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Terry Gardner Honored at Avery County High School for Sports Milestone Feats

Avery High School Football Standout Terry Gardner (1968, ’69 and ’70).

By Tim Gardner

Avery County High School has a rich and storied sports history.  Since it opened with the 1968-69 school year following the consolidation of Crossnore, Newland and Cranberry High Schools, Avery teams, athletes and coaches have consistently enjoyed successes in the various sports in which they compete. They have captured numerous championships on conference, sectional, district, regional and state levels. Some also have established various team and individual records on various levels and achieved national, and even international, recognition.

On December 15 at its Newland campus, school officials honored one of Avery’s former athletes for a pair of Viking sports milestones he holds. 

Terry Gardner, an Avery County High School Class of 1971 graduate, was presented a football by Avery Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman, Avery High Head Football Coach Ethan Farmer, Principal Ricky Ward and Athletics Director Jay Smith in recognition of his milestone achievement of scoring all points in Avery’s first-ever football win, 7 to 6 over Morganton in 1970.  Gardner played both running back and kicker on offense and linebacker on defense.  He made a touchdown run and then kicked the extra point to lead the Vikings to victory. Those achievements are listed on the football he was given.

Avery High Head Football Coach Ethan Farmer (left) with Terry Gardner, who holds a football in recognition of him scoring all points in the school’s first win, 7-6 over Morganton in 1970, and a framed picture of him wearing his Vikings football uniform with designation of him scoring all points in the Vikings first win and for being the school’s first athlete to earn a letter in four sports (football, basketball, baseball and wrestling). A duplicate of the picture is on display in one of Avery High’s sports trophy cases.

Another sports milestone Gardner achieved is that he is first athlete at Avery High to earn a letter in four sports–football, basketball (guard), baseball (third base) and wrestling. He was also presented a framed picture of him wearing his football uniform by Dr. Brigman, Farmer, Ward, and Smith designating that he scored all the points in Avery’s first win along with him being the school’s first four-sport letterwinner. A copy of this same framed picture of Gardner is on display in one of the Avery High’s sports trophy cases. It replaces a smaller picture of him that was previously in one of the school’s sports trophy cases.

“I was honored to present the football and picture to Terry Gardner,’’ Farmer said. “It is amazing to honor him for his sports accomplishments at Avery County High School. As head football coach, I will always cherish the comment Terry made during the presentation that ‘I learned all about life with a ball at my feet.’ Congratulations again, Terry, and Go Vikings!”

(From Left-to-Right) Avery High Athletics Director Jay Smith, Head Football Coach Ethan Farmer, Athlete Honoree Terry Gardner (with football and framed football uniform picture), Principal Ricky Ward and Avery Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman on December 15.

Dr. Brigman added: “It is a pleasure to honor Terry for his tremendous accomplishments that occurred during the beginning years of Avery County High School. We are fortunate to have a history of great athletes and this is a great opportunity to honor our past as we plan for our future.  Congratulations to Terry Gardner!”

Gardner expressed zenith appreciation for being honored by the school.

“I am deeply thankful to Dr. Brigman, Coach Farmer, Mr. Ward and Mr. Smith for providing such wonderful recognition to me by presenting me with the football and framed picture, as well as having my picture displayed in one of the school’s athletics trophy cases,” Gardner said.  “Again, I appreciate the tremendous generosity of these four gentlemen. It is always special to be honored by your school.  I have been greatly blessed in my life, which includes the opportunity to attend Avery High School and participate in its athletic programs.” 

Throughout his sports career, Gardner proclaimed himself as a “team player” and co-attributes all his accomplishments to his teammates in every sport he played. So, he said all honors he has ever received is part those of his teammates too.

Jimmy Hall Heaton, who coached Gardner as Avery High’s first head football coach said of him: “Terry was an excellent football player, both offensively and defensively. He was a very tough player for my teams as well as an over-all highly-accomplished athlete.  He was a true team player in each sport in which he competed. And he possessed a strong work ethic and a deep passion for sports.”

Avery High Sports honoree Terry Gardner (right holding football) with Avery High Head Football Coach Ethan Farmer (left) and Gardner’s brother and High Country Press Journalist Tim Gardner (middle) holding Terry’s framed football picture. 

Following graduation from Avery High, Gardner attended Tabernacle Baptist College in Greenville, South Carolina. He is an ordained minister and has pastored several churches, including ones in Avery County.  He is also an accomplished singer and musician and has been a member of several gospel music groups. Gardner has also participated in several religious mission trips to Jamaica, where he has helped build homes for impoverished residents there as well as supplying them with Bibles and various food and household needs.

Additionally, Gardner has worked many years in the construction business.

Another milestone Gardner achieved through his faith in God and with the Almighty’s help came on December 2, 2022 when he learned from his doctor that he has defeated cancer for the second time in the past year.

Terry Gardner is one of four sons born to Lee and Grace Gardner and he was raised in the Ingalls Community of Avery County. Terry is married (wife Della) and they live in Marion, NC.  Terry has five children—Rebekah, Rosa Elizabeth, Sara Lee and twins Mark and Mary Grace. Sadly, Mary Grace perished in a vehicle accident in 1989 when she was only 7 years old.  Terry also has three grandchildren—Levi and Austin Pendley and Dalton Hughes.  Like their grandfather, all three played football. And Dalton also played for Avery High.

(Pictures courtesy of Tim Gardner and Dr. Dan Brigman)