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WALLY HALL: Four attendees embody the spirit of Broyles

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables speaks during the Broyles Award banquet Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Little Rock.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables speaks during the Broyles Award banquet Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Little Rock.

It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of head coaching vacancies and new athletic directors.

Tuesday the late, great Frank Broyles was as present in spirit at the annual Broyles Award luncheon as he was for the first 21 banquets named after him to honor top college football assistants.

That is one of Broyles' legacies: He coached coaches to succeed.

Broyles set the bar high as a head coach and athletic director for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and he left huge shoes to fill after his retirement. The strength of his leadership back then never has been more apparent than in the past few weeks.

A sold-out lunch -- broadcast live statewide on KATV, KAIT and KFSM -- brought back a flood of memories of one of the most influential men in the history of the great state of Arkansas.

He's one of the main reasons the Razorback Nation has expectations. He put Razorbacks football and the UA on the map. When he decided the school would be competitive in football, basketball, baseball and track, he hired the right people to get it done.

He would have been proud Tuesday of the four -- Auburn's Kevin Steele couldn't make it because he apparently was interviewing for a job -- finalists who talked about their faith, their wives, family and then about football.

All of the men on that stage were deserving of the honor, but when Tony Elliott, Clemson's offensive co-coordinator, was announced as the winner, the other three coaches broke into a big smile.

Elliott's life changed when he was 9 years old and his family was driving to church. Someone ran a red light and T-boned the Elliotts' van, leaving his mother dead. He and his sister moved in with their father, but his dad was in and out of jail and the kids were shipped around the country until the siblings were separated -- the younger sister going to Atlanta to live with one aunt and Elliott to Charleston to live with another.

Elliott is a proven winner. He walked on at Clemson and four years later was named a captain. He graduated with a degree in industrial engineering, and after two years working as an engineer he got into coaching.

"Everything that happened in my life made me the man I am today, and I am truly blessed," Elliott said.

Broyles would have breakfast with the nominees during the first 21 years of the award. Ken Hatfield, with help from Harold Horton last year and Ken Turner this year, has assumed that role.

None of the finalists are old enough to remember Broyles as a coach, but by the time they left Tuesday they had memorized his legacy.

The Broyles award has grown to national prominence -- now headed by the Broyles Foundation and run by Broyles' daughter Betsy and granddaughter Molly -- and puts a spotlight on Alzheimer's disease.

It is an award that is now seeing former winners and finalists having their own assistants nominated.

This was the first time the same school, Clemson, produced back-to-back winners. Last year's winner was defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

Perhaps to fully grasp the impact of Broyles on the world of coaching, consider that just three coaches have won a national championship and a Super Bowl: Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Pete Carroll. All three worked for Broyles. Johnson and Switzer also played for him.

On Tuesday four assistant coaches, two of whom will coach in the College Football Playoff, were honored with the spirit and legacy of Frank Broyles.


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