Leland Stein III

“Fantastic Four” continues Watkins Awards legacy of noteworthy scholar athletes

In sports column on March 18, 2018 at 12:10 am

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The 2018 Watkins Award “Fantastic Four”: (l to r) Nick Petit-Frere (The Ohio State University), Mataeo Durant (Duke University), Quincy Patterson II (Virginia Tech University), Shayne Simon (Notre Dame University) – John Paige, Photo

By Leland Stein III

stein watkins profile

Leland Stein III

ARLINGTON, VA – At the Crystal City Hilton in Arlington, Virginia the National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance) recently hosted it Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Awards and in turn welcomed yet another stellar class of scholar athletes. 

Maybe it is prophet that the 27th Annual Watkins Awards would induct a class now labeled the “Fantastic Four” at the door steps of the Pentagon – the brain thrust of the place that directs the United States warriors in support of this country’s freedoms. 


Watkins 2018 Class with Watkins alumni – John Paige photo

Maybe drawing inspiration from the charge of the warriors the Pentagon inspire, this Watkins “Fantastic Four” class is intrinsically charged with becoming warriors for education, community service and personal upliftment. 

“These young men are indeed warriors for education,” exclaimed Reggie Grant, past chairman of the Alliance. “We all can postulate that these men will indeed be role models for youth not so much for what they do on the field, but how they live their lives, and, how they achieve in the classroom. They will show those that come after them that one can be an academic warrior and noteworthy athlete at the same time.” 

Concurred Alliance Executive Director, Everette Pearsall: “I know the 2018 class is a great group of young men who indeed are warriors of education. The overall GPA’s of this class show all what is possible throughout the country when a community’s youth takes the education process seriously like these young men have.” 

The young men that Pearsall and Grant acknowledged are keeping in the tradition of what is expected from Watkins Finalist as they are charged to empower and uplift their communities. These young men have demonstrated through sports, that they indeed recognize they have an opportunity and obligation to do more for their communities and themselves. 

 To even be considered as a Watkins scholar these All-American athletes had to put aside their ego and time to apply for the Watkins Award, which required official transcripts, at least three letters of recommendation, a 1,000-word essay, application fee, community service efforts and documented athletic prowess.


All components were graded equally and the Watkins Selection Committee ended up with the 2018 “Fantastic Four”:

Nick Petit-Frere, matriculated in Tampa, Florida on his way to producing a 3.8 GPA that landed him Headmaster’s and Dean’s list three consecutive years. He also was selected as a U.S. Army National Scholar-Athlete and Under Armour All-American. Nick is headed to Ohio State University.

Mataeo Durant, reared in Plum Branch, South Carolina, and is now headed to Duke University, is a member of the National Honor Society. The All-Stater earned an amazing 4.8 GPA, was also a Prep Magazine Academic-All- American and received the Hardy Foundation All-Around Student Award recipient.  

Shayne Simon, nurtured in West Orange, New Jersey, secured a 4.0 GPA and with that National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society membership. The All-Stater was a finalist for the Butkus Award, presented to the nation’s top high school linebacker. Simon has endorsed Notre Dame as his university of choice. 

Quincy Patterson, uplifted in Chicago, Illinois, is scheduled to attend Virginia Tech University. Earning a 4.7 GPA he was a Presidential Honor Roll member, selected to All-Academic Team for three years. While on that awesome academic path he found time to be selected as a National Elite 11 Quarterback, Prep Magazine Academic Player of the Year and USA Today All-American. 

The 27th Watkins Class are awesome athletes, but even better warriors for education.

“I believe that this group of young men is one of our best Classes,” exclaimed Kevin Clark, Alliance Chairman of the Board, “because the challenges of today are not much different than those we faced in 1960’s. The reality of today is athletes do have a platform and we need more of them to step up and talk about the value of education. These four young men will definitely do just that.”

Added Dr. Alexander Gabbin, former Chair of the Watkin’s Selection Committee: “What is significant about our Black-Tie event is that the community has taken it upon themselves to correct the bias that young black kids do not take education serious. We are constantly exposed to negatives concerning our communities, but this award has demonstrated for over 20-years that we indeed from all over the U.S. we have young men that values education and community.” 

 The “Fantastic Four” had by all accounts a splendid weekend, touring the MLK Monument, Under Amour Campus and headquarters in Baltimore, Washington Monument and African American Museum.


The black-tie Heisman-like affair as noted by Dr. Gabbin is important in helping destroy the perceived stereotype that African-American males are just athletes, who do not value education. As evident by a Fox journalist recently told LeBron James and Kevin Durant to shut up and just dribble the ball, it is imperative for our scholar athletes to use their platform if not vocally, then academically.

During the banquet the “Four” was also introduced to a fraternity of pass Watkins scholars, who were All-American athletes and now are in the NFL, in corporate boardrooms, still playing in college or getting advance degrees. 

Also honored as Watkins Man of the Year was former Stanford star Jamal Rashad Patterson a member of the Watkins Class of 2009.


The Watkins Award has been presented annually to African American scholar-athletes since 1992. Previous Watkins Finalist include Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle and a recently graduated Harvard medical student; Justin Blalock, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons; Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ted Ginn Jr of the New Orleans Saints; Lorenzo Alexander of the Buffalo Bills; and Marcedes Lewis of Jacksonville Jaguars – just 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 @LelandSteinIII

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