Once a soccer player, always a soccer player.
Price Gardner’s days as a left starter for Arkansas State University are now well behind him. The 6 foot, 3 inch, 260 pound lineman (“I was tall in the 1980s, but I wouldn’t think so for now,” says Gardner) made a name for himself at ASU for having been Letterman for four years was.
As proof that the 59-year-old lawyer is still preoccupied with football, Gardner calls his current stage of life “in the fourth quarter”. If you’re going to continue like this, you have to say Gardner is at the top of the scoreboard. The list of Gardner’s accomplishments after he finally hung his studs is numerous and would certainly include serving as managing partner of Friday, Eldredge and Clark law firm with offices in Little Rock and Rogers.
On October 22nd, he can add another to his list by being named a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Arkansas of the Little Rock Bowen School of Law. Gardner is recognized for “contributions to the legal community, commitment to legal education, and leadership in the state.”
“We are pleased to recognize Price’s commitment to the legal profession and community service,” said Bowen’s Dean Theresa Beiner. “When we reached out to the Friday Law Firm, Price went out of his way to see the law firm support the law school’s transition to online learning during the pandemic and generously fund technology upgrades for the Friday Courtroom, the school’s largest classroom, named after her Herschel Friday so we can safely teach remotely. The Friday Company also funded the Friday Forward Fellowship, an innovative program that helps students from different backgrounds succeed in LSAT and law school, and that Commitment of the Gardner family through their pre-legal scholarship to Arkansas State University. “
Gardner likes to tell anyone who listens what he thinks of his alma mater.
“I can testify to what a good school Bowen is,” says Gardner. “I testify as our lawyers do [who graduated from UALR] Meet with attorneys from law schools from across the country. I remember how well prepared I was after graduating from law school. We’re getting a good education here. “
CYCLES TO THE RIVER
Despite being born in Florida, Gardner is primarily reminiscent of Arkansas and his home in the Breckenridge neighborhood of Little Rock. Papa was a Navy helicopter pilot and Mama was a housewife. Gardner has a sibling – a younger sister.
The hall had little charm for young Gardner.
“We were outside the whole time,” says Gardner. “I was out with my friends. I remember riding my bike to Terry Elementary.”
At that time, in the mid to late 1970s, the Gardners lived west of Little Rock. The construction of Interstate 430 with regular dynamite explosions was a big event.
“Dad bought us bikes when I was 10,” recalls Gardner. “My best friends had motorbikes when they were growing up, and I remember driving along the interstate to the river when it was built. It was a good time growing up west of Little Rock.”
When Gardner was in 4th grade, his family moved to the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. Gardner recalls a very active scene with “always a soccer game and always a baseball game going on somewhere near me”.
For the future left tackle, soccer wasn’t the only sport that took up Gardner’s junior and senior high school days.
“At this point, you’ve been playing every ball that was in the season and you looked forward to playing when the time came. I played in the YMCA Football League. I played baseball with Junior Deputy. I played basketball and football when I was in high school. ” . “
Gardner notes that children today are being pushed to specialize in one sport and devote all of their free time to pastimes.
“I’ve had coaches who encouraged me to do more than one sport,” says Gardner. “I had a baseball coach who told me [playing baseball] would help my soccer. A basketball coach said basketball would help with my soccer footwork. As an offensive lineman, you have to have good feet. “
When it came to dinner, Gardner’s family stuck to a schedule and “we ate dinner at 6 o’clock every night”. Board games took up a lot of your time, as did participating in all of Gardner’s games.
“I think [my parents] I’ve missed one game of mine in all my time, “says Gardner.” Every Friday they would charge my poor sister and let her go to every away game that was being played. “
When Gardner was in his freshman year at Pulaski Academy, Pleasant Valley private school was virtually new. Even though Gardner was far from college, he thought he was going to medical school.
“I took AP biology,” says Gardner. “Our neighbor next door was an orthopedic surgeon and I always spent a lot of time with him. I was fascinated by medicine. “
What caused the change of heart?
“It’s kind of fun,” says Gardner. “I’ve made up my mind that I don’t want to take medical hours or calls on weekends and late at night. I failed miserably. Lawyers typically work more hours than doctors – people keep calling you, especially now the age of the iPhone. “
Today PA plays high school football in the 5A conference and has been a regular participant in the state championship for the past few years and is widely recognized as one of the best football teams in the country. At Gardner’s time, PA was in the smaller individual A and “we had 20 kids on the soccer team and nine of us”. [played offense and defense]. “
“My senior year was the first time [a PA football team] had gone to the state playoffs, “says Gardner.
The size of the PA at the time meant the school was not a hotbed for recruiting through college programs. Gardner thought he might try helping the Baylor University team. Gardner’s head coach then reached out to his old friend Larry Lacewell, who trained at ASU.
“He said, ‘I have a kid you need to see,'” says Gardner. “I’ve only found out about this story in the last few years, and it was pretty cool.”
BRIGHT LIGHTS, LAWBOOKS
Coupled with the cheers from the fans while he was on the field, Gardner felt like someone enrolled solely for his soccer skills.
“I can remember handing in my first work in my first grade at ASU,” recalls Gardner. “A professor asked, ‘Where did you go to school?’ and then ‘You play soccer, don’t you?’ She wanted to see if I had any help. She thought she had a stupid football player in her class. “
In fact, the professor had a student who amassed the grades for admission to law school. Gardner’s football career was about to end, but not before the NFL showed interest.
“I had expressions of interest and free agency offers,” says Gardner. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough to make it to the next level. It would have delayed me a whole year to study law, and I didn’t want that [NFL] Draft Day, the Detroit Lions called and said keep an eye out, we could call you guys up. That didn’t happen. “
Gardner graduated from ASU with a degree in accounting and took the CPA exam while studying at UALR Law School. His affinity for deciphering tax law caught the attention of the law firm that would eventually hire him.
“I’ve known Price since he was 10 or 11,” says Byron Eiseman, senior partner at Friday, Eldredge and Clark. “He was always someone I knew had a lot of potential. I taught tax courses at UALR and he was top of the class. His leadership qualities came into play early on in the firm.”
There is an argument between Gardner and his wife Sara over how the two of them got off the acquaintance on a first date, which resulted in a marriage and two now grown children.
“We met again and again,” says Gardner. “She would tell you she invited me. She said, ‘Are you taking me to lunch or what?'”
“Sara is one of the smartest, nicest people you would ever meet. She’s a middle kid and a pleasant woman. She’s great fun and one of the best people I know. She’s smart and has a lot of common sense . “
From his position in the law firm, Gardner has worked with his real estate and corporate clients and has served on various boards including several years on the board of directors of the Arkansas Repertory Theater.
In 2017, Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed Gardner to the Arkansas State University Board of Trustees for a five-year term. Gardner admits that the first year he was appointed he was engaged in studies of the state of higher education.
“It was a great experience,” says Gardner of his work as a trustee. “It took me a while to catch up and make a contribution. Higher education is facing a major challenge. You try to look through the eyes of the students and parents who are paying the bill [for college]. It has to be affordable and a quality product. The administration and faculty [at ASU] do a tremendous amount of work in times that are not easy – regardless of whether it is live or online classes. These people really have a calling. I see professors really want to help educate children and adults. “
The concern for ASU and colleges across the state is increasing enrollments, not just improving the university’s bottom line.
“If you look at the high school graduates in Arkansas, about 45% are doing no additional education,” says Gardner. “We call this the Gray Box. We’re trying to reduce that number to help our state and raise the level of our state economy. That large amount in the Gray Box will keep Arkansas stagnant for years.”
Recognizing his ability to serve on the boards and continue his work at Friday, Eldredge and Clark, Gardner doesn’t hesitate to return to those days of football – days of hot summer training and intense preparation to step on the field and try to win.
“I learned so much playing soccer,” says Gardner. “It taught me a work ethic that has remained with me to this day. You learn so much about discipline and the amount of time it takes. It helps you work well with other people. It helps you overcome adversity and build relationships, it lasted a lifetime. It helped me in life. “