Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Bud Elliott believed in the words of George Washington Carver: “Take what you have with what you are, make something of it, and never be satisfied.”
On Monday, friends, coworkers and relatives recalled just how the former Eastern New Mexico University football coach lived by those words.
About 575 people attended memorial services for Elliott at ENMU’s Campus Union Ballroom. Elliott, who retired last year after 37 seasons of collegiate football coaching, the final 11 at Eastern, died Nov. 1 of heart and kidney failure at the age of 73.
Former colleagues called Elliott a man with vision when others needed glasses and a man who lived in a different world than those around him.
“Coach Elliott lived in an imperfect world, but you couldn’t convince him of that,” ENMU track and field coach Eric Boll said during the service. “He believed imperfection was a state of mind, a state in other people’s minds.
“In Coach Elliott’s world, everyone was honest and everyone gave 100 percent. In Coach Elliott’s world, every player was important and every player was treated the same. Every player was a good person — they just made mistakes.”
The coaches who spoke about Elliott at the service said they all got a second chance from Elliott when others wouldn’t give them one. Mark Ribaudo, who took over as the Greyhounds’ head coach this season, said Elliott liked to see people not as what they were, but what they could be.
“He lived it every day I knew him,” said Ribaudo, referring to Carver’s words. “He ran our football team with that philosophy. He was never satisfied, and he always wanted something better — not for himself, but for everyone around him.”
When he first came aboard at ENMU, Ribaudo remembered going to Texas A&M-Kingsville for a game where the Greyhounds were an enormous underdog.
Elliott, Ribaudo said, told the players the Greyhounds would win the game and told them exactly how they would do it. Five minutes in, Ribaudo said with a laugh, Kingsville was up 35-0 and went on to win easily.
“We lost that game because we only had one man who could see us win it,” Ribaudo said. “That was Coach Elliott.”
Elliott was the 46th coach to reach 200 career NCAA victories in 2004, and retired with a career mark of 205-175-9. Some felt the record would have been better but Elliott took jobs with inherent challenges.
“He loved the challenge of rebuilding programs,” said Bob Noblitt, who worked as an assistant for Elliott at Washburn University in Kansas and knew Elliott for 36 years. “That’s why he would go somewhere where people didn’t think he had a chance.”
What surprised Noblitt the most was that Elliott never played football himself — Elliott was a track and basketball star instead.
“Every time you were talking to him about technique, you’d have to tell him in detail,” Noblitt said. “He knew, but he just wanted to find out if you knew.”
Pastor Mary Sue Hull of the Elida-Floyd First United Methodist Church, who officiated services, said Elliott’s victories extended to his family and his standing as a “child of God.” Elliott was a member of many civic organizations and was a lay speaker at Portales’ United Methodist Church.
“He was a winner all the way, and that’s what we’re here to celebrate,” Hull said. “He was a winner in life, he’s a winner today and he’ll be a winner ever more.”