Patrons gathered to help football team raise funds at Friday auction

Community members, friends, former players, cheerleaders, representatives, coaches and members of the Bearkat football family met on Friday for the 15th annual Bearkat Football Awards and Auction at the Walker County Fairgrounds to give and show their support.

Patrons collected their bidding number at the door before being greeted by members of the Bearkat football team and receiving a free T-shirt.

Auction participant Bruce Baggett said he truly enjoys the chance to give something to the team.

“I’m just trying to support SHSU,” Baggett said. “This is my second year and I usually bid on jerseys and T-shirts. I spend about $100.”

Half of the main building at the fairgrounds was lined with tables that held hundreds of silent auction items. There was enough sports memorabilia, including T-shirts, balls, caps and sport packages to make any sports enthusiast feel like a kid in a candy store.

Among the 314 items listed on the auction sheet were a David Carr autographed Texans cap, Dan Marino autographed picture, Joe Montana autographed picture, Pittsburgh Steelers autographed ball, St. Louis Rams autographed ball and a Houston Texans signature ball.

SHSU offensive line coach Ben Norton said the auction is an inspiring idea that brings a lot of positivism to the team.

“This is the first place I have ever seen something like this. I think it is a great concept,” Norton said.

Sophomore offensive guard Will Smith said the event is more than just a good time.

“It helps pay for equipment and traveling. A lot of people just want to put a face to the numbers,” Smith said.

Freshman running back Robert Sanders said his favorite part of the event is connecting with the community.

“It’s a great way to meet people from around town,” Sanders said.

Among the faces in the crowd was former 1978 Bearkat football player Russell Humphrey, who played linebacker before suffering a gunshot wound to the leg.

He said the occasion gives him a chance to give back.

“I have been coming for the last five years,” Humphrey said. “It gives a family atmosphere to the team.”

Graduating senior Tiffany Wilkey, who served as auction hostess, said the live auction was a lot of fun.

“I think it is the best part of the night,” Wilkey said. “There are some unique individuals in the audience.”

Some live auction items included four Houston Texans club level seats on the 40-yard line donated by Jack and Janet Heard. Houston Astros tickets with limousine service to and from Minute Maid Park and five nights in Crested Butte, Colo., were also items available for auction at the event.

For most, the auction was about seeing and talking with friends and acquaintances. For offensive line coach Jim Ferguson, it was about strengthening the bond that holds the program together.

“The core of the family is right here,” Ferguson said. “Some went to school, some just care and some are just supportive.”

As of 7:45 p.m. Friday evening, high bid makers were a Texas A&M football helmet autographed by Dennis Francione for $750, and a University of Texas helmet autographed by Mack Brown for $250.

Folks mingled while they browsed the smorgasbord of collectables. The festive atmosphere was heightened by the aroma of 500 pounds of beef brisket and 200 pounds of pork sausage simmering in chafing dishes on the west side of the building.

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