LOS ANGELES – The National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance), as it has for the past 19 years, recently recognized the nation’s supreme high school scholar athletes.

At the Marriott Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, an exemplary group from around nation was feted during the annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Awards Gala.

The award is presented each year to the five finalists for the top African-American male high school scholar athlete in the country.

This year’s collective “Elite Five” is exceptional in every sense of the word. All are All-American athletes who dispel the lingering notion that most African-American male student/athletes are not concerned with education, only the playing fields.

These five young men combine scholarship, athleticism, community awareness and volunteerism to form at their young age the character of developing men that are primed to take a place in society as more than just athletes.

The 2010 Watkins Award finalists are Brandon Willis of Duncan, South Carolina; David Yankey from Atlanta; Evan Washington who prepped in Dallas; Devin Gardner from Detroit; and Eric Reid out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The master and mistress of ceremonies were comedian Lamont King and actress/model Claudia Jordan. The keynote speaker, Jemele Hill, a former Detroit Mumford High and Michigan State graduate, is now a columnist and television personality for ESPN.

“I think the Watkins Award is a reminder that there are a number of wonderful Black male athletes out here who are prepared and equipped to be future leader,” Hill said. “Too often we never talk about or highlight young men like this. That is what makes the Watkins Award special. It focuses on the total person with education at the forefront.”

This year’s group is headed to universities throughout the country. Washington, an offensive lineman, is carrying a 3.9 GPA and has enrolled at Louisiana State; Gardner, a quarterback, has enrolled at Michigan and carried a 3.4; Yankey, an offensive lineman, has enrolled at Stanford and had an 4.0; Willis, a defensive end, who has earned a 4.0, is headed to North Carolina; Reid a defensive back, is also headed to Louisiana State and has a 4.7.

“When I first heard about the award I did not know what to think,” Washington said. “But after this weekend and meeting all the guys, present and past, I’m thankful I made it to the ‘Elite Five.’”

To qualify for the Watkins Award the student/athletes have to write an essay, write a bio page that highlights community service and extracurricular school activities, submit official transcripts and produce at least three letters of recommendation.

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