About a quarter of this year’s National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Leader-Athletes are representing La Jolla schools. Seven will be celebrated at the 46th annual Scholar-Leader-Athlete Banquet, 6 p.m. Friday, April 6 at the Scottish Rite Center, 1895 Camino del Rio South, Mission Valley. The award honors 26 high school and three college football players from San Diego County for their outstanding effort on the football field and in the classroom. The winners will receive a $1,500 scholarship.
The La Jolla athletes are: La Jolla High School Vikings Trevor Scully and Johnathan O’Neal, Bishop’s School Knights Isaiah Dawson, Jeffrey Jackson and Mozes Mooney, and La Jolla Country Day School Torreys Spencer Alligood and Michael Chandler.
According to press material, Scholar-Leader Athletes were nominated by their coaches. All of the nominations were scanned by the National Football Foundation Walter J. Zable/San Diego Chapter board members. Past NFF Scholar-Leader Athletes from San Diego include the late Junior Seau and Helix High School alumni Reggie Bush and Alex Smith.
“The award is great because it (considers) aspects that aren’t usually praised during the season,” Viking O’Neal told La Jolla Light. “We think it incorporates the three aspects of football that are most important: performance, leadership capabilities and what you can do in the classroom.”
For Scully, the award is especially meaningful: “It’s a big deal to me because my grades haven’t always been the best. I worked hard to improve my grades over the years. Every year, they have gotten better and better, which is a big achievement for me. It opened up opportunities for next year, in terms of schools I can go to now. And the scholarship will help out with college costs and opens up more options.”
According to their nomination forms, here are some reasons why the Bishop’s athletes were nominated:
Dawson “is a very special player and person we feel is quite worthy of this award. Never stuck on himself (as he very well could be), he has accepted the national spotlight as if it was never there. Down to earth, accessible to all, he brings a thoughtful and friendly presence to every encounter. It has never been about him; rather it has been about his fellow teammates and classmates.” Dawson will attend Harvard University and is taking six honors/AP classes.
Jackson “is the kind of player who opponents should never underestimate. He has proven over and over that his guts, quick-thinking and love of the game will prevail on the field. He is a topnotch young man with a bright future in the cards.” Jackson engages in community service through Bishop’s and earned places in records books with stats such as most touchdown pass completions in a career with 114.
Mooney “is a leader in every sense of the word. The best teammate I (Football coach Joel Allen) have ever coached. He is a competitor, a friend and leader. Any team, any sport will succeed because he is a part of it. (His) success energizes the people around him. It would be hard to find a young man who truly stands out from the crown more, as a winner in all aspects of life. He is a true super star.” A team captain, the nomination form continues, “you can find him eating lunch with a freshman teammate, who will probably never play a down of football.”
At La Jolla Country Day School, Alligood’s nomination form states he was named a First Team All Coastal League defensive back this season and a two-time All Coastal League player. At Country Day, he was named the Defensive Player of the Year. He was also the only non-senior starter on the 2016 team that made it to State Championships. He “was a unanimous choice to be one of our captains ... he did a tremendous job leading his teammates,” the form states.
When it comes to Chandler, the nomination states, “Academically, it’s hard to find anyone more impressive.” He finished this fall with a 4.61 weighted Grade-Point Average (GPA) and with one semester remaining, has a 4.09 cumulative GPA. He aspires to be a lawyer. “Chandler was a four-year member of the football program. As a senior, his teammates voted him as a captain because of his leadership. As the only returning starting lineman, his leadership on the offensive and defensive lines was instrumental in helping to develop these units.”