Bob Cummings – Jon Collins – Sandra Smallwood – Gerald Turner
Coach Bob Cummings
In a life that has spanned 90-plus years, Portland Native Bob Cummings has seen a lot and done a lot. Cummings is a member of the TSSAA Hall of Fame, the Region 6 national Football Foundation Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Sumner County High School, class of 1940, Cummings played college football at Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech before World War II sent him to the battlefields of the Pacific.
Cummings coached at Litton High School where his teams made six bowl appearances and were city champs in 1950, ’52 and ’53. He had coaching stints at Hendersonville and Beech. He was NIL coach in 1947 and was an assistant at Tennessee Tech, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and the University of Miami.
Cummings also had a stint as an assistant coach on the New Orleans Saints staff from 1973-1976.
Cummings has a book published titled “The Grass is Always Greener Where You’ve Been”. The book tells of growing up in Portland and his extraordinary life after high school.
Coach Jon Collins
Coach Jon Collins was indoctrinated with Panther football at an early age as his dad was a member of the 1924 Sumner County High School team. At one time, there was a Collins on a Panther football team for 17 consecutive years.
Collins played for Portland in the early 1950’s as a running back and linebacker, lettering three years. He played on the first undefeated football team of Sumner County High School in 1952 and the first football team to win 10 games in 1954. Coach Collins graduated from MTSU in 1959 with a BS in Education, graduated from Officers’ Training Corp in Fort Bragg, NC as a 2nd lieutenant and graduated from the 1st Army Aviation Flight School at MTSU. After graduation, he coached at Jackson County and White House but still kept up with his alma mater in the fall during football season.
Collins returned to Portland in 1977 and the Panthers reached the playoffs for the first time in school history in 1979. The Purple won the district title the following season and a big victory over York Institute in the first round of the 1980 playoffs is still regarded as one of the biggest wins in schools history. Two bowl appearances followed before another playoff berth in 1983. Collins finished with a record of 60-36 in nine seasons at the helm of the Panther program and concluded his coaching career with 176 wins. At his time of retirement in 1985, Coach Collins was the 7th winningest football coach in Tennessee. He has been named The Tennessean’s Mid-State Coach of the Year, Coached the Tennessee East/West Football All-Star game, named Region Coach of the Year four years, District Coach of the Year two years and the Red River Conference Coach of the Year five times. After retiring from coaching, Coach Collins became the voice of the Panthers on WQKR Radio. He also served as a District 2 County Commissioner for 12 years, served as Assistant principal of Portland Middle School for seven years before retiring in 1993 with 34 years in education.
Sandra made a name for herself in her basketball playing career. She was a two-time Junior College All-American at Volunteer State Community College, team captain for two years and voted MVP before transferring to Belmont University where, in her junior and senior seasons, she earned two more All-American honors, was voted MVP both years, voted Athlete and Co-Athlete of the Year and captain her senior year. She became a member of the 1000 point club in her two years at Belmont University. Smallwood is one of 25 players in school history to score 1,000 points. She was named to the All-Striplin Gymnasium team in 2001 and was voted into the Belmont University Hall of Fame in 1989. She played in the Women’s Professional Basketball League as a member of the New Orleans Pride and was named to the All-Star team her first year. While playing for the Pride, she scored 33 points in a 92-91 victory over the New York Stars in Madison Square Garden. The game was played prior to a New York Knicks game.
While at Portland High School, Smallwood scored 1918 points in three seasons (1969-1971), had 49 points in a game against Hartsville on December 18, 1970 including 32 in one half. This was BEFORE the 3 point shot was instituted. The Lady Panthers compiled a three-year record of 66-19 in Smallwood’s career.
Gerald Turner was a big part of Portland’s football success from 1996-1999. One of the most beloved players to ever wear the Purple and White, Turner earned nearly every postseason honor one can receive as well as being named the Portland Leader Player of the Year twice. Turner is regarded as one of the top two offensive standouts in school history, along with last year’s inaugural inductee Glenn Glover. Gerald was named Mr. Football in 1998 and was nominated for the accolade in 1999. He did receive the 1999 State Championship game Most Valuable Player. He holds a top 5 all state standing in three different categories in the TSSAA record books. The Panthers amassed a 43-9 record during his four year playing career. Turner also played on the Tennessee All-Star team. After his graduation from Portland High School in 2000, Gerald attended Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and was a member of their football team.
However, he was more than just a football player, Gerald was a selfless person, going out of his way to help anyone and everyone. He loved his family, friends and was a genuine person. He was a member of the New Hope Missionary Baptist church where he was admired by the younger people at his church and always had time to spend with them.