Student athletes deserve recognition

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Miss-Lou chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame did a very important thing Thursday night.

It’s something they’ve been doing for the past 27 years — recognizing local high school athletes for not only their success on the field, but in the classroom and in the community.

Seven athletes, one from each of the local high schools were given scholarships at the banquet at the Natchez Eola Hotel. Lee Guedon from ACCS, Kendrick Harris from Ferriday, Jeremy Washington from Vidalia and Seth Swilley from Huntington were each awarded $1,000 scholarships. Kendall Logan from Natchez High won a $1,750 scholarship while Cathedral’s Jesse Morrison won a $2,000 scholarship.

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The top award of the night went to Trinity Episcopal’s Parker Brumfield, who was awarded a $2,250 scholarship.

One of the neat things about the banquet was that each player’s football coach introduced them.

You could see the pride these men, who have coached hundreds of players through the years, had in the players who were being honored at the banquet.

Most of what the coaches said about their players was not about the success on the field. Most of the athletes, while good players, will not be playing football at the next level. Their football careers ended when they took off the pads after their final high school game.

However, the leadership the players showed, the good work in the classroom and community service they participated in, was the main focus of the coach’s introductions.

I couldn’t begin to name all the school, community and church programs the players were involved in, or their grade point averages and ACT scores. Needless to say, they were spectacular.

And that’s in addition to all the work they put in athletically. All the athletes awarded played multiple sports, and some of them play three sports or more. It’s hard to find time to study or give back to the community when you’re practicing football, basketball, baseball or soccer for two hours after school each day. But somehow these guys managed to do it and do it well.

In an age where students are failing out of high school in record numbers, it was refreshing to see a group of athletes who value education and helping others as much as they value success on Friday night.

As Brumfield said after winning the top award Thursday night, “If you can help other people, why not do it?”

It’s important for the top athletes in each school to be also some of the brightest students. Many students look up to the players on the sports teams. They’re cheered every Friday night by other members of the student body who think “I wish I could do that.”

When the top athlete is also a top student, it not only destroys the ‘dumb jock’ stereotype, but sets a good example for the rest of the student as well.

Art Demmas, national coordinator for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame said it best when he took to the podium before the awards.

“I’ve been coming here since 1991 and I am overwhelmed by the quality of the student-athletes,” he said. “They are giving a lot to the community.”

Alcorn State head football coach Ernest Jones agreed with Demmas when addressing the players as the keynote speaker.

“You being here tells me you understand the importance of academics,” he said. “You’ve represented your school and your community well.”

The Miss-Lou is fortunate to have not only a strong athletic tradition, but athletes that understand there is more to life than just sports.

Congratulations to not only the athletes who were honored by the football foundation Thursday night, but all those who excel not only on the field, but in the classroom and community as well.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or