National Alliance of African-American Athletes

College Alumni







By LELAND STEIN III

Vernon Zigmond Broughton II a 2020 Watkins Award Scholar/Athlete Finalist has chosen the University of Texas (UT) as the school to enhance his considerable athletic skills and exceptional erudition. He will become the fourth Watkins Finalist who has attended the outstanding research university located in the bustling, up-and-coming capital of Texas, Austin.
This 2020 Watkins Award Class was aptly tagged “Shielded Six” inductees – the first class that were all defensive players.

Playing in the Big 12 Conference and competing in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, Broughton will lace up his cleats inside Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. He will follow the giant footsteps of Watkins Award Finalist Justin Blalock (Class of 2002), Holton Hill (2015 Class) and Roschon Johnson (2019 Class).

 “The coaches and my teammates gave me the feel that the locker room and education environments conveyed the feelings of family, as a result the University of Texas was it for me,” Broughton told me during the Watkins Award Weekend press conference in Crystal City, Va. “There is no way I cannot honestly say that being close to home was not a giant plus for my college choice. Just as important to me and my family; however, is the fact that many of UT’s colleges are highly ranked and are recognized around the country.”

 While Broughton will indeed help UT football program build on its storied history, make no mistake about it, education is and will always be first with him. As a star athlete he could have done the bare minimum, but instead he challenged himself in the classroom earning a noteworthy 4.0 GPA taking Honors English and Algebra. While at Cypress Ridge High School, he also sacked

World Geography, Chemistry, Geometry, Spanish, World History, Environmental Systems, Physics, U.S. History, Economics, Business, just to mention a few of the classes he has taken down.

Empirical data throughout the education genre clearly shows that a strong family foundation can be the solid footing for superior achievement in the classroom. In Broughton’s case, his father (Vernon Sr.) and mother (Yolanda Wells) have been linchpins for his upliftment, as well as his sister (Asia) and brother (Isaiah).

In particular, Mom, who played basketball at Grambling, and, has coach at LSU and TSU injected Vernon II with Mom’s love of basketball, but more importantly, she hung her foundation on education and her son listened.

Wrote Vernon II in his Watkins Award application essay: “My environment shaped me into the person I am today because of ups and downs in life and {its} trials and tribulations. I grew up in a single parent home, but I was made to feel strong, but I knew the streets were stronger growing up in my ‘hood’. My family made sure I wasn’t the kid that always got in trouble, disobeyed his parents, or never went to school.

 “My home life was great, although I did not grow up with Dad in my life. My Mother always stood in the gap for both parents. We may not always get what we wanted, but we always had what we needed. Our proud Mother has lost a lot of sleep to ensure we have been afforded opportunities to grow academically and athletically. We’ve truly been blessed with a relentless work ethic and determined mindset. I’ve been taught, ‘your environment doesn’t make you; you make the most of every (and any) situation.’”

 Wrote Pamela Roberson, BS, MS, and Program Manager at UT Urology Department in her Watkins Award letter of recommendation: “Vernon is kind, gentle, and always respectable. He is diligent and focused in his faith in God, education and family. His personality motivates those around him to be better friends, siblings and teammates. Vernon’s dedication to academic excellence is proven by his ability to complete the requirement for early High School Graduation. He was in summer school this summer so he could graduate in December 2019 instead of May 2020.  While my son and many of the other guys on his block was sleeping in after a long night of video games, he was up early heading to summer school.”

 Scholarship and discipline bring most to the attention of the Watkins Award National Selection Committee; however, it is only one of the other three main components for any person looking for inclusion into the Premiere African-American Scholar/Athlete Award in the United States. The Selection Committee believes that community service shows a special and more innate side to one’s character.

 Vernon II wants to maybe probe Business & Entrepreneurship at UT as a career following his Mom and Grandmother’s (Victoria Wells) lead. Sure, being financially stable is a goal of his, but his big goal of making a positive impact in his community is a wonderful goal for a young man his age.

Wrote Vernon II in his Watkins Award application essay: “At UT I will connect with students who can help me build my portfolio and a blue print for my multi-million-dollar multipurpose athletic facility! I would like to offer an after-school program, child-care, indoor rock-climbing workout center, church usage, volleyball, basketball, football usage, nutrition, massages, & cryotherapy all under one roof!”

 Wrote Cypress Ridge High School instructor and coach, Jeremy Kirt, in his Watkins Award letter of recommendation: “He is and outstanding student in all respects. Vernon, has proven that through hard work, discipline, and teamwork, he can accomplish tasks in a courteous and timely manner. He, is well equipped to grow from challenges that he is presented with and will face them with full confidence. He is very organized, prompt, and tenacious when it comes to finishing tasks that are asked of him.”

 Of course, scholarship and community service are what sets Vernon II. apart from some of his peers, but make no mistake about it, athletic prowess is a major piece in the Watkins Award selection process. He is an accomplished basketball player and nationally recognized defensive end.

 Pastor John A. Murray III, in his Watkins Award letter of recommendation wrote: “Vernon and his family are active members of the church, participating in various community service projects like feeding the homeless in downtown Houston, youth presentations and the Youth’s annual Lemonade Day fundraiser. Vernon has always willingly assisted in whatever capacity asked of him, to ensure a successful outcome. He displays a humbling spirit, yet a boldness in youth group and other areas of his life that is manifesting in favor with God and others.”

 The Watkins Family Scholars are electrified to have Vernon II as part of its remarkable collaborative. He’s a conclusive match, amalgamating athletics, community and academics at the highest level. He is not squandering any time pondering about being a front-runner; he already is one!!

 Leland Stein is a columnist writing for Voice News, theafricanamericanathlete.com, lelstein3.com, Chicago Defender, and Los Angeles Sentinel; he can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter at LelandSteinIII



 

By LELAND STEIN III

Christopher Todd Thompson Jr. recently linked himself to the National Alliance of African American Athletes’ (NAAAA) brotherhood as part of its 2020 Watkins Award aptly tagged “Shielded Six” inductees – the first class that were all defensive players.

 This 2020 Watkins Award Finalist has chosen Auburn University as the school to amplify his extensive athletic skills and remarkable scholarship.

 Thompson will become the second Watkins Award Finalist to attend the public research and land-grant university in Auburn, Alabama. Ben Tate from the 2006 Watkins Class preceded Thompson.

 Thompson will follow in the footsteps of fellow Watkins Scholar, Tate, playing in Jordan-Hare Stadium before 87,451 against Southeastern Conference foes.

 I just bonded with the coaching staff and players at Auburn,” Thompson told me during the Watkins Award Weekend press conference in Crystal City, Va. “My projected major, the Business/Marketing College is acknowledged around the country. Also, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and chart my own path.”

 With all the temptation and seemly negative imagining in today’s culture - especially from an adult viewpoint - that strong parenting even more than teachers in classrooms, is the superglue that adheres a youth solidly to the importance of education.

 Thompson’s mother and dad, Teresa and Christopher Sr., indeed were the superglue that stuck education in their son’s mindset and directly assist in the elevation of their son to the level that the National Watkins Award Selection Committee saw the capacities in their son.

 Wrote Christopher Jr. in his Watkins Award application essay: “For as long as I can remember, my parents have implanted in me and my siblings the importance of family and representing the ‘Thompson’ name well. My family and I stand behind higher learning; education has always been priority and athletics come second.

 "My personal career goals, commitment to high academic standards and substantive services to disadvantaged communities are all driven from the desire to keep my family’s name going and to ensure my children have a fair opportunity in life.”

 At Duncanville High School in Desoto, Texas, Christopher Jr. earned a 3.9 GPA while tackling math – Algebra 1 & 2, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus. In the sciences he sacked Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Anatomy & Physiology. The languages did not escape, as he excelled in Spanish classes, too. In fact, Christopher Jr. only had two B’s throughout high school, and, those were 88% and 89%.

 Wrote Mike Roach, Recruiting Editor at 247Sports/CBS Interactive in his Watkins Award letter of recommendation: “As a high school football reporter, I’ve I had the pleasure of knowing Chris since his sophomore season. During that time, I’ve witnessed his excellent play on the field on a number of occasions, but his integrity off the field and performance in the classroom is what truly designated Chris as a complete student-athlete. His academic performance is stellar among most other student-athletes.”

 Scholarship and discipline bring most to the attention of the Watkins Award National Selection Committee; however, it is only one of the other three main components for any Watkins Finalist. The Watkins Selection Committee believes that community service shows a special and more innate side to one’s character.

 Wrote WL Marsaw, Esq., in his Watkins Award letter of recommendation: “At a time where music, athletic presence and culture of African Americans has been in a steady decline, Christopher has continued to represent promise and hope for the future of our people. He has heart and passion for his family, his community and his church, evidenced by his dedication to his academic record, tireless participation in church activities and his being the undisputed leader on and off the field at Duncanville High School.”

 Shaunna Kile, instructor at Duncanville High School, echoed Mr. Marsaw words in her letter of recommendation to the Watkins Award Selection Committee: “An active member of the National Honor Society, and volunteer for other programs in school, he has the ability to take his talents and teach others in a way that makes them feel capable and empowered. His virtue, responsibility, and caring heart are characteristics that make him go above and beyond the expectations set by any criteria, and that make him the best candidate in any situation.

 “Whether I observed him in the classroom, in the halls, or out in our community, I see an individual that gets along with every social group, easily adapts to situations with teachers, administrators, and students, and these qualities are unusual among his peers.”

 Of course, scholarship and community service are what sets Christopher Jr. apart from some of his peers, but make no mistake about it, athletic prowess is a major piece in the Watkins Award selection process.

 Chris Jr. led Duncanville to two consecutive Texas 6A championship games, was ranked No. 2 safety in the Class of 2020, was a finalist for the Tom Landry Player of the Year, and played in the Under Armour All-American Game.

 Ms. Kile also wrote this about Chris Jr. in her recommendation letter: “From the stands, any fan or observer sees the serious hardcore player the opposing offense will face. If they have seen highlight reels, the quarterback knows to avoid his side of the field, and player fear the jolt he can induce. At the same time, the sportsmanship for his opponent and the leadership he has among his teammates is evident because he is respected due to his nature and disposition.”

 The Watkins Family Scholars are electrified to have Chris Jr. as part of its remarkable collaborative. He’s a conclusive match, amalgamating athletics, community and academics at the highest level. He is not squandering any time pondering about being a front-runner; he already is one!!

 Leland Stein is a columnist writing for Voice News, theafricanamericanathlete.com, lelstein3.com, Chicago Defender, and Los Angeles Sentinel; he can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter at LelandSteiType your paragraph here.