By Leland Stein III –
LOS ANGELES – The National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance) recently hosted its 21st Annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Award at a Black Tie Gala at the prestigious Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
The Watkins Award honors the premier African-American scholar-athlete and is the most celebrated award of its kind in the United States. In recent years, the Watkins Award selection process implemented by scholars from around the country, have narrowed the field down to the “Elite Five”; however, this year’s collective was so dynamic that the selection committee for the first time implemented an “Elite Six.” After an exhaustive nation-wide selection process that saw the "Elite Six" produce comprehensive essays, letters of recommendation, demonstrated community and school service, official transcripts and documented athletic prowess, the final six was feted in a Heisman like affair.
The Watkins Award is a means 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 Los Angeles, six of the nation's top high school athletes joined the noteworthy fraternity of Watkins Family scholar.
“This group of young men is indeed worthy of this award,” keynote speaker Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said. “They represent everything good about athletes and academics.”
Added Everette Pearsall, Executive Director of The Alliance: "The 2012 Watkins Award 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.”
This year's “Elite Six” are:
Headed to USC is super lineman Zach Banner from Lakewood, Wash. He has a 3.5 GPA, is a winner of the Distinguished Scholar Award and is a volunteer for Tacoma Sports Association, middle school mentor, Ignite Mentor, US Army All American, and 1st Team USA Today.
The top defensive back in the country and Stanford signee, Alexander Carter, from Ashburn, VA hoist a lofty 4.1 GPA. He is a People to People Student Ambassador, National Youth Leadership Council member, volunteer at Christmas Gifts for Abused Women, volunteer little league coach and reader to elementary school students, and, U.S. Army All-American.
Set to continue his education at Purdue, Jonathan Curry from Phoenex City, AL has earned a 4.0 GPA. He is a member of the National Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars, Who’s Who among All-American Scholars, a Special Olympics volunteer, and Top 16 ESPN tight end.
Signed with Georgia, Keith Marshall, Raleigh, NC posted an outstanding 4.3 GPA. He is a member of the National Honor Society, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Pop Warner assistant, a volunteer to feed the homeless, is the No. 1 rated running back in the nation, State Champion in 100-meter dash, North Carolina Player of the Year, and Under Armour All American.
Headed to Duke, Deion Williams, Long Beach, CA has a 3.7 GPA. He is a member of the National Honors Society, member of the National Leadership Forum, People to People Student Ambassador, member of the Honors Choir, All-State wrestler and one of the top linebackers in the nation.
Set to quarterback Florida State University, James Winston, Birmingham, AL posted an outstanding 4.0 GPA. He is an USA Today Scholar Athlete, academic excellence Honor Roll, Max Prep Sports Scholar Athlete, Hueytown community tutor and youth baseball instructor, rated No. 1 quarterback in the Nation USA Today, baseball All American, and Under Armour All American.
This year’s collective “Elite Six” 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.
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at LelandSteinIII