Former Monette basketball player among "NEA Great" honorees
Former Monette High School basketball player Darrell Bridges was among those recognized as one of the 2015 NEA Greats. The ceremony, recognizing players, coaches, officials and fans, was held at the end of the 69th annual NEA Tournament at Arkansas State University Convocation Center on Dec. 30.
The "NEA Greats" was started several years ago and each year two former NEA players, two coaches, two officials and two fans are selected for their part in keeping the tournament successful.
Bridges graduated from Monette High School in 1973. He was not only an all district, all region, and all state basketball player, he was valedictorian of his class. In addition, he was selected on various All American teams. He served as president of the student body and was named Mr. Monette High School his senior year.
Bridges was offered several college scholarships choosing Memphis State where he attended and played basketball his first two years. He transferred to UCA his junior year.
Bridges said he is very honored to be included in the honorees of the NEA.
"It was a very unexpected award," he said.
He remembers his high school and the people from the community well even though it has been a long time since he has lived in the Buffalo Island area.
"I've been blessed," Bridges said. "I would not trade that foundation for anything. I have had a lot of special people in my life including teachers, coaches and friends."
Bridges is the youngest of seven children of Paul and Elsie Bridges. His dad worked at John Deere and his mother taught school, retiring from teaching from Manila Elementary School.
Bridges is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Clarksville.
He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree and attended seminaries at Southwestern in Ft. Worth, Texas; Dallas Seminary in Dallas; and Mid-Western in Kansas City, Kan.
During graduate school, Bridges had the opportunity to continue playing basketball on a Christian team. He once went on a three week mission trip to Brazil where his team played basketball and shared God's word with the Brazilians.
His ministry has taken him across many miles. He served on staff for six years at Second Baptist Church in Conway before moving to Washington, D.C./Maryland where he served for 15 years. He returned to Arkansas and taught at Ouachita Baptist University for a year before moving to Clarksville.
Bridges said even though he doesn't remember the details of all of the wins and losses or awards from his basketball years, he does remember the people and friends who have influenced his life in a positive way.
"I am thankful for the good memories," Bridges said.
He played in the NEA Tournament during his three years in high school.
Among those who were a part of Bridges high school basketball memories is Coach Neil Abel, long time area basketball coach.
"I was privileged to be able to speak at his funeral," Bridges said. "He was a good coach and a good man."
Bridges praised the NEA Tournament and the committee members who have kept the event going for 69 years.
Bridges and his wife, Terri, have four children. Their daughter Rachel Walser lives in Little Rock; son Luke lives in Clarksville, son Phillip lives in Little Rock, and daughter Hannah Bridges teaches high school English at Prescott. They have two grandchildren.