Elder Award winner is excellent choice

Elder Award winner is excellent choice

Thursday, Feb 24, 2005

Column By Harry King
Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK - Chugging along U.S. 71, just shy of the crest of the Boston Mountains, the old Chevrolet started smoking.

Calmly, Jim Elder told the driver to pull over. Once the car was on the shoulder, the man behind the wheel and Al Janssen, Elder’s numbers helper during the Lou Holtz era, bailed for safety’s sake.

Elder opened the trunk, removed one of the two gallons of water, popped the hood, unscrewed the radiator cap and poured. New cars and niceties never meant much to Elder, a workaholic who did Arkansas Travelers play by play at night after doing sports on the radio all morning and more sports much of the afternoon.

In fact, it was Bob Russell - Elder did commercials for him for years - who advised Elder not to spend the money on the old car and suggested he come out and look around the lot. A fan and a friend, Russell promised to work with Elder on something new. Never picky, Elder was content with a small used car, but it was attacked and totaled a block from KARN. When Russell provided a small red loaner, Elder thought it was perfect and bought it.

Elder and his vehicles came to mind when his daughter, Susie, provided word that the board of the Jim Elder Good Sport Fund had settled on Matt Comer of Spring Hill High School in Hope as winner of the Good Sport Award and a $1,000 scholarship.

Comer makes do with his car. During the football season, he drove a 1986 Oldsmobile with some sort of plastic wrap double dipped around the passenger door to cover up a broken out window. He just didn’t have the money to replace the glass and he had to get back and forth to school.

“It didn’t bother him,” said coach Tommy Poole. “He’s just a humble person.”

Like Elder, Comer is a team-first guy and a giver.

“He’d give the shirt off his back to help another,” Poole said. “On several occasions, he’s given up his own stuff to help other kids.”

Once, he shared cleats; another time, it was a practice jersey.

Elder would tee up whatever was in his golf bag, but buy a dozen new Titleists for a young man headed to a national tournament and then run from a thank-you.

Poole said Comer, a tight end and free safety, always talks team and shies from individual attention.

“He takes the responsibility for a loss, even in a game where he had an outstanding personal effort,” Poole said. “He will do anything to make the team better, and always gives credit to his teammates. After a game, he is so exhausted, he can hardly walk because he plays so hard.”

Game or practice, he is always early, another Elder trait. If Elder said pick him up at 9:30, he would be ready at 9:15.

Comer, his father, and sister moved from Kansas to Hope in the spring of his sophomore year. He looked like an athlete and Poole learned that Comer had played football as a 10th grader.

Comer had a summer job for the city utility - weed eating, mopping floors, whatever - and he went in early and worked through lunch so he could be ready any day there was seven-on-seven practice at 4 p.m.

“It’s his attitude about everything, life in general,” Poole said. “He’s the perfect example of the student-athlete. He tries everything he can to succeed in the classroom.”

Comer, 17, has a 4.0 grade point and scored 24 on the ACT. At 6-foot-2 and 185, he may walk on at Southern Arkansas University or Arkansas Tech and Poole thinks he will be able to play after a year of building muscle.

“He’s one of those kids you wish you could have every day,” Poole said. “He’s going to give everything he’s got, no matter how hot or how cold, whether he feels good or not.”

The winner of the Good Sport Award is chosen for “leadership, sportsmanship and an impeccable work ethic” and Comer qualifies on every count.


Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media Group’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

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