National Alliance of African-American Athletes

Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy


The Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy Award was initiated in 1992 to promote academic excellence among young African-American males. Since 1992, high school seniors have been honored with the title “Premiere African-American Male Scholar Athlete”. 


The National Alliance of African American Athletes was at a organizational crossroads. Stunned by the sudden death of co-founder Franklin D. Watkins. The group was committed to continuing the work Watkins had begun to mold, and equally committed to never forgetting the many contributions he had already made. It was decided that Watkins memory would be perpetuated by the National Alliance of African American Athletes by honoring a student with a trophy bearing his name annually

As unavoidable role models on the “image” front lines, talented athletes-especially in football, basketball and baseball-define what the emerging generations of African-American males will value, and the aspirations they will have. The Watkins Trophy 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.


Since 1992, the top high school seniors have been honored with the title “Premiere African-American Male Scholar Athlete”. Three of these have received athletic scholarships from Stanford University (Michael Craven and Marcus McCutcheon). Three of these received athletic scholarships to play for Penn State (Deryck Toles, Ahmad Collins and Shawn Lee). Three more accepted athletic scholarships at Notre Dame (Raki Nelson and Grant Irons) and the University of Pittsburgh (Darnell Dinkins). The first scholar athlete to receive the Jostens trophy, Ronald Curry, selected the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The ninth annual Watkins Award recipient, Marcus Houston, attended the Colorado State. Our finalist are also doing exceptionally well attending such world class institutions such as Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Stanford to name a few.

Because of their concern with helping students recognize the value of education and increasing the awareness and involvement of parents and businesses throughout the community, Jostens Inc., through its Renaissance program, has produced an elegant Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy for the winner and plaques for the runners up. As a tribute to African-American high school seniors for their outstanding achievements in athletics, scholarship, and community service, the Watkins Trophy Award is forcefully demonstrating that academic excellence and community service are valued and rewarded.

Why Focus on African-American Males in High School?
Available data consistently show that while African-American females are making gains in education, African-American males in the 18 to 26 age bracket are far more likely to be involved at some level with the criminal justice system rather than higher education. In July, 2000 the National Urban League reported, for example, that while African-American female PhD’s increased by 111%, African-American male PhD’s actually decreased by 2%. These consistent trends are reasons enough to focus attention on the development of African-American males while they are still in a high school setting. While there have been all-out efforts to recruit collegiate sports stars, there has been little focus on developing opportunities at the high school level to motivate African-American males to seriously pursue higher education. The Watkins Trophy Awards program recognizes the expressed value of education in the pursuit of athletic goals and serves to encourage young men to pursue this balance of success.

What Makes the Watkins Award Special?
By the time a high school senior is a finalist for the Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy Award, he will have received numerous awards, dominated the attention of high school recruiting magazines, and appeared regularly in the media. What then does the Watkins Trophy Award bring to a young man’s life?

Excerpts from a letter by Shane Battier, a 1996 finalist, illustrates what is expected of Watkins Trophy Award recipients:

Throughout my adolescence, I have not been the “average teenager”. My stature and character have always set me apart. Some call me an inspiration, a leader, and pillar in the community. Being a 6’8″, intelligent, articulate, black man, I know I defy many stereotypes that modern society places upon me. I know I am different. I do not run nor duck my uniqueness, but rather embrace it, and take advantage of it to become a leader in our society. I show society that one can be successful at all vantage points in life without compromising one’s integrity and morals. I show the world that even in a very technologically advanced society, old-fashioned hard work still pays off. My success transcends economic, racial and social boundaries to provide a standard for people of all races, religions, and creeds…I take my position of a leader very seriously. I believe that along with my success on the basketball court comes the responsibility of being a role model and teacher for not just today’s youth but society as a whole. A responsibility that does not end with the end of my basketball career, but one that I will continue to uphold throughout my life. Excerpts from a letter by Shane Battier, a 1996 finalist

The Watkins Award

The true significance of the Watkins Trophy Award can be captured in one word- “EXPECTATION”. Watkins Trophy Award finalists are expected to be leaders in efforts to empower and improve disadvantaged 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. What they do and say will transcend sports and have a major impact on society. 

The Watkins Award has become the preeminent award bestowed on the top High School Scholar Athlete in the Nation. The finalists are chosen based on their:

  • Unweighted grade point average
  • Their personal statements
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Community service
  • Letters of recommendation