For the 13 recipients of this year’s scholar-athlete awards handed out by the National Football Foundation’s Sunflower Chapter, Wednesday’s banquet provided one more opportunity to be coached.
And while all of their coaches were in attendance, they were not the ones doing the coaching.
That job belonged to Kansas University special-teams coach Clint Bowen, who, like these young men, once represented the best of high school football in the Sunflower State.
In delivering the keynote speech to the honorees and their families, Bowen spoke with the kind of passion that only a coach could muster. He talked about the importance of academics, stressed the value of good sportsmanship and shared stories from his days as a young football player enjoying the journey.
“You guys, in your communities, are viewed by some people as role models already,” he said. “There are little guys in your hometown who saw you play football and saw you do something special, and they know your name, and they know what you’ve accomplished. You guys do carry a special role in our society, and I’d encourage you to really appreciate that and continue on.”
Two local schools earned serious hardware from Wednesday’s ceremony, as recent Lawrence High graduate Anthony Buffalomeat and Eudora High grads Derek Webb and Alex Whitten were among the foundation’s scholar-athlete honorees, and EHS football coach Gregg Webb was named the Don Fambrough Coach of the Year.
This marked the first year in which the coach of the year award sported the late KU coach’s name, and that significance was not lost on Webb.
“I’m honored to death to be even considered for this award,” he said. “And to have my name anywhere near coach Fambrough’s name is a great honor.”
Webb, whose son, Derek, earned multiple all-league and all-state honors on both sides of the ball, guided the Cardinals to a 12-2 record in 2011 and a berth in the Class 4A state title game. It marked the best season in school history and one of 10 title-game appearances in Webb’s 20-year coaching career.
Even with that in mind, the younger Webb and his teammate Whitten pointed to the emphasis their school’s teachers and coaches place on academics as the reason for their being honored.
“Our school puts a lot into academics,” Whitten said. “We’ve got a really great staff.”
Added Derek Webb: “It’s really cool to honor all of the teams in the past and the town of Eudora with this award.”
Asked what it was like to share the night with his father, Derek Webb smiled. Whitten quickly chimed in by saying both father and son were as humble as they come.
“I’ve never really heard him say, ‘I’m the coach of the year,’” Whitten said of his former coach. “The closest I’ve heard is, ‘I know what I’m doing.’”
For Buffalomeat, who starred in football and basketball for three seasons at LHS, Wednesday’s ceremony capped a memorable prep career and provided the perfect ending to a wonderful chapter of his life.
“I’m very honored to be named a National Football Foundation scholar-athlete,” Buffalomeat said. “I’ll always remember all of my experiences from LHS, and I’ll remember this night for the rest of my life.”
Joining the three local standouts as 2012 scholar-athlete award winners were: Jacob English, Beloit; Alex Furst, Salina Central; Michael Glatczak, Centralia; Jesse Hiss, Basehor-Linwood; Alec Maly, Bishop Carroll; William Mitchelson and Jesse Newcomb, St. Mary’s Colgan; Derron Reddick, Council Grove; Robert Riederer, Holton; and Jerome Roehm, Hutchinson.
“As parents, these young men are exactly the kind of young men we want our sons to be,” KU’s associate athletics director Jim Marchiony said.
Added KU associate AD and NFF committee member Paul Buskirk of how the committee narrowed down the dozens of coach-nominated athletes to 13: “It’s tough. It’s not like it’s a 4.0 (grade-point average) against a 2.0. It’s a 4.0 versus a 4.0 versus a 4.0. Traditionally, we’ve always picked 11 scholar-athletes for this award, but 13 were honored tonight because all 13 of them earned it.”
Derek Webb plans to attend Johnson County Community College, where he will compete with the track and field team as a javelin thrower. Whitten plans to become a yell leader at KU. And Buffalomeat is headed to Emporia State, where he, for sure, will play football and may also give basketball a try.