Three former county residents nominated for NM Sports Hall of Fame

Courtesy photos: From left, Amber Campbell, Danny Villanueva and Vernon Decatur Stephens have been nominated for the NM Sports Hall of Fame.

Courtesy photos:
From left, Amber Campbell, Danny Villanueva and Vernon Decatur Stephens have been nominated for the NM Sports Hall of Fame.

Staff Report

Three former Quay County residents are among those nominated for the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame.

Olympic hammer thrower Amber Campbell, who grew up in Tucumcari, the late Danny Villanueva, who was born in Tucumcari and played eight years in the National Football League, and Vernon Decatur Stephens, who was born in McAlister and played 15 seasons of Major League Baseball have been nominated for the hall.

The new members will be announced in December and the 2016 NMSHOF Induction Celebration will be held on  April 7-9 in Albuquerque.

Campbell, Stephens and Villanueva are among 70 nominees. Fan vote will play a factor in the selections, according to the Hall of Fame website at

Campbell, 35, lived in Tucumcari from age of 2 to age 14.

She competed in the finals of the hammer throw event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, placing sixth overall with a throw of 71.09 meters (233 feet).

Campbell qualified for the 2016 Olympics with a personal best throw of 74 meters. Her final’s throw in Rio was better than her best throw of 69.9 meters at the 2012 Olympics in London. She also competed in the 2008 Olympics.

According to the NMHOF Campbell has also competed at the 2005 World Championships. In the 2011 Pan American Games, Campbell won the bronze medal; in the 2013 and 2015 Pan American Games, she won silver medals.

Campbell  graduated in 2004 from Coastal Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. While at CCU, Campbell was the Big South Conference Women’s Track Athlete of the Year for her last three seasons. She won 16 individual conference titles and was a five-time NCAA all-American in the hammer and weight throws.

Campbell was inducted into the Coastal Carolina Hall of Fame. She works as a personal trainer when she is not training, and serves as a volunteer assistant coach for throwers at Coastal Carolina University.

Villanueva was born in Tucumcari in 1937 when his father was a traveling minister. He died last year at age 77.

Villanueva was a kicker in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams from 1960 to 1964 and the Dallas Cowboys from 1965 to 1967.

His last professional game was the “Ice Bowl,” in which Green Bay defeated Dallas for the National Football Conference championship.

Villanueva set a Cowboys record with 100 consecutive extra point conversions; the record lasted 41 seasons.

He also led the NFL in punts and punting yards in 1962 and 1963.

Stephens, a native of McAlister, was an eight-time All-Star and the only man to play for 1944 American League Champion St. Louis Browns and the Baltimore Orioles, the team the Browns franchise became after it moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Stephens played 1,720 games as a shortstop. He was 48 when he died on Nov. 3, 1968, in Long Beach California.

Stephens played in the American League for four different teams — St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.

Nicknamed “Pop-up Stephens,” he was one of the strongest hitting shortstops in MLB history. In 1,720 games Stephens compiled a .286 batting average with 247 home runs and 1,174 RBI. He holds the MLB record for RBI in a season by a shortstop, with 159 in 1949.

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