This weekend, the National Alliance of African American Athletes will name the 2020 winner of the Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Award at its annual gala in Arlington, Virginia.
On today’s podcast, I talk with NAAAA executive director Everette Pearsall about the Class of 2020 and the history of the award that dates back to 1992.
High School Football America Podcast
Below are this year’s finalists who are selected based on their unweighted grade-point average, personal statements, extracurricular activities, community service and letters of recommendation. Each student-athlete’s summary is provided by the National Alliance of African American Athletes.
Vernon Broughton – Cy Ridge HS (Texas)
A defensive tackle who graduated high school early and enrolled at the University of Texas, Vernon Broughton was a four-year member of the honor roll and a member of the National Honor Society. He had perfect school attendance in 2019 and was an active volunteer at sports camps and with the homeless. He participated in the Clean Up Ministry, was a member of the Community Youth Leadership Program and was the Houston Class Act Awardee for Character. On the field, he was an All-American and two-time All-District honoree and played in the Under Armour All-America Game. As a senior, had 36 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and recovered two fumbles. He had a 4.1 GPA.
Terry “Tonka” Hemingway – Conway HS (South Carolina)
A defensive lineman who will play for the University of South Carolina, Terrell “Tonka” Hemingway is a member of the National Honor Society, the Math Honor Society, the Social Studies Honor Society and the English Honor Society. He was a South Carolina Academic All-American and a member of the Youth Leadership Academy and Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy. He volunteered with Conway Football Parks and Recreation and Shepherds Table and tutored and mentored middle and elementary school students. On the field, as a senior he had 92 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, was named first-team all-state and played in the Shrine Bowl. Also an all-state basketball player and member of the Conway High baseball team. He has a 4.4 GPA.
Michael Reese – Cane Ridge HS (Tennessee)
A defensive lineman who graduated high school early and enrolled at Duke University, Michael Reese is a recipient of the Nashville All Region Academic Award and the Hume Academic Award. He volunteers with Best Buddies, Read Across America and Nashville Area Youth Football. On the field, he compiled 85 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 11 sacks over his last two seasons. He was a three-time all-region honoree, two-time all-city selection and two-time region defensive player of the year. He has a 3.8 GPA.
Cody Simon – St. Peter’s Prep (New Jersey)
A linebacker who will play for Ohio State University, Cody Simon is a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society. He volunteers with the Jersey Boys and Girls Club and the Ebony Club. On the field, he finished his high school career with 229 tackles, 11 sacks, five interceptions and six non-offensive touchdowns. He was named all-region and all-state and played in the All-American Bowl. He has a 3.9 GPA.
Christopher Thompson, Jr. – Duncanville HS (Texas)
A safety who graduated high school early and enrolled at Auburn University, Christopher Thompson Jr. was a member of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes, served as a Dallas Ambassador and was named Dallas Academic All State. He volunteered as a Dallas area youth mentor, the Dallas Food Pantry and as a youth basketball coach. He also was a member of the Duncanville Math Leadership Program. On the field, he led his team to consecutive appearances in the Texas 6A championship game, was ranked the No. 2 safety in the class of 2020, was a finalist for the Tom Landry Player of the Year and played in the Under Armour All America Game. He has a 3.9 GPA.
Kourt Williams II – St. John Bosco HS (California)
A safety who graduated high school early and enrolled at Ohio State University, Kourt Williams IIvolunteered at the St. John Bosco Sports Camp, as a Los Angeles Unified Literacy Coach, with the Los Angeles Community Service Project and with the Faithful Central Bible Church. On the field, he was the Long Beach Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the Press-Telegram Dream Team. He was MVP of the Nike Opening, a Butkus Award nominee, first-team All-State and a finalist for the All-American Bowl Man of the Year. He has a 3.8 GPA.
Below is how Coach Watkins is presented on the NAAAA website:
Franklin D. Watkins
Mr. Franklin D. Watkins was born January 8, 1945 in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the son of the late Deacon and Mrs. Leroy (Beatrice Harris) Watkins. On Saturday, August 24, 1991, he departed this earthly life in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
At an early age he joined the Ridgewood Baptist Church and later became affiliated with Harris A.M.E. Zion Church in Harrisburg, PA.
He was a graduate of C. A. Johnson High School, he later attended Allen University of Columbia, South Carolina. He received his Associate Degree from Harrisburg Community College in Pennsylvania.
He was employed by the United States Navy in the Ship Parts Control Center in Mechanicsburg, PA for nineteen years. He was a Master Sergeant in the United States Army Reserve. Mr. Watkins was honored with many awards and citations from his employment as well as the United States Army Reserve.
“Frank” as he was affectionately called, was very active in the community and civic affairs, particularly those that involved young people. He was a little league basketball coach for many years. At the time of his death, he was a coach with YMCA Youth Basketball League in Harrisburg, PA.
Mr. Franklin D. Watkins leaves precious memories in the hearts of many, his loving wife, Mrs. Thomasina Alston Watkins of Harrisburg, PA; three sons, Mr. Dearaney S. Watkins of Harrisburg, PA, Mr. Cedrick Watkins of Philadelphia, PA, and Mr. Paul Dreher of San Francisco, CA; one granddaughter; Ms. Kianna Watkins of Harrisburg, PA and one grandson Mr. Jamir Dreher of San Francisco, CA; three sisters, the late Mrs. Barbara W. Samuels, Ms. Beverly Watkins of Columbia, SC, and the late Elizabeth Tucker of Columbia, SC. Messrs. the late Leroy Watkins Jr., Charles E., Romeo, and Willie L. Watkins, all of Columbia, SC; father and mother-in-law, Mr. And Mrs. Isiah Alston of North Charleston, SC; aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law; nieces, nephews, and a host of other relatives and friends, all of whom will miss him dearly.
“We are thankful for the things you are; And for the things you’ve done. To make one world a better place; Our lives happier one. We are hoping you will understand; We are very proud and glad; To have someone as wonderful as; You to call our DAD”
Cedrick Watkins and Dearaney Watkins.