Rex Nelson spoke Tuesday of the influence of a coach and a quarterback.
His direct connection with the coach was several years ago. The life of the quarterback has just hit home.
That’s how the late Willie Tate, a longtime high school and college coach in Arkansas, and Matt Turner, a former Ouachita Baptist University quarterback and KTHV news anchor were mentioned within minutes of each other at Tuesday’s Hendrix Fellowship of Christian Athletes Bob Courtway Breakfast.
Nelson, the guest speaker, has worn many hats in the state, including stints in journalism, radio, politics and government.
He’s a native of Arkadelphia (one of those Arkansas towns in which everybody knows each other), and a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University who is the Tigers’ longtime play-by-play man.
He played high school football under Tate and Turner, after graduation, often helped he and Jeff Root on the OBU broadcasts, technically his first start to his career.
Nelson described Tate as one of the “giants of my youth,” noting he was one of those “people who come into your life who pushes you further than you thought you could go.”
He still remembers many of Tate’s sayings and admonitions, including a warning to young high school football players about avoiding “seasonal women, those who, during football season, will date a football player, then drop you for a basketball player when the season ends.”
Nelson, a center on the Arkadelphia football team, remembers a bad snap he made in a muddy state championship game.
“I felt like I let coach Tate down,” he said. Then, he remembered Tate coming up to him afterwards and with a kind voice, telling him to go to take off his uniform and get rid of his dirty mouthpiece, something that he has saved to this day.
He remembered conversations with Tate after the season, “but I could tell the things he was telling me were not related to me as a player, but as a friend,” Nelson said. “He was influencing me then not to become a better player but to becoming a man.”
Nelson, who is a host of a radio show on Sunday mornings, remembers receiving a breaking news notice from a producer last Sunday that was difficult for him to read.
Turner, whom Nelson had broadcasts of the exploits for years and was sometimes a companion in the broadcast booth, had died in an automobile accident near Hot Springs.
He had only recently secured his dream job as a KTHV anchor and was the proud parent of a 10-year-old daughter.
A station worker asked if Nelson knew Turner.
“Know him?” Nelson said. “He was extended family. His father was a former pastor of a Baptist church in Arkadelphia and served on about every board in town. He was beloved.”
When his father died at a relatively early age, Nelson said Turner spent his two days off while working at a TV station in northwwest Arkansas to drive to Arkadelphia and be with his mother.
Nelson related a recent conversation with KTHV news anchor Craig O’Neill, who told him he thought Turner was something special, was headed for great things.
“He may not have accomplished all he wanted to in this life, but for 32 years, Matt Turner live life for all it’s worth,” Nelson said. “Because his dad died at an early age, he realized that tomorrow is never guaranteed. But he knew who is ultimate mentor (God) was.”
He looked at an audience that was dotted with young people at tables in the Hendrix Wellness and Athletics Center, “Remember that and live life to the fullest,” he said.