For many among the decorated 2021 University of Colorado athletics Hall of Fame class, Thursday night’s induction ceremony was as much about reconnecting as it was about the celebration of nine remarkable careers.
As he greeted familiar fans and hugged old schoolmates, former Buffaloes basketball standout Donnie Boyce still was shaking his head at his first drive into Boulder along US 36 in more than 20 years.
“It’s changed a lot,” Boyce said.
Former football standout and 2021 inductee Mickey Pruitt was walking down a hallway at the CU Events Center prior to the start of the ceremony when he was forced into a stunned double-take. Sitting along the wall, surprising Pruitt with his appearance for his induction ceremony was his brother, Tony.
“My mom doesn’t even know I’m here yet,” said Tony Pruitt, a former CU basketball player.
Mickey Pruitt and Boyce were two of the nine legends enshrined into the CU Hall of Fame on Thursday night, a star-studded class that also included former football stars Chris Brown and Chris Naeole; prolific women’s soccer scorer Nikki Marshall; six-time distance-running All-American Dathan Ritzenhein; legendary ski coach Richard Rokos; Jack Ryan, the only individual NCAA title-winning gymnast in CU history; and Lee Willard, inducted posthumously as multi-sport star from a century ago.
It was a particularly emotional night on a number of fronts for Boyce. It was his first time back in Boulder in more than 20 years. More personally, Boyce recently lost his sister to cancer, with the funeral services held just last week. Now a coach at his alma mater Proviso East just outside Chicago, Boyce said the induction ceremony allowed his family an opportunity to gather again for something positive.
“It brings back so many memories. Being back on campus again, I feel 17 all over again,” Boyce said. “Seeing old faces, and I’m just really enjoying the athletic department. Obviously it’s a great honor for myself, but some of the football guys and some of the others, I’ve been able to catch up with them. It’s been great.”
Boyce has much of his family in tow, including a 25-year old son who has seen clips of his father playing for the Buffaloes, but who has never walked the campus with his now-Hall of Fame father. The entire induction class is scheduled to be feted at the Pearl Street Stampede on Friday night, and also will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s football game against Oregon State.
Boyce said he also is planning to attend basketball practice on Saturday morning on the floor where he scored the bulk of his then-CU record 1,995 points (he remains third on the all-time scoring list).
“I was living in the Boulder community when Donnie was playing. I saw him play a lot and he was a really, really good player. A special player,” CU men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle said. “If he doesn’t have the injury (a broken leg as a senior at the Big 12 tournament), I think he has a long and really productive NBA career. I’m a big Donnie Boyce fan.”