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Fedora talks at 30th annual banquet

Southern Mississippi football coach Larry Fedora, gives an inspirational speech during the 13th Annual Awards Banquet for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Inc. Thursday night at the Natchez Eola Hotel. (Eric J. Shelton/The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Setting goals is something Southern Mississippi football coach Larry Fedora has done since high school.

So when he was invited to speak to high school students earning scholarships to college, goal setting was naturally the focal point of his speech.

Fedora was the featured guest at the 30th annual awards banquet for the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. Six local high school senior athletes were awarded scholarship money based on academic, athlete and extra-curricular achievements.

“It’s important for these young men to know what they’ve accomplished is important,” Fedora said. “I know there are a lot of family members of these kids that are extremely proud of them.”

Grand prize winner Eric Lee James listens as Fedora speaks. (Eric J. Shelton/The Natchez Democrat)

Fedora also talked about the Golden Eagles’ 2010 season, which included an 8-5 record and an appearance in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.

“It’s always important for me to get around the state,” he said. “We recruit the state of Mississippi extremely hard, and it’s important to get around, be seen and talk about what we’ve accomplished.”

Six local athletes shared $10,000 in scholarships, with Trinity Episcopal’s Eric Lee James nabbing the grand prize of $3,000.

Other local athletes receiving scholarship money were Adams County Christian’s Kent Yates, Cathedral’s Semmes White, Ferriday High’s Aaron Davis, Nathcez High’s Joseph Perry Jr. and Vidalia’s Hunter Thornton.

James said he couldn’t have done the work in the classroom or excelled on the field without the support of a number of people. Getting the grand prize was icing on the cake, he said.

“Just even being nominated meant something,” James said. “It’s a great honor, and I want to give thanks to the Trinity community, my parents and the coaching staff. The award should go to them moreso than me.”

Trinity head coach David King holds a special place in James’ heart, and James said playing for King made a huge difference in his life.

“He was like a second father to me,” James said. “Play for him is special. It brought something out of me where I wanted to go that extra mile.

“I wanted to make him proud, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world when I know I did that.”

The foundation also recognized the late Joseph Dallalio Sr. for as the recipient of the Contributor to Amateur Football award. Dallalio was the Vidalia High School football team’s chief cook for more than 35 years.

The Distinguished American Award went to Fred Voss, who has been a local Scout Master for more than 40 years and is a charter member of Troop 158.

The Joe Fortunato Celebrity Golf Tournament, which raises money for the student-athletes that receive the scholarships, will be May 7 at Duncan Park.

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