TUPELO The “Little Man” will surely be smiling on Thursday when longtime coach and school administrator Travis Beard is awarded the 2019 Mickey Linder Spirit Award at the Tupelo High Football Booster Club’s annual Kickoff Banquet.

“Little Man” was an affectionate nickname Beard called Linder – who was small in stature – during their nearly 50-year friendship.

Linder, a teacher and coach in Tupelo Public Schools for 40 years, died Nov. 25, 2018. He was the honoree at last year’s inaugural THS preseason football banquet.

Linder’s wife, Vicky, is excited to see Beard, the president of Tupelo’s city council, receive the first award honoring her late husband.

“I know Mickey has a smile on his face,” she said. “Travis was like a brother to him. He could count on Travis night and day.”

Beard and Linder coached together at Tupelo’s Milam and Carver schools early in their careers. Beard later left Tupelo to work in private business, but returned to education, working in Monroe and Lee counties and Tupelo schools.

He said he’s truly honored to be the recipient of an award named after his best friend.

“It is special, but the deck was stacked in my favor,” Beard said, then laughed. “They asked Mickey last year, ‘Who do you want to get the award next year?’ Nobody else was in the running.

“If I can represent some of the qualities he stood for then I’m honored to receive it. I think about his spirit of competition, his belief of and being led by the Holy Spirit, his work ethic, his giving spirit. It’s a great honor.”

Linder’s competitive spirit is evident in his impressive career coaching record in junior high and ninth grade football and basketball.

The Corinth native’s ninth grade football team at Carver compiled a 190-15-2 record and posted 15 undefeated seasons. The program also recorded 40- and 44-game win streaks.

His Milam seventh and eighth grade boys basketball teams produced a 426-30 record with 11 undefeated seasons and managed 40- and 46-game winning streaks under his direction.

“Mickey bled blue and gold (Tupelo’s colors),” Vicky Linder said. “He loved football and sports more than life. I want him to be remembered for being a mentor, a Christian, and for his honesty, fairness and integrity.

“He loved people from the inside … his heart … out.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com Twitter: @genephelps

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