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In the world of perspiring arts many coaches have touched the lives of the young men in ways that influence their lives, and one of the greats was John Widner. On Friday, Jan. 19, Widner will be honored by Morrilton High School by naming its basketball court after the man who spent 34 years coaching high school basketball, 14 of those at Morrilton.

Widner had a career 831-197 record and was 346-72 with the Devil Dogs.

Widner, though, was more than just a basketball coach. He was a role model and mentor to hundreds of young men who became success stories of their own.

His door was always open to those who needed advice or help.

Guys like UALR's Joe Foley, one of the best coaches in America, Tommy Reed, who devoted his life to teaching basketball and character to high school kids, and men like Greg Flesher, a partner at Frost, PLLC.

There's not enough space here to name everyone Widner impacted in a positive way (including this sports writer who found him fascinating). Widner was consistent. There were no gaps in his life. What you saw is what you got.

Like most men his age, he didn't talk about his role during World War II, but he was a prisoner of war in Germany for nine months, living on a single bowl of rutabaga soup and bread a day, and working all day filling in holes that bombs had left around the train station.

When he was honorably discharged it was with three Bronze Stars, the European Theater Ribbon, the World War II Victory Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.

Widner went home to Alpena after the war, married the love of his life, Alice Howerton, and started college at Arkansas Tech. He always knew what he wanted to do: teach young people about basketball and living life the right way.

Widner spent the final three years of his career coaching his alma mater.

Widner passed away in 1995 at the age of 70, but his legacy lives on.

Foley says one of the most important lessons he learned in coaching came from Widner who taught him, "You win with people, not X's and O's."

Bruce Hawkins chaired the committee to raise the money to make this happen, and it was all those people whose lives that Widner touched made John Widner Court a reality.

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Last week's announcement that the Little Rock Touchdown Club and the Great American Conference would take over as the presenter of the Harlon Hill Award did not garner quite the attention it deserved.

The Harlon Hill Award is Division II football's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The award goes to the single best player in the country in Division II.

The award was founded in 1986, and several of the winners have gone on to have careers in professional football. It has been presented by North Alabama University since it began, but the school is transitioning to Division I this fall.

The GAC will oversee the nominating and voting process, which includes all the DII sports information directors, and it will be presented at a LRTDC meeting.

The LRTDC already presents several awards including the Cliff Harris Award, which goes to the country's most outstanding small college defensive player.

Since the Harlon Hill Award was created, 645 different student-athletes have been nominated from 161 different institutions. The 32 winners have come from 22 different institutions. Johnny Bailey, who had a great career in the NFL as kick returner won it three times.

It is a great honor to present the award, and starting this season it will be another David Bazzel project for the state of Arkansas.

Sports on 01/05/2018

Print Headline: Widner's impact felt by many across state

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