Leland Stein III

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Watkins Award celebrates scholar athletes

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2016 at 3:20 am

Watkins Award celebrates scholar athletes

By Leland Stein III

WASHINGTON DC – Recently the National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance) hosted its 25th Annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Award at a Black Tie Gala hosted at the prominent Renaissance Hotel in the District of Columbia, which just so happens to be the seat of the United States Government.

watkins and sign

Brandon Hill (Duke), Brandon Burton (UCLA), Messiah deWeaver (Michigan State University), and Dwayne Haskins Jr. (The Ohio State University). – John Paige – Photo

Annually, the Watkins Award honors the premier African-American scholar-athletes and is the most celebrated award of its kind in the United States.

The Watkins Award selection process implemented by a selection committee of scholars from around the country painstakingly narrowed its noteworthy applicants down to an “Elite Four.”

After an exhaustive nation-wide selection process that saw the “Elite Four” produce official transcripts, document their athletic prowess, emit comprehensive essays, supply at least three letters of recommendation, demonstrate community and school service, and, the result of their efforts and accomplishments were that they were brought to Washington DC and feted in a Heisman like affair at the Renaissance Hotel.

Leland Stein III

The Watkins Award is a method for recognizing exceptionally talented African-American male athletes who, by their example, help promote high academic standards and a commitment to community service. But most importantly, destroy the perceived stereotype that African-American males are just athletes, who do not value education.

Brought to Washington DC, four of the nation’s top high school scholar/athletes yoked themselves to the noteworthy already-large fraternity of Watkins scholars, who just so happen to be All-American athletes.

“I was a Watkins Scholar Athlete,” keynote speaker Myron Rolle exclaimed, who played at Florida State and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. “These young me are a continuance of what the Watkins Award stands for – athletes with a real focus on scholarship.”

Added Everette Pearsall, Executive Director of The Alliance: “The 2016 Watkins Award scholars features an incredible year of fine student athletes. Each of these young men are well equipped for success academically. We are proud that we are continuing to recognize and honor the premier African-American scholar/athletes.”

About the move to Washington DC after eight years in Los Angeles, Pearsall explained: “This is our third year in DC and it had has been incredible. The city has embraced the Watkins Award and we have built a weekend that gives back to the youth in the city.  The Alliance looks forward to growing here for years to come.  This group of Watkins Men were very special. They quickly embraced the concept of becoming a member of the Watkins Family and bonded like I have never seen before.  I look forward to watching them grow closer and making  all of us proud to be in  the Watkins Family.”

This year’s “Elite Four” are:

Brandon Burton, from Los Angeles, CA is headed to UCLA. He is a six time Honor Roll Recipient, member of the Living in Faith Experience Team, and is an Under Armour Football All American while maintaining a 3.7 GPA at Junipero Serra High School.

Messiah deWeaver, out of Dayton, Ohio is already at Michigan State University. He is a National Honor Society scholar, two time State Champion, All State, and Semper Fidelis Football All American while maintaining a 4.0 GPA at Wayne High School.

Dwayne Haskins Jr., raised in Gaithersburg, Maryland on his way to The Ohio State University. He is a four year Honor Roll student, 2015 Gatorade State Player of the Year, All State, and Under Armour Football All American while maintaining a 3.5 GPA at the Bullis School.

Brandon Hill from Orangeburg, South Carolina signed with Duke. He is a two time All-State player, SCISA Student Athlete of the Year, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.

This year’s Watkins collective “Elite Four” is exceptional in every sense of the word. All are All-American athletes who continue to dispel the lingering notion that most African-American male student/athletes are not concerned with education, only the playing fields. They all combine scholarship, athleticism, community awareness and volunteerism to form at their young age the character of developing men that are primed to take a place in society as more than just athletes.

Besides the Watkins Finalist being acknowledged, others were also feted.

The Sharon Love Ransom Community Service Award was given to Ron T. Peoples of the Peoples Community Foundation.

The NFLPA’s Washington Chapter of Former Players Professional Athletes Foundation Scholarships was extended to Emma Bunker of Randolph-Macon Academy and Damani Hamm of C.H. Flower High School.

The Watkins Man of the Year was earned by Ben Tate, a Watkins Award finalist in 2006 and five-year NFL veteran.

The Watkins Award has been presented annually to African American scholar-athletes since 1992. Previous award winners include Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rhodes Scholar Rolle, Justin Blalock, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arrelious Benn formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ted Ginn Jr of the Carolina Panthers, Lorenzo Alexander of the Oakland Raiders, Marcedes Lewis of Jacksonville Jaguars, Darnell Dinkins, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, LaVar Arrington, formerly of the Washington Redskins, Joseph Barksdale of the San Diego Chargers, Grant Irons and Ronald Curry formerly of the Oakland Raiders to name a few.

The National Alliance of African American Athletes was founded in 1989.  The mission of The Alliance is to empower African American males through athletics, education and public programs.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and at Twitter at LelandSteinIII