroline) has been a third-base coach for the Nationals, Pirates and Rangers.

Chris Carrieri (Stafford) was the No. 1 pick in Major League Soccer’s 2001 draft.

George Coghill (Fredericksburg) was a member of two Super Bowl title teams in Denver.

Greg Gibson (Quantico) was an national champion wrestler who made the 1984 Olympics.

Chris Haney (Orange) pitched for five teams in an 11-year major league career.

John Maine (Stafford) won 15 games for the New York Mets in 2007, 41 in a six-year major-league career.

Daniel Rodriguez (Stafford) earned a bronze star in Iraq and later played football at Clemson.

Chay Shegog (Stafford) was drafted by the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun in 2012 and played professsionally overseas.

Russell Sullivan (Stafford) played parts of three seasons for the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s.

Steve DeShazo: 374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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