Former Miami Dolphins running back Tony Nathan leads the second class for the Miami Lakes Sports Hall of Fame, as five new members will be enriched with the town’s highest honor for sports and community services.
Joining Nathan are former University of Miami football player and assistant coach Joel Rodriguez, community activist and developer of Miami Lakes William A. Graham, veteran journalist and former volleyball player Sara Sidner and community pioneer Jim Hamilton.
The group will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, June 2 at the Miami Lakes Optimist Club House.
Nathan has been a resident of Miami Lakes and considered a “Hometown Hero.” Nathan attended Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was one of the first black players at the school, which has since been documented in a movie. He would earn a scholarship to the University of Alabama where he was part of the 1978 National Championship team.
He would finish his college career with 3,362 all-purpose yards including 30 touchdowns, before being drafted in the third round of the NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins in 1979. As a member of the Dolphins, he played in two Super Bowls and after nine seasons, finished with over 7,000 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns. He also served as a coach at FIU under former coach Don Strock.
Rodriguez played high school football locally at Monsignor Pace before earning a scholarship to the University of Miami. There, he was a member of the 2001 National Championship team. He was a two-year starter for the Hurricanes and after a brief stint in the NFL, he transitioned into coaching.
After spending time at Mississippi as a graduate assistant, he would coach at Bryant College and Fordham University, and has been back at the University of Miami since 2015, where he currently serves as director of Player Development for the defense, and he is the keeper of the famed “Turnover Chain.”
Graham was known as a pioneer in Miami Lakes in the sports of golf, badminton, horseback riding and girls’ athletics of all ranges. He was a longtime resident of Miami Lakes and was a member of the 1942 State of Florida Championship basketball team at Miami Senior High.
He served in the Pacific during World War II, where he picked up the sport of badminton, and would represent Okinawa (where he was stationed) in the Pacific Olympics. He was among the behind the scenes members who are credited with bringing the Senior’s Badminton Tournament that was held in Miami Lakes every other year. Graham was also credited with promoting golf to youth, high school and college levels and also was responsible for providing the youth of Miami Lakes with the chance to learn how to ride horses early in the inception of the town.
Graham died in 2009 at 84.
Sidner played volleyball locally at Hialeah Miami Lakes high school and attended the University of Florida, where she led the Gators to the NCAA Final Four in volleyball. She was a member of regional championship teams in high school and once served out a 15-0 game before the volleyball scoring changed in high school, which was a rare feat.
Since graduating she has been a valued member of CNN News covering numerous national and international stories including reporting from war zones. Through it all she still identifies Miami Lakes as her hometown.
Hamilton is a longtime resident and member of the Miami Lakes Optimist Club. He has dedicated most of his life to helping kids excel in sports and in the classroom. Since joining the Optimists in 1973, he has held every position including president, vice-president, board member, commissioner, and coach.
All this while helping the club reach its goals by offering kids a chance to play sports, while their parents and other spectators cheer for them and improve their academics. His devotion to his volunteer work, and his lifelong dedication has earned him the highest honor in recreation and sports.