By Leland Stein III
Daniels wins U.S. premier African-American scholar/athlete award.
Far too often the mood in America focuses on all that is wrong with our country, its people and its communities.
That focus has its merits and it is necessary to arrest the demons and negatives that engulf this country.
However, while we try to gain control of our environments, we should also take a step back and acknowledge those that are trying to do the right thing - especially our youth.
That is exactly the mission of the National Alliance of African America Athletes (Alliance or NAAAA).
Last week the NAAAA held its annual Watkins Award at the lovely Century City InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles. The event was a black-tie affair that honored the top African-American male scholar/athlete in the United States.
This year's "Elite Five" were Matthew Daniels of Atlanta, Georgia (4.0 GPA), Covaughn DeBoskie of Chandler, Arizona (4.1 GPA), Brandon Moore of Trotwood, Ohio (4.25 GPA), Kenneth Page of Columbia, SC (3.8 GPA) and DeVier Posey of Cincinnati, OH (3.4 GPA).
All five are All-Americans and each has signed their national letters to play football in college. Posey at Ohio State, Page at Clemson, DeBoskie at California, Moore at Michigan and Daniels at Duke.
Since the first award in 1992, it has evolved into a truly special undertaking. The applicants complete a comprehensive packet that includes an essay, four letters of recommendation, official transcripts, athletic awards, extra-curriculum activities and community service. From 100 or so applicants, a nation-wide selection committee narrows the field to the final five or four young men.
Emerging from this year's "Elite Five" Watkins Class of 2008 as the 16th annual winner was All-American safety Daniels.
"I can't believe I won this award," an elated Daniels said. "I don't feel special, because all my classmates are great and any of them could have won this."
Although Daniels received the big trophy, all are considered winners and each will receive an award, ring, and a recognition dinner in their hometown.
The keynote speaker was sports columnist William Rhoden of the New York Times and co-emcees were actress Claudia Jordan and comedian-radio personality Lamont King (a.k.a. Lazee Lamont).
Each in the Class of 2008 noted they were extremely happy they went through the time-consuming application process.
"When I got the information about the award I was happy," said Moore, an All-American tight end, "because I was looking for something that had academics as its focus. I said I have to do this."
Noted Page, an outstanding offensive tackle: "When I looked up the organization online, I was very interested in its purpose and mission. I'm just happy to get selected in the Final Five."
Explained Posey, the top receiver in the nation: "When I first got the packet I felt like it was just another set of papers I had to fill out. My mom said, 'Boy you better get this done.' After coming here and meeting all the other Watkins Family members, I'm so glad I'm now in the family."
Said DeBoskie, one of the top running backs in the nation: "I'm so happy to be here in the Final Five. I was kind of scared at first because I knew there were people all over the country I had to compete against. So, to be in the top five is a tremendous accomplishment."
Indeed it is a noteworthy achievement to be in the "Elite Five" Watkins Class of 2008. They join a family of men dedicated to sports, academic excellence, community service and the presentation of the Black male as a symbol of all that is good, fair and honest in their interactions with humanity.
Prior Watkins Award winners have lived up to the Alliance's mission. All emphasize achievement in every field of human endeavor.
Since Robert Tate won the first award (he's now with the NFL Cardinals) numerous finalists have reached the NBA or NFL.
Many of the scholar/athletes have won scholarships to high academic universities like Michigan, Penn State, Stanford, California, Northwestern, Duke or Notre Dame, just to name a few.
The following is a list of the Watkins Family:
2007: Joseph Barksdale - 3.5 GPA, LSU; Andrew Davis - 4.0 GPA, Oregon; Bradley Stephens - 3.7 GPA, Texas; Trinton Sturdivant - 4.1 GPA, Georgia; Charles White - 3.9 GPA, Georgia; 2006 Bryant Browning - 4.0 GPA, Ohio State.
2006: Terry Grant - 3.4 GPA, Alabama; Gerald McCoy - 3.5 GPA, Oklahoma; Myron Rolle - 4.0 GPA, Florida State; Bennie Tate - 3.9 GPA, Auburn.
2005: Robert Kibble - 3.7 GPA, UCLA; Mohamed Massaquoi - 3.8 GPA, Georgia; Shawn Oatis - 3.7 GPA, UCLA; Vincent Oghobaase - 3.96 GPA, Duke; Ekom Udofia - 4.0 GPA, Stanford.
2004: Douglas Dutch - 3.8 GPA, Michigan; Ted Ginn, Jr. - 3.6 GPA, NFL Dolphins; Daryl Richard - 4.0 GPA, Georgia; Darius Walker - 4.0 GPA, NFL Texans.
2003: Sam Cheatham - 4.0 GPA, Northwestern; Emeka Nnoli - 4.0 GPA, Stanford; Jason Evans - 3.8 GPA, Stanford; Aaron Henderson - 3.9 GPA, Northern Colorado; Jonothan Hubbard - 3.7 GPA, Davidson.
2002: Justin Blalock - 3.6 GPA, NFL Falcons; Jemalle Cornelius. - 4.0 GPA, NFL Bills; Marcus Jackson - 4.0 GPA, Georgia; Marcus McCutcheon - 4.0 GPA, Stanford.
2001: Michael Craven - 4.0 GPA, Stanford; Lorenzo Alexander - 3.9 GPA, NFL Redskins; Maurice Hall - 4.0 GPA, Ohio State; J.R. Lemon - 3.9 GPA, NFL Raiders.
2000: Marcus Houston - 3.9 GPA, Colorado; Adam Boone - 4.0 GPA, Minnesota; Dominique Sims - 4.0 GPA, Minnesota; Brandon Royster - 4.0 GPA, Stanford.
1999: Deryck Toles - 4.0 GPA, NFL Colts; Chris Lewis - 3.9 GPA, NFL Cardinals; Nick Maddox - 3.0 GPA, NFL Panthers; Luke Powell - 4.0 GPA, NFL Cardinals.
1998: Ronald Curry - 3.8 GPA, NFL Raiders; Jason Capel - 3.7 GPA, North Carolina; Duke McKamey - 3.6 GPA, Seton Hall.
1997: Grant Irons - 3.8 GPA, NFL Raiders; LaVarr Arrington - 3.8 GPA, NFL Giants; Shane Battier - 3.8 GPA, NBA Rockets.
1996: Raki Nelson - 3.8 GPA, NFL Eagles; 1995: Darnell Dinkins - 3.9 GPA, NFL Browns; 1994: Shawn Lee - 3.8 GPA, Penn State; 1993 Ahmad Collins - 3.5 GPA, Penn State and 1992: Robert Tate - 3.0 GPA, NFL Cardinals.
The award was initiated in 1992 to promote academic excellence among young African-American males. It was named after an unsung football coach from Harrisburg, Pa., who worked miracles with Black inner-city males, giving hope and direction, before succumbing to cancer in 1989.
"We want to change how African American athletes are viewed," said Pearsall, Alliance Executive Director. "We're trying to highlight these athletes and present them in a positive light. These are good people and we're rewarding them for being good servants to their communities."
Added Dr. Alexander L Gabbin, a professor of accounting at James Madison University and selection committee co-chair: "These young men are outstanding and knock down all the stereotypes of what a Black athlete is."
Concurred Reggie Grant selection committee co-chair. "It's an awesome thing seeing all these young men's achievement in the classroom and on the fields of play."
Visit www.naaaa.com online for more information.
Leland Stein is former Sports Editor for The Black News. He is currently a sports writer for The Michigan Chronicle..
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