Good Sport Award

Our winners are chosen for
“leadership, sportsmanship and an impeccable work ethic.”

2005 Winner 2004 Winners

Matt Comer
Spring Hill High School
Hope, Arkansas
Click here to read an article by
Harry King, Arkansas News Bureau

Todd Branscum
Bald Knob High School

Clayton O’Neal
Batesville High School

Two good sports better than one, committee decides
Sunday, Feb 29, 2004
By Robert Yates - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Clayton O’Neal, a senior offensive lineman from Batesville, and Todd Branscum, a senior running back from Bald Knob, have been selected winners of the third annual Jim Elder Good Sport Award.

O’Neal and Branscum were chosen after a selection committee reviewed nominations to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 2004 All-Academic Team. Both will receive a $1,000 college scholarship.

The Good Sport Award honors Elder, the well-respected Arkansas radio and television personality who died in 1998 and is based on “leadership, sportsmanship and impeccable work ethic.”

“This year there were a number of great students nominated by their coaches, and it was harder than ever to narrow it down,” said Susie Elder, a board member and Jim Elder’s daughter. “After getting down to these two, we did what Jim would have done — give it to both.”

O’Neal, 6-2, 215 pounds, helped the Pioneers finish 13-0-1 last season and win the Class AAAA state championship, the first in school history.

He had a 3.75 grade-point average last semester, is a Beta Club member and volunteers for several organizations, including Special Olympics.

“He’s a straight-arrow type,” Batesville Coach Dave King said. “He is a young man you would point to as a model for our younger players.”

King said he buys a steak dinner each year for the player with the best attendance in summer workouts. O’Neal won the award as a sophomore and junior and had perfect attendance again last summer. But O’Neal asked that the dinner go to a teammate whose grandfather had recently died.

So, King sprang for two steak dinners.

“That’s definitely a kid thinking about more than just himself,” King said. “That’s just what kind of kid Clayton is.”

Branscum, 5-11, 195 pounds, rushed 182 times for 1,410 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall. He has a 3.75 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Bulldogs Coach Paul Johnston said Branscum is a role model in the school and community.

“He does what’s expected of him, and adds more to that,” Johnston said.

“Very trustworthy. Nowadays, sometimes that’s hard to find in a kid. Great with his teammates and really good with the younger kids.”

Johnston said his wife, Deana, teaches physical education at the elementary school, and Branscum is often there playing flag football, chase or other games with those third- and fourth-graders.

“He’s just a good person,” Paul Johnston said.

Previous Good Sport winners were Wes Howard of Nashville and David Farr of Star City.

This story was published Sunday, February 29, 2004

Scholarship race ends in dead heat
Tuesday, Feb 10, 2004

By Harry King

LITTLE ROCK - Here and now, nobody will make much of a fuss about high school football players Clayton O’Neal of Batesville or Todd Branscum of Bald Knob. In the real world, it’s likely to be a different story.

“This young man is going to be a success,” said Batesville coach Dave King. “He will be somebody we look at 10 years from now and say, ‘We are proud to say he played on this team.”

When the group that doles out good-guy dollars in the name of Jim Elder sorted through recommendations from the state’s high school football coaches, O’Neal and Branscum finished in a dead heat for the $1,000 scholarship. A big fan of Oaklawn Park, longtime sportscaster Elder would have been delighted with the racetrack reference.

Susie Elder knew how her dad would handle the tie and her only concern was whether the proper remedy would cheapen the award. Assured that was not the case, she decided that O’Neal and Branscum each would get a $1,000 scholarship.

Often confounded by his own celebrity status, Elder would have appreciated O’Neal’s attitude toward teammates.

Each year, just before football begins, King buys a steak dinner for the athlete in each class who puts in the most days in a summer training program. The Batesville coaches hope a player will participate a minimum of 30 days and O’Neal was closer to 70 days every summer. He won the steak as a sophomore and as a junior and was in line for the meal after last summer.

O’Neal went to King and pleaded on behalf of a teammate, whose grandfather was very involved in his upbringing and who had recently died. O’Neal knew he had attended the summer program a few days more than his friend, but thought winning would help the self confidence of a young man who had hung around for a couple of years just so he could be a starter as a senior.

“Things like that kind of touch your heart,” said King, who called them co-winners and sprung for two dinners. “When you talk about a good teammate, he’s that kind.”

As a 14-year-old sophomore starter in the offensive line, the 160-pound O’Neal got tossed around a lot. Determined about gaining weight, he played at 200 last fall, but his football days are over.

At Bald Knob, Branscum cuts out of fourth period with the blessing of coach Paul Johnston and heads for the on-campus elementary school where Johnston’s wife, Deana, is the physical education teacher.

Branscum plays flag football, chase, or anything else with the third- and fourth-graders. Sometimes, he brings along some of his running buddies.

That’s one of his strengths - leading by example.

“The little kids really look up to the older kids,” Deana Johnston said. “He’s just real good with them.”

A tailback in football and an excellent baseball player, Branscum works with the youngsters on the proper batting stance and even how to catch a ball.

“I think he has as much fun as they do,” Johnston said. “He uses his athletic abilities to teach kids sportsmanship and leads with a high moral standard.”

Sportsmanship was huge with Elder, a former umpire. In a big high school basketball game, he called a technical foul on a player who tried to undercut an opponent on a breakaway layup. He slapped a technical on a complaining coach and when the coach tossed his towel into the air, Elder promised another technical if the towel came down. The resulting string of free throws cost the home team a perfect record.

Always good with the thank-yous, Elder would be pleased to know that Branscum quickly sent an e-mail response to the scholarship award committee.

“I am particularly honored to be receiving this scholarship because I work hard to have a good attitude and it is nice to know that it is appreciated,” he wrote.

When it comes time for Branscum and O’Neal to earn a living, their attitude will be appreciated even more.

This article was published on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 on website.

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