An inspirational speech, belly-breaking, and football-like touchdown pass was delivered last week by beloved quarterback Terry Bradshaw whose fame extends well beyond the NFL.
Josh Key, vice president of academic development at SAU, said Bradshaw was this year’s speaker in the Farmers Bank & Trust Distinguished Speaker Series, which raised more than $51,000 for student scholarships at Southern Arkansas University. The event took place on Tuesday, November 16th.
Dr Trey Perry, president of the SAU, said the event, which was announced on July 22, sold out completely in just six hours.
“It’s all about our students and Farmers & Trust Bank, I say thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.
Before the event, Bradshaw casually walked through the crowd, shaking hands with those near him as he made his way to his seat at the head table, accompanied by his wife Tammy Bradshaw, whom he met long after his famous football career ended. Speaking, he said he still remembers what she wore on their first date 22 years ago.
Once he took the stage, Bradshaw had 550 people gathered at the WT Watson Gymnasium laughing with laughter. His first joke targeted Perry, visiting Magnolia, a town that reminds him of the town where he attended college – Louisiana Tech in Ruston.
“I will be looking forward to my Ph.D., Dr. Berry,” he said, adding that he would take it to bragging in front of his alma mater. “There are good people from the countryside here. Everyone knows almost everyone. And we stopped to feed some deer to get them off the runway.”
Bradshaw, the only NFL player with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, focused part of his speech on telling young people they needed to find something to focus on and work hard to achieve that goal.
“If you believe in it,” he said, “it can happen.”
The four-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers said he was only seven years old when he set out what he wanted to do, and that was none other than playing in the NFL. Bradshaw said he felt his goal was divine.
He said, “The Bible says: Do not be silent. He is speaking to you.”
Bradshaw said he was constantly playing soccer, even throwing the ball to himself and picking it up every night in his bed.
“When I grabbed the soccer ball and put it in my hand and smelled the leather and watched the matches, I thought, ‘This is it,'” he said.
The Super Bowl MVP, Pro Football Hall of Fame and multiple Emmy Award-winning broadcaster on Fox NFL Sunday said he didn’t start out as a great soccer player. He even remembered an embarrassing moment when he was in middle school when he was getting dressed.
“I didn’t know how to wear a jockstrap, and I wasn’t sure I needed one,” he said while the audience laughed. “But this was my message, and it specified my calling.”
Bradshaw, who is known for stepping up football into the end zone, said that once he found his calling, he never gave up on it and even remembered the loud crack of the first cleats he ever wore.
“I had such a passion,” he said. “When you go to bed, you need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Young men, if you don’t have it, you’re wasting your life.”
One of the hardest parts of his football career was some matches with the Steelers where he knew he would never be with the same teammates again.
“It was the saddest moment in my entire life when I realized this would never happen again,” he said.
One of the most prolific quarterbacks in history, Bradshaw walked through his speech and didn’t use a chair on stage.
He said he has both knees, so while he misses playing the game, the 73-year-old must maintain his love for it by being a sports broadcaster and analyst.
He said he doesn’t listen, but he still does some singing shows in Las Vegas and Branson.
Bradshaw also mocked his college, saying he didn’t have nearly as much money as SAU for scholarships.
“You did a great job investing in youth,” he said. “We were a poor school. We had to use a mule to teach the drivers and teach them about sex.”
Bradshaw also made fun of his private situation after one of the divorces, when his father and father wanted to visit him and he had to tell them no because he had been living in a barn for 15 months.
“They said we love you and pray for you. You know they are old Baptists, but when they asked to come in, I had to say you can come and stay in a hotel. I live in 12 by 12 rooms,” he said.
Tuesday’s event was the 16th annual iteration of the speaker series, according to Candice Rankin, administrative assistant and marketing executive at Farmers Bank & Trust. Rankin, who was honored at the Tuesday night event, said her job is to find speakers for the event each year.
There was no recent event in 2020 due to COVID.
“I’ve been trying to get Terry Bradshaw for years,” she said. “When it was finally approved, I was really happy with it. After 2020, people need someone sensitive. Someone they look up to and someone they can be around.”
Rankin said the first speaker, in 2005, was Steve Ford, son of President Gerald Ford. Some of the other speakers are James Carville, American political consultant and author. Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan; And Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel, she said.
“Bob Burns (CEO for nearly 40 years) wanted something to bring to Magnolia where people could hear the speakers and bring something into town they wouldn’t otherwise experience,” Rankin said. “And to give everyone an evening to remember and wonderful memories they wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
The two students who benefited from this year’s scholarship series were Kimber Birdsong, a Prescott, Ark senior, majoring in game animation and simulation design; Seth Horne, Junior, of Farmington, Ark, specializes in agricultural education.
Rankin said that the news of the event sold out so quickly that everyone was thrilled, but there was also a desire to be able to include more people.
“The day we sold out was the day the SAU team started working on where we can move to accommodate more people,” she said. “They moved mountains to get into the gym and it took a lot of work. There was already a match scheduled there. The staff at SAU are amazing and every year I am in awe of all the things they can do.”
In addition to raising money by selling tickets for the dinner and speaking and receiving event in advance, others who attended have tried their luck at a silent auction. Dr. Krista Nelson, associate professor of psychology in the behavioral and social sciences at SAU, was the lucky winner of a Bradshaw-signed SAU football helmet.
Her husband, attorney Darren Nelson, said his wife loved the idea of getting the helmet because she and Bradshaw attended Louisiana Tech. He said Krista Nelson earned her Ph.D. from there.
“We are both Louisiana Tech graduates and I think tonight was a fun and enthusiastic evening overall,” she said.
Dr. Krista Nelson, Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Arkansas University, who received her Ph.D. from Louisiana Tech, won a signed SAU helmet by Terry Bradshaw during Farmers Bank & Trust last week’s premium speaker series. Nelson won the helmet at a silent auction and said she wanted it because Bradshaw also went to Louisiana Tech. (Becky Bell/News Times)
Terry Bradshaw, left, speaking with attendees from Farmers Bank & Trust our premium speaker chain as it walks into place on the podium. (Becky Bell/News Times)