You'll never find Gregory Selber sitting cozily in a press box while covering one of the many Rio Grande Valley high school sports teams he has been writing about since 1989.
The sidelines of a game, most often Friday night football, is where the Associate Professor of communication at The University of Texas-Pan American and the adviser to the University's student newspaper, says he best captures the full story and pictures - he takes his own - of what sports are all about for a player, a coach and a community.
His expertise at practicing the craft of sports journalism has earned him statewide recognition this year when the Texas High School Coaches Association named him the 2011 Putt Powell Sports Writer of the Year.
Selber is only the fourth Rio Grande Valley sports writer to be awarded this honor since it was initiated in 1958. The award is named after the late Powell, who was a well-known, popular sports columnist for the Amarillo newspapers for 62 years.
Selber, who could be referred to as a Valley sports doyen, said he was familiar with Powell's legendary status as a sportswriter in Texas and shocked and surprised by the recognition.
"You never do your work with too much of an eye toward what it is going to net you. I enjoy it, it's part of my life. Covering sports is just a substitute or surrogate for playing and/or coaching, which I did for years," said Selber, who, clad in the typical athlete's attire of T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, fondly recalled his days of playing baseball, basketball and football, the latter in college.
Locals can read his work on the pages of The Edinburg Review newspaper and hear his sports commentary on local radio and TV, currently on Sunday Sports Extra weekly on KGBT-TV. He was also the original play-by-play voice of the Harlingen White Wings of independent baseball in 1994 and has broadcast many other athletic contests, including his favorite to cover - boxing.
"The competitive urge is an instinct in all human beings and is seen in its most primal level in boxing," said Selber, who admitted to participating in his share of fights growing up in a tough neighborhood in Austin.
Selber's stories of Rio Grande Valley sports and athletes have found an even wider audience on the website www.956sports.com, where he's able to do what he calls literary sports journalism.
"I'll write 4,000 words on a game. It's like a book chapter. It's not just about the game, I'll hang out in the town - I'll write about the fans in the stands, some historical element wrapped around the game itself. So, that's the best," he said.
Since childhood, Selber has loved playing a variety of sports as well as writing about them.
"I even wrote my own press guides as a kid and typed them out on my typewriter," he said.
In 2009, his book, "Border Ball: The History of High School Football in the Rio Grande Valley" was published. It is a 460-page historical survey of the sport in this area. He is currently working on a comparable study of basketball in the Valley, including a complete history of the sport at the University since it was Pan American College.
"He lives sports journalism," said Mottet, who described Selber as a phenomenal teacher. "He practices the fundamentals of good journalism that he teaches his students. His students see how journalism is not just a job, but a profession and lifestyle."
Selber earned his bachelor's in journalism and master's in media studies, both from Texas Christian University. He earned a Ph.D. in communication with a concentration in sociology and anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. At UTPA, he teaches undergraduate classes in reporting and graduate courses in race relations, communication technology, and other topics.
Since 2001, he has also spent innumerable hours as the adviser of the award-winning student newspaper The Pan American , where he helps its staff develop story ideas, edit their work, and, more importantly, enhance their skills in organizational management to prepare them to be future editors as well as reporters.
Ana Ley, a student of Selber's who graduated in 2008 with a major in journalism, described him as an impactful coach whose passion for his discipline greatly inspired her.
"A lot of what he told me about why it is such an important profession just made sense. He really started my career," said Ley, who began her professional career as a copy editor and reporter for The Monitor newspaper in McAllen and now is a business reporter at The San Antonio Express News.
She called Selber an extremely helpful professor who gives advice to students "whether you wanted it or not."
"He is very strict. When I worked on the student newspaper under him, he kind of beat the laziness out of me. It's a big reason why I have been as ambitious as I am now," she said.
Selber confirmed that his most frequent advice to students is to work hard and "be there," in order to do their best. He asks nothing less of himself.
"I bring a pretty competitive ethos to my work. In the back of my mind, I'm always competing to do my best. I take pride in the fact that Saturday morning people are going to wake up and if they were at the game I was at ... then they are going to want to read what I have. And it better be good," he said.
Selber will accept his Putt Powell Sportswriter of the Year honor at a ceremony in Fort Worth on July 27.