West Memphis Chamber Banquet – Celebrating 70 years

West Memphis Chamber Banquet – Celebrating 70 years

Tigers coach’s speech highlights night of recognition for community leaders


University of Memphis Football Coach Mike Norvell highlighted the 2017 West Memphis Chamber of Commerce Banquet Tuesday night at Southland Gaming and Racing. The coach smiled when greeted with a spontaneous T-I-G-E-R-S cheer from the audience.

Norvell’s still riding his successful first year leading the 15th highest scoring team to the Boca Raton Bowl and made a silver tongue delivery for the true blue fans at the banquet.

Norvell coached up the 2016 Tigers. The team produced over 300 yards per game, 14th overall. The Tigers chewed up opponents on special teams too, ranking second in kick return defense with Memphis native Tony Pollard earning a pair of Freshman All-America honors. Norvell recruited junior college talent. First year Tiger quarterback and junior college transfer set school passing records in passing touchdowns with 3,689 yards ranking 11th in the NCAA.

Receiver Anthony Miller benefit from the air attack with 14 touchdowns and 1,434 yards, most since Hall-of-Famer Isaac Bruce.

Norvell signed three fourstar recruits this year, the most in school history and the most outside the power five conferences.

But the Chamber of Commerce audience was most impressed with Coach Norvell’s alliterated delivery and amazed at the constant flux characterized in his childhood story and forged his positive philosophy of life. The key standards stemming from structure, sacrifice, success, service and respect lined up to win over the audience for the former University of Central Arkansas Purple Bear Player turned Tiger Coach.

Structure was the first key for the coach because of the family he grew up with.

“Everybody has a family and have different experiences and ideas about what that means,” said Norvell.

“My mother as I was growing up through high school and college was married eight times, I had eight step dads. For me family was never consistent, always revolving, different every year.”

The coach searched for standard bearers to struc-

Lori Wilson-Deshazo was surrounded by family and the warm affections of all during the West Memphis Chamber of Commerce banquet as she took the pillar shaped trophy for Citizen of the Year. Wilson-Deshazo directs the Children Advocacy Center of Eastern Arkansas and has been a CASA volunteer for ten years. She was recognized for this and being a kidney donor during 2016. ture his life and insists his players identify the most inspirational people in their lives as well.

“They provided the relationships that were necessary for my growth and development,” said Norvell. “They poured into me.”

You’ve got to serve somebody. Service is the first of three core values Norvell instituted for the Tiger football


“Part of the service is to provide them with structure,” said Norvell, “how they go to school, how we practice, what they do socially, a structure for their success. Because nobody that’s a part of your family wants to see you succeed in just one area of life. I want to set a program that helps them be successful everywhere, on the field, in the classroom, in the community and with in the relationships they have. But you have to have a structure set up to do this. This is a standard of excellence is for all arenas.”

Sacrifice is the second core value. Players must identify who they will sacrifice for and why. Norvell requires team members to have a picture of that person in their locker and to reflect on it for sacrificial motivation before each practice. According to coach, love is the reason to sacrifice.

“I want the picture of the most important people in their life,” said Norvell.

“It’s amazing the pictures you see, mothers, fathers, grandparents, coaches, teachers, community leaders a variety of people that have influenced these young men’s lives. As I walk by their lockers , I ask each one why is this person inspirational. There is one common thing I hear from players, this person sacrificed for me to be here and to have success. It’s meaningful. It’s one word. It’s love. Nothing in this world is worth sacrificing for that you don’t love. Our players need this to be prepared to sacrifice for successful life.”

Focusing on both love and sacrifice, he said, anchors the players and reduces distractions. Norvell has each player look at the picture for 30 seconds to daily develop love and sacrifice into a solidly structured life value.

“It’s a key to success,” said Norvell. “It builds up respect, it our last core value.”

Norvell insists he wouldn’t be a Tiger today if he had not expressed respect as a player to a bystander at a UCA practice. Respect is a key concern for young people today as well. Respect is built on trust but the coach doesn’t ask his players to trust him. Instead he demonstrates is trustworthiness to them and earns respect as a result.

“My freshman year I had just finished practice I noticed a man standing on the sidelines just watching practice. His second day, I just walked up to him and shook his hand. He happened to be a former player so I said thank you sir for all you did here as a former player for the success of this program and providing an opportunity for me here.

All I did was show him a little respect. Then two years later he came and shook my hand and thanked me for my play. He was the offensive line coach at Springdale High and had just received a call from Gus Malzahn who had just gotten the offensive coordinator job at Tulsa who’d called and said if he knew of a young coach.

“Showing respect, a first impression, you never know what an introduction might do for you down the road. That was my one connection, my one opportunity. There would be no way I’d be here today as the head coach of the University of Memphis, if I had showed a little respect 10 years ago.”

As for his players he communicates respect by being respectable in each relationship. When I talk to these players I talk about service, sacrifice and respect. Those are all so very important in relationships.

It applies to successful for life. The values served to drive a transformation into the Tiger walk before the home games.

“I raised money and bought every player a suit,” said Norvell. “So on game day when we come off the bus we aren’t wearing warm-ups. We have on a suit and a tie, We take off our headsets; we don’t wear earrings, because when we walk down through our fans that we represent, We look successful.

“West Memphis and this region is a special place and representing it is something I do not take lightly.

We all represent each other. On Saturday morning on television everybody sees how we represent you and this community.”

The Tiger walk suits the team. In football and life the Tigers walk the coach’s talk.

By John Rech