The power of persistence, perseverance and making memories seemed to be common threads in the messages delivered by the speakers at the third annual Vilonia Eagle Football Foundation (VEFF) Banquet, held Saturday night, at the Friendship Baptist Church.
Serving as the emcee, Kurt Hetherington, VEAFF member, began the event on a serious note talking briefly about football as well as the foundation.
“We believe in community. We believe in football,” Hetherington said. “We believe in what football brings to the community.”
Alumnus Jon Alexander, a 2014 graduate and football player, was the first speaker called to the stage. He talked about the friends he made during high school as a player. Players, he said, are together so much they create a brotherhood that lasts a lifetime. As well, he said, he is making friends now at Lyon College in Batesville where he is attending and playing. He shared a story of persistence regarding his love for the game and his efforts to play more. “It doesn’t matter what life throws at you, preserving is what matters,” Alexander said.
Rick Schaeffer followed. He was introduced as Randy Rainwater’s co-host on Drive Time Sports. He is also director of communications for the Springdale School District. He has been a member of the Drive Time Sports team since April, 2002. Football players, he said, actually train for about 11 1/2 months to play about two weeks total play time per year.
He touted the praises of the current Vilonia High School team. As well, he recognized the team finished the season 5 and 5. He also said he likes the Vilonia team helmets which shows a fierce-looking Eagle.
“Sports teaches you to keep going, keep going and keep going,” Schaeffer said. When things aren’t going well, Schaeffer said, the easiest thing to do is quit. However, he said, it is persistence that is the “key to everything” on and off the field.
At some point, Schaeffer said, one will play the last football game. The joy in life, he said, is “doing what you do until it is over.”
On a humorous note, he, wittingly, touched on the subject of fans and imitated a call-in fan to a radio program. Losing a football game, Schaeffer said, is not a thing to stress over. Football, he said, is easier to watch than play. Critics, he said, could always do better.
“Forget all the scores,” Schaeffer said. “Remember the practices. Remember the friendships. Life is good.”
Schaeffer is also the sports information director at the University of Arkansas. He is in his 28th season as color analyst on Razorback basketball broadcasts. He also does statistics and pre-game, halftime and post-game comments on Razorback football broadcasts and writes a column for the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network website.
One of the last speakers, Ron Young, Vilonia High School football coach, introduced the senior players and called them to the stage. He handed out awards and called attention to individual accomplishments.
“The future looks good for Vilonia High School football,” he said. There are 26 seniors on the roster for next year, he added. He also filled the stage with players and the staff on tap for the upcoming season.
Regarding the sport, Young said “football is a laboratory for life.”
It’s where a young man learns lessons for life, he said. It’s a sport, he said, where those who participate get to know each other well. He also referred to himself as a man of faith and said those who play for him know that.
“The most important thing in life is built on that foundation,” he concluded.
Perhaps one of the most prestigious awards given was the Jerry Roberts Senior Leadership presented by VEAFF member Steve Austin to player Nick Gentry. Austin told Gentry to “cherish” the award and if he doesn’t already, he should get to know the man “behind it.”
Roberts, who lost his battle with cancer, served on the school board for more than 26 years and also was referred to as Vilonia’s biggest fan.
Not only current players were recognized. A former player, Fred Weaver was recognized with a standing ovation for being a part of Vilonia football for more than 50 years. Also, Ed Sellers, who is retiring as athletic director, at the end of the school year was acknowledged.
Speaking briefly, Sellers said, you don’t win every game “but when you bond and work together, you win the things that are most important.”
Also, it was announced that a $1,500 scholarship will be awarded, this year, for the first time. Athletes are encouraged to apply at www.viloniafootball.net as the scholarship will be awarded in March or April.
Throughout the evening, Hetherington interjected antics as he kept the ball rolling on the event that lasted nearly three hours. At one point, he joked about thinking the district’s colors were camo when he first moved to the area. He also teased about the importance of understanding signals, especially when you get married, he said. He also talked about his 96-year-old uncle, who he said, “only” talks about three things—his wife, his family and football. The uncle, he said, played football in his youth and “remembers it as clear as day.”
The meal was provided by Steve Goode, who is also a member of the VEFF. The evening ended with Hetherington encouraging everyone to join the VEFF at a cost of $30 per person or $50 per family.