Extreme Sports Fan

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2009

Richard Russo with son Trey was selected as Panola County’s Most Extreme Sports Fan by a panel of 10 judges. Photo submitted

Russo chosen Extreme Sports Fan

By Myra Bean

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The nominees are in and the judges have decided. Richard Russo was selected Panola County’s Most Extreme Sports Fan by a panel of 10 judges in The Panolian’s first ever Extreme Sports Fan Contest.

“I thought this was the winner,” said judge Rod Walker of The Clarion Ledger. “He stays abreast on all sports through various newspapers and websites and has a nice collection of sports memorabilia. Package was very thorough.”

He narrowly defeated second place winner John Ivy of Sardis, whose collection of NASCAR and miniature stock cars wowed the judges.

“I felt this person had a wide variety of sports..and an impressive presentation of sports collectibles,” said judge Kristin Tallent of Channel 13 FOX Sports.

Finishing a close third was Penny Durham who is an avid “Cousin Carl” Edward fan.

Walker said, “From football to NASCAR, this candidate was a very close second to the one I chose was the winner.”

Tallent said, “I could tell how much the ride-alongs meant to her!” Russo is an extreme Missisippi State University fan. He has a room in his house dedicated to his collection of Bulldog memorabilia, along with other sports jerseys, trading cards, helmets, jerseys, books and footballs to name just a few throughout the years.

His wife Sarah nominated him for the honor.

“Richard gets everything from season tickets, to Internet site subscriptions, to newspapers, to his Autograph collection, to his game program collection, to his jersey collection. To his helmet collection, etc… If he has a birthday, Father’s Day, or Christmas wish list, there is sports memorabilia on there! Of course, he loves his University and its football team so much that the football field was part of his proposal to me,” Sarah wrote.

Russo said he has been a sports fan all his life. His family has a picture of him at one-year-old wearing a “coach” outfit. He wrote of how he and his father grew closer as they got older and their relationship matured around the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears, MSU Bulldogs and Chicago Bulls.

“In sixth grade, my mother took me to my very first Mississippi State University Football game in Starkville. I was hooked instantly! I still have the cowbell she bought me at that first game and it is one of my most treasured possessions.”

Ivy was nominated by his son, Mark.

“’Johnny’ has been an avid sports fan since the age of six when he started playing little league baseball,” Mark wrote. “His coach was an Ole Miss player and he became a Rebel forever.”

Mark wrote that when John was 16 he worked at the Greenwood Commonwealth he started collecting AP wire photographs of his favorite players and teams and added them to his collection of Topps baseball cards.

His favorite NASCAR drivers are the late Dale Earnhardt “The Man in Black” and “The King,” Richard Petty.

Durham told of her and her husband chartering a bus for the team and cheerleaders to go to Little Rock from Memphis to play a game because the school did not have a bus. The Frayser Assembly Christian School players and cheerleaders were to drive their own vehicles.

“It was a surprise for the kids and they were so excited,” she wrote. “When that big bus rolled up in front of the school to pick us up, the excitement from the kids was just awesome.”

Durham told that story before she told of how she became a NASCAR and more importantly a “Cousin” Carl Edwards fan.

“It is my absolute favorite sport,” Durham wrote. “I LOVE THIS SPORT! My neighbors call my house ‘Nascar Central.’”

She “finally” got to see Edwards race and do his famous back flip last year at Memphis Motorsports Park where she secured season tickets.

Durham and her son James, whom she refers throughout her nomination form as Brother, got  to go in the pit.

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she wrote. “I got to actually see Carl Edwards just feet from me. The only bad thing was, Brother forgot to take a picture.”

Topping out the top five were Denise Benson fourth and Todd Johnson, fifth. The rest of the nominees in alphabetical order include Collins Bailey, Blake Daugherty, Georgella Hall, Richard Hartley, Jennifer Jordan, Paige Jordan, Tyler Leitch, Brady McMillen, Paul Middleton, Darrell Pride, Joy Redwine, Brandon White, Bruce Wilkes and Lee Wilks.

The Panolian will host a small reception for nominees and their families today from 4:30 to 6:30 at the office, 363 Highway 51 North, Batesville where they will receive their prizes.