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February 24, 2008Century City, Calif. -- Among five distinguished finalists, Fayette County High School (Atlanta, Ga.) standout safety Matthew Daniels, who will continue his academic and athletic career at Duke University, was named the winner of the 17th annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy Award Saturday evening at the Inter Continental Hotel in Century City, California. The award is presented each year to the nation's top African American male high school scholar athlete.
The Watkins Award, selected and presented by the National Alliance of African-American Athletes, is named in honor of Franklin D. Watkins, a coach and mentor in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with a unique gift for communicating and relating to African-American youth. Watkins was the founder of the National Alliance and over the years the award presented to Daniels has become the most prestigious award for African-American male high school students.
"Among all my achievements and honors in high school, this award is the most memorable I must say," an elated and relieved Daniels stated among his parents and well-wishers after Saturday night's banquet. "This is the only award that acknowledges me for both my academic and athletic achievements."
Focus is placed on honoring the academic excellence and community service of young African-American males by the Alliance since not enough effort has been placed on motivating African-American males to pursue higher education in stark contrast to the constant efforts by institutions of higher learning to recruit collegiate sports stars. The Watkins Trophy Awards program recognizes those that place a high value on both their academic and athletic achievements. Each year's winner carries with him the expectation that he will strive for academic excellence and embrace community service and all the finalists are expected to encourage other young African-American men to pursue this balance of success.
"On the field, I want to work to become a freshman all-american next season," remarked the 6-foot, 183-pound Daniels, who carries a 4.0 G.P.A. and is a member of the National Honors Society, Beta Club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "Off the field, I want to leave a path so others know it can be done."
The highlight of Saturday's award banquet was the message delivered by keynote speaker William C. Rhoden, a sports journalist for the New York Times since 1983. Rhoden has voiced his concern in his books $40 Million Slaves and Third and a Mile that the African-American athletes of today, and African-Americans in general, have forgotten the difficult path the athletes of yesteryear took to gain opportunities to empower themselves and their community through athletics. Rhoden compared the importance of knowing the history of African-American athletes to studying game film.
"A coach once asked me, 'Why do you study the past? It's about now and what we can do today,"' Rhoden recalled. "I asked him, 'Why do you study game film?' It's the same concept. You study what happened in the past to learn from your mistakes so you don't repeat them. If the past wasn't important, then why would you study game film? You feel stronger when you enter a game prepared. As far along as we've come as a dominant force in athletics, we've stopped studying game film."
"I took Mr. Rhoden's message to heart," Daniels told guests as he accepted the 17th Annual Watkins Trophy. "My role model is not real famous. It's my brother William. He just graduated from Clemson University and has a real good job. I always inspired to be like him and be better than him. I really appreciate everything everyone has done for me. The other four finalists are not losers. They are winners as well."
The other four finalists were Covaughn DeBoskie (Hamilton, Chandler, Ariz.), Brandon Moore (Trotwood, Ohio), Kenneth Page (A.C. Flora, Columbia, S.C.) and DeVier Posey (LaSalle, Cincinnati, Ohio).
Similar to Daniels, DeBoskie and Moore are members of the National Honor Society. Posey carries a 3.4 G.P.A. and Page a 3.8 G.P.A. while both are known to volunteer countless hours towards community efforts. Moore carries a 4.25 G.P.A. and DeBoskie a 4.1 G.P.A. During the media reception and during his introduction, DeBoskie graciously thanked Rivals.com West Coast Recruiting Analyst Rick Kimbrel for nominating him for the Watkins award.
The 2007 recipient of the Watkins Trophy Award was Andrew Davis, a freshman at the University of Oregon. Past winners include Florida State safety and pre-med student Myron Rolle, the 2006 recipient, and former Student Sports Magazine cover subjects Marcus Houston (Colorado State, 2000) and Ronald Curry (North Carolina/Oakland Raiders, 1998).
To learn more about the Alliance, the Watkins Award or to learn how to nominate a student-athlete for the Class of 2009 award, please visit www.NAAAA.com.