Former Florida Gator and present day Jacksonville University football coach Kerwin Bell was the guest speaker the evening of April 26 at the Playmaker Awards banquet sponsored by the Baker Family YMCA.
Mr. Bell, a native of Mayo, FL, was a walk-on at UF in 1983 and spoke on how a combination of circumstances brought him to the starting slot after he was initially eighth on the depth chart.
“Look at the positive in any situation,” he advised attendees, reflecting on his on-field experience in high school where he led the Layfayette County High School Hornets to a state championship, his four years on the Gators squad and post-graduate professional career in the NFL and CFL.He said his inspiration for never giving up came from Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford and Johnny Unitas. All initially failed several times before taking their place in history.
Mr. Bell, who returned briefly to Gainesville as an assistant under Steve Spurrier before moving on to Trinity Catholic in Ocala and state championships, then to JU, spoke openly about how faith in God has guided him over the years.
“God has a plan for all of us, and you just have to be open to His guidance,” he said.
“Push yourself to the limits and find your platform,” he advised audience members at the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Church in Macclenny, some of whom are current members of the Baker High Wildcats. Also in attendance was Cat football coach Ryan Sulkowski.
Shelli Neri of the YMCA board presented Mr. Bell with a Baker Wildcat jersey emblazoned with his name and number.
Ms. Neri and YMCA director Marcy Knight presented the organization’s Playmaker Awards to the Walmart Distribution Center, longtime Y employee and volunteer Bud Hone, local Boy Scout leader Robert Connor, both of Macclenny, and Frances Frost of Glen St. Mary.
Ms. Frost, active in the Macclenny Woman’s Club where she is a second-term president, is a community volunteer whose centerpiece each year is the Lord Christmas Party, when she and other volunteers collect and distribute toys to needy children.
She also operates concession stands at Y events and donates all the proceeds to the organization.
Mr. Connor, a longtime Jacksonville policeman, leads a youth Bible study group at his church and is a Scout leader.
Mr. Hone, a retired finance executive at the former Florida Wire and Cable, has been an active volunteer since leaving the employ of the Y, where he went to work shortly after it opened on Lowder St. in Macclenny.
Walmart Distribution, represented by manager Bobby Steele, was recognized for its many donations of food and perishables to YMCA events.
Mr. Connor’s award was in the youth development field, Mr. Hone’s for healthy living, Ms. Frost for social responsibility and Walmart for business support.
The Y plans to make the Playmaker Awards banquet an annual event.