By Leland Stein III, For The African-American Athlete
WASHINGTON DC – At the pronounced Renaissance Hotel in the District of Columbia, the National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance) recently hosted it 26th consecutive Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Award for America’s premier scholar/athletes.
The “Elite Six” Watkins Class of 2017, are otherwise being announced and proclaimed as the “Seismic Six”!
The literary definition of seismic is: “subject to, or caused by an earthquake; or relating to an earth vibration caused by something else (as an explosion or the impact of a meteorite).
By all accounts the ‘Seismic Six’ –Watkins 2017 Class – indeed are capable of individual explosions with the influence of a meteorite. Centered on each of these young men’s character and verbal declarations over the Watkins Weekend in Washington DC, they have each left many with the expectation that they will implement noteworthy or have a strong and widespread “seismic” impact on their communities.
The ‘Seismic Six’ scholar/athletes selected by the national Watkins Award selection committee are indeed gifted enough to make their mark long after their playing days are in their rear view mirrors.
These All-American Scholar/Athletes had so much on their plates that it would have been understandable if each had not completed or attempted the exhaustive Watkins application process. Yet each did navigated the process, emitted official transcripts, documented their athletic competence, produced comprehensive essays, supplied at least three letters of recommendation, demonstrated community and school service, and, the result of their efforts and accomplishments were that they were feted in a black-tie Heisman like affair in Washington DC.
The Watkins Award is a modus operandi for recognizing extraordinarily talented African-American male athletes who, by their example, help promote high academic standards and steadfastness to community service. But most importantly, destroy the perceived stereotype that African-American males are just athletes, who do not value education.
The National Alliance conveyed the so-called “Seismic Six” to Washington DC, to be vetted and made aware there are other high school scholar/athletes like themselves, and, help them understand they do not have to completely succumb to the intense pressures of football only, but each can merge their academic dreams with their sports efforts. The “Six” also were introduce to a fraternity of past Watkins scholars, who just so happen to also have been All-American athletes.
Everette Pearsall, Executive Director of The Alliance exclaimed: “This year’s 2017 Watkins Award features an incredible collection of fine student athletes. Each of these young men is well equipped for success academically. We have continued to recognize and honor the premier African American Scholar/Athletes in the United States.”
The 2017 “Elite Six” are:
Rakavius Chambers, from Auburn, Alabama is headed Duke University. RC is a National Honor Society scholar, National Science Honor Society scholar and a Theta math honor society member. He was named an offensive line All-American while maintaining a 4.3 GPA at Opelika High School.
Justin Foster, out of Shelby, North Carolina is headed to Clemson University. This young man is a member of the Career & Technical honor society and was named a U.S. Army All-American. At Crest High School he fashioned a 4.2 GPA.
Ryan Johnson, uplifted in Axis, Alabama and has endorsed Stanford University. This young man is an honor student and was an Under Armour All-American, yet still hoisted a 3.9 GPA while attending St. Paul’s Episcopal High.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, matured in Detroit, Michigan has agreed to attend the University of Michigan. DPJ is a perennial honor student, named Player of the Year in Michigan and was a US Army and Under Armour All-American. He produced a 4.0 GPA while attending Cass Technical High.
Isaiah Pryor, raised in Atlanta, Georgia, has agreed to attend The Ohio State University. IP is a member of the National Honor Society and was recognized by the President’s Education Awards Program. He was selected as an Under Armour All-American. Attending IGM Academy High he finished with a 3.9 GPA.
Conner Wedington, out of Sumner Washington, selected Stanford University. He is a four-year member of the honor roll and Washington Core Leadership Group. Most importantly, he manufactured a 3.8 GPA as a student at Sumner High.
The 2017 edition of the Watkins collective christened the “Seismic Six” is exceptional in every sense of the word. All are All-Americans that will continue to dispel the lingering notion that most African-American male student/athletes are not concerned with education, only the playing fields. They all combine scholarship, athleticism, community awareness and volunteerism to form at their young age the character of developing men that are primed to explode into society as more than just athletes.
Also feted as Watkins Man of the Year was former Miami and recently signed Raiders’linebacker and a member of the Watkins Class of 2009, Jelani Jenkins, who graduated from Florida University.
The Watkins Award has been presented annually to African American scholar-athletes since 1992. Previous Watkins Finalist include Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle and a recently admitted Harvard medical student; Justin Blalock, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons; Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Arrelious Benn formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars; Ted Ginn Jr of the Carolina Panthers; Lorenzo Alexander of the Buffalo Bills; Marcedes Lewis of Jacksonville Jaguars; Darnell Dinkins, formerly of the New Orleans Saints; LaVar Arrington, formerly of the Washington Redskins; Joseph Barksdale of the San Diego Chargers; Eric Reid Jr. of the San Francisco 49er’s; Mohamed Massaquoi formerly of the Cleveland Browns; Grant Irons and Ronald Curry formerly of the Oakland Raiders just to name a few.
The National Alliance of African American Athletes was founded in 1989. The mission of The Alliance is to empower African American males through athletics, education and public programs.
Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@and at Twitter @LelandSteinIII