Watkins Award celebrates athletic and academic excellence

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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.

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 the United States premier African American scholar/athlete.

“This is a wonderful group of young Black men,” said keynote speaker and Deloitte Financial CEO David Williams. “Their potential for greatness is evident. Their combination of scholar and athletics is special indeed.”

The Watkins 2009 “Elite Five” unequivocally met Williams’ great compliments.

After an exhaustive nationwide 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 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.

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.

All-American wide receiver Jamal 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 a part 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, Calif./ Wilson H.S.), Georgia signee Christopher Burnette (LaGrange, Ga./ Troup County H.S.), Floridabound Jelani Jenkins (Silver Spring, 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 (the Florida State defensive back who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and is bypassing the NFL draft to head for Oxford, England to study medical anthropology for a year), and they mentioned that he had won the Watkins Award,” Wilson explained, “so I got interested in how he was a great athlete, but also an excellent student. I said I want to be recognized like him.”

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