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She was Caitlin Clark 74 years ago. Now, Dot Burrow is a Hall of Famer.

BOSTON — In Mississippi, Dot Ford Burrow was Caitlin Clark a half century before Caitlin Clark was born, scoring 50 points per game back in 1950 for tiny Smithville High School in Monroe County.

Monday night in Boston, Mrs. Burrow, grandmother of football’s Joe Burrow, finally received recognition for her basketball excellence 74 years after she completed one of the most amazing high school basketball careers of anyone, anywhere, ever.

Rick Cleveland
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Rick Cleveland

Dot Burrow, three months shy of her 93rd birthday, was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame along with the likes of baseball great Joe Mauer, and football stars Takeo Spikes and Tyrone Wheatley and seven others. Mrs. Burrow received a standing ovation from a jam-packed crowd of several hundred, including her famous grandson, in the Boston Marriott Copley Place ballroom.

In many ways, Dot Burrow stole the show from all other inductees. One example: Mauer, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, followed Burrow in speaking at a press conference earlier Monday. After Burrow charmed reporters and onlookers with her remarks, Mauer began his. “How am I supposed to follow her?” he said, evoking laughter from all in attendance.

READ MORE: Seventy-five years later, Dot Ford, now Dot Burrow, gets her due

Joe Mauer, left, and Dot Burrow. (Photo by Keith Warren)

Bruce Howard, communications director of the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), called Dot Burrow “one of the most inspiring and touching stories in the 46-year history of the NFHS Hall of Fame.”

She is that. Back when she played for Smithville, the town’s population was just over 400, yet she created such interest in girls basketball that Smithville’s home games often were moved to nearby Amory and played at the National Guard Armory before sellout crowds of more than 1,000. She led Fulton to a state championship and led the team in scoring as a 14-year-old ninth grader, then transferred to nearby Smithville as a sophomore. Dot Ford was so good, so unstoppable around the basket that one opposing team tried to stop her by putting a defender on the shoulders of another.

“I believe it was Aberdeen in the county tournament my senior year,” Mrs. Burrow said. “Their coach instructed one player to get on the shoulders of another under our basket.”

Did it work?

“No,” she shook her head. “It did not.”

Another team tried to stop her by having their defenders try to stomp on her feet. That didn’t work either.

“But I had sore feet for weeks,” said Mrs. Burrow, who once scored 82 points in a single game.

Takeo Spikes, left, and Dot Burrow at a Hall of Fame reception. (Photo by Rick Cleveland)

Today, Caitlin Clark is one of the most famous basketball players, male or female, in the world and makes millions of dollars in salary and endorsements. Back in 1950, when Dot Burrow finished her high school career, there was scant opportunity for female basketball players beyond high school. Mississippi colleges and universities didn’t sponsor the sport. There was no WNBA.

“I had offers from two junior colleges, but I decided to get married,” Mrs. Burrow said. “My boyfriend (James Burrow) was playing college basketball, so I got married and went and helped him get through Mississippi State. I wrote most of his papers, helped him all I could. And then we raised a fine family. I have no regrets.”

Their oldest son, Jimmy Burrow, was a terrific football player for Nebraska. Younger son John Burrow played defensive back for Ole Miss. Grandson Joe Burrow – “Joey” to Dot – had perhaps the greatest single season in college football history at LSU and now stars for the Cincinnati Bengals. Twenty-one family members, including children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, were in Boston on Monday to celebrate.

Asked to describe his mother, Jimmy Burrow said, “She’s just got a big, big heart. She is always thinking about other people, not herself. She has all the greatest attributes you could want in a mother, wife, grandmother and friend.”

Said spry, 94-year-old James Burrow, as quick with a quip as he was with feet as Mississippi State’s starting point guard, “All these years I didn’t know I was sleeping with a celebrity.”

James Burrow said Smithville coaches asked for volunteers to date Dot Ford in hopes of convincing her to transfer from Fulton. James Burrow said he wasn’t keen on the idea until he saw her at a party. “Then I said to myself, ‘Hmm, I’ve been looking at this the wrong way,’” James Burrow said, chuckling. “We’ve been together ever since.”

Asked about her greatest memory from her Smithville playing days, Dot Burrow responded, “I just loved playing with all my friends. All my teammates, except one, have passed on. There are only two of us left and the other lives in Arkansas now. I sure do miss ‘em.”

Said Mississippi High School Activities Association director Rickey Neaves, who draped the Hall of Fame medallion around Mrs Burrow’s neck on Monday night to a prolonged standing ovation, “It is an honor and a privilege to see her inducted. She is so deserving. She was an athlete far ahead of her time. She has made Mississippi proud.”

Yes, she has.

Asked what she is most proud of, nearly three quarters of a century after her playing career ended, Dot Burrow responded, “I’m just so proud of my family, all of them, husband, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am especially proud of our grandson Joey. He has made a name for himself in Ohio and across the nation. I hope I made a name for myself back in Smithville in 1949 and 1950.”

Not to worry, Dot, your fame now extends far beyond Smithville, Monroe County and Mississippi. And surely we can all agree on this: Seventy-four years later, it is about time.

READ MORE: Joe Burrow has deep roots (and quite the gene pool) in Amory, Mississippi

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