WATKINS AWARD CELEBRATES ATHLETIC AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
Los Angeles-Recently the National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance) hosted its 18th Annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Award at a Black Tie Gala at the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles.
The Watkins Award is the most prestigious award given to United States premier African-American scholar-athlete.
Said keynote speaker and Deloitte Financial CEO David Williams:"This is a wonderful group of young black men. Their potential for greatness is evident. Their combination of scholar and athletics is special indeed."
The Watkins 2009 "Elite Five" unequivocally met Mr. Williams great compliment.
After an exhaustive nation-wide selection process that saw the "Elite Five" produce comprehensive essays, letters of recommendation, demonstrate community and school service, present official transcripts and documented athletic prowess, the final five 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.
Watkins Trophy Award finalists are expected to be leaders in efforts to empower and improve diadvantaged communities. It brings young men face to face with the reality that through sports, they have an opportunity and an obligation to do more for their communities.
Although the five that were flown to Los Angeles are considered the "Elite Five" and all are considered winners, one gets honored as the Watkins Man of the Year.
For the Watkins class of 2009 All-American wide receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson from Henry County H.S. (McDonough, Ga.) was awarded the 19th annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy. Patterson carries a 4.65 GPA and has already committed to play at Stanford.
"The Watkins Award is unlike any I have seen or been apart of," Patterson said. "This is like a family and it rewards black males for academics and athletics. Although I was selected the Watkins Award winner, I feel that all of us are winners. This is a great group of guys and we'll be friends forever."
The four other Watkins winners were Stanford signee Jemari Roberts (Long Beach, Ca./Wilson H.S.) Georgia signeeChristopher Burnette (LaGrange, Ga./Troup County H.S.) Florida bound Jelani Jenkins (Silver Springs, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel H.S.) and Richard Wilson (Spanish Fork, Utah), who is headed to BYU.
All four are high school All-Americans and like Patterson are exceptional scholars. Burnette plays tackle and carries a 5.1 GPA, wide receiver Roberts has a 3.9 GPA, Jenkins a linebacker has a 3.96 GPA and Wilson a tight end carries a 3.8 GPA.
"I was watching ESPN and I saw Myron Rolle's story and they mentioned that he had won the Watkins Award." Wilson explained," so I got interested in how he was a great athlete, but was also an excellent student. I said I want to be recognized like him."
Another purpose of the Watkins Award is to change the way African-American athletes are perceived and viewed. Too many times announcers only exclaimed the athletic gifts Black athletes possess and ignore the intellectual acumen that many also are gifted with.
The Watkins 2009 "Elite Five" joins a Watkins Family of exceptional national honorees including Florida State safety and Rhodes Scholar Rolle, the 2006 honoree, Shane Battier (Duke, class of 1997), Marcus Houston (Colorado State ,2000), Ronald Curry (North Carolina, Oakland Raiders, 1998), Justin Blaylock (Texas, Atlanta Falcons, 2002) Darnell Dinkins (New Orleans Saints, 1995), LaVarr Arrington (N.Y. Giants, 1997) and Lorenzo Alexander (Washington Redskins, 2001).
One of the better things about the Watkins Award is that many of the past winners return to honor the new young men on the block. The Award has evolved into a fraternity of scholar African-American athletes, who have collectively put community service and academics at the top of their agenda.
Several past winners and finalists were on hand, including Rolle, Houston, 2001 finalist J.R. Lemon (Stanford, NFL), 2008 winner Matthew Daniels (Duke), 2008 finalist Covaughn DeBoskie (Cal), 2008 finalist DeVier Posey (Ohio State), 2005 finalist Vincent Oghobaase (Duke), 2001 winner Michael Craven (Stanford, L.A. Avengers), 1999 finalist Chris Lewis (Stanford, NFL), 2006 finalist and current Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, just to name a few.
One of the biggest ovations of the night went to Rolle, who was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship in November. He has decided to bypass the NFL draft in April and will spend the year at Oxford, England, working on a masters degree in medical anthropology.
The mission of the Alliance is to help young African-American males achieve in every field of human endeavor.