Athletic banquet has a large turnout of attendees and speakers....

Self-described as an “old Arkansas Razorback football player” David Bazzel’s message, addressing a Vilonia athletic banquet, Saturday, was to be competitive and disciplined both on and off the field.

“Football is about being competitive and disciplined,” Bazzel said. “Be disciplined but also don’t be afraid to fail. Never be afraid to ask questions. Always be ready to learn something about someone else. Believe in who you are—but don’t be the center of your own focus. If you mess up, laugh at yourself.”

A Florida high school all-state athlete in football, track and weightlifting, Bazzel was recruited by such schools as Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Miami, and Georgia, eventually signing with Lou Holtz and the Razorbacks. He participated in four bowl games. He played on the 1982 Arkansas defense that led the nation in scoring and he was the team leader in tackles in 1984 and was defensive captain of the 1985 unit that set an all-time SWC record of allowing no rushing TD’s during the entire conference season. Among many other accolades, currently, he is a morning talk show host on 103.7 The Buzz.

“It all started for me about where you are now,” he said, addressing the football players. “I was playing football for the Razorbacks at 17.”

A smaller player compared to some of his counterparts, he said, he played next to some “massive guys.” “I’m thankful I’m still walking around,” he added. While sports may be the basis for much of his success, Bazzel said, “My faith is most important to me. I know above everything he’s always got my back.”

Bazzel shared a couple of his anecdotal experiences—one about him driving off from a service station while his automobile was still attached by a hose from a gas pump. He was running late to an event where he was supposed to be a speaker and his suit was soiled with gasoline.  “What an embarrassment,” he said.  But, he said, “it wasn’t the end of the world and the next day was a new day.”

He also shared a story which he referred to as one of his favorites about meeting an elderly woman who, he said, was at least 90 years old. He met her in an elevator, he said, at about 10 p.m. one night. She was carrying a balloon and a potted plant. Inquiring, he learned she had received them at a gathering where she had been recognized for her many hours of volunteering at a veterans’ hospital. His hours of volunteerism, he said, didn’t compare with her hours.

“I can’t remember exactly how many—something like 16,785. She had been volunteering since WWII,” he said. “I thought for all those hours, all she got was a balloon and a potted plant. But, she didn’t do it for recognition. She didn’t need anything. That was her conviction. She didn’t need a pat on the back. Guys, it’s about conviction. Think big and be the best at whatever you do.”

Sponsored by the Vilonia Eagle Football Foundation, the event, held at Friendship Baptist Church,  lasted nearly three hours with about 300 in attendance. A silent auction was held. Also, several speakers took to the stage including VEEFF members and Vilonia alumni Brad Thomas who offered definitions of success and happiness and encouraged the players to “hold yourself accountable.”

“Learn from your mistakes and accept responsibility,” he said. “Own them.”

Awards were also presented. The team’s coach Michael Stout was presented a senate citation by Senator Eddie Jo Williams, District 29. Williams told Stout it was for stepping up and doing a “big dog’s job,” in adverse conditions. Stout stepped in as interim head football coach in July 1, when a coach resigned unexpectedly resulting in a “bad situation.”  Under Stout’s leadership and guidance, Williams said, the team made a first playoff appearance in three years. The senate citation, Williams told Stout, is the highest award the state of Arkansas can give.

“It was not an average football season,” Stout said. It was a “total team” effort, he said, when everyone pulled together including parents and the foundation to make it success. There were lots of injuries he also said. We were on a first name basis, he said, with “ortho doctors.”

Stout, who received an autographed football from the team, recognized players and presented individual awards. Wade Richards received the Jerry Roberts Leadership Award.

All-State players included Shane Steward, Blaine Norman, Luke Gordon and Bryce Garrison. All-Conference players included Nick Gentry, Gage Johnston, Brendan Hale, Daron McCluskey, Cameron Simpson, Tripp Reed, Cameron Broach and Dylan Wimberley. Second team All-Conference included Nick Howard, Wyatt Wade, Wade Richards and Matt Foster.

Seniors first, the entire team was called to the stage. Players include Triston Milligan, Shane Steward, Bryce Garrison, Trevor Burkett, Cody Mitchell, Blaine Norman, Luke Gordon, Zac Cole, Ty Johnston, Wade Richards, Jacob Otto, Jeremy Kendall, Connor Balentine, Tripp Reed, Christian Bass, Tyson Wertz, Michael Morris, Wade Erwin, Jacob Flowers, Cameron Broach, Micah Cox, Gage Johnston, Dawson Frazier, Keith Meng, Nick Howard, Andrew Robinson, Dylan Fulmer, Braden Westby, Hunter Cleaver, Daron McCluskey, Brandon Hale, Cody Simpson, Ben Duff, Dylan Hightower, Ben Payne, Wyatt Wade, Dylan Wimberley, Wyatt Millikin, Brandon Barnard, Julius Price, Ben Moreno, Trenton Hetherington, Mike Brown, Matt Malott, Brailand Cobb, Cameron Simpson, Braxton Barber, Hunter Potts, Spencer Nickles, Ethan Gasaway, Christian Gardner, Zac Bryant, Jaret Byrd, Matt Foster, Spencer Coffman, Clay Kellett, Levi Arendall, Isaiah McGuire, Chandler Shearer, Nick Gentry, Christian Scott, Colton Bolin, David Reyes, Logan Wilson, Malik Burton, Thomas Martin, Dylan Forthman, Hunter Kelley, Levi Okvath, Cameron McCluskey and Loic DeMoor. 

Linda HicksVHS