Mario Biaggi III, a quarterback at Iona Prep in New York, was recognized by the NFF Westchester Chapter on Jan. 31, 2013 as a member of the group’s prestigious Golden Dozen. He also claimed the organization’s top scholar-athlete award, the Chris Mello Scholar-Athlete Award and Scholarship, and gave the scholar-athlete class response. Here is his speech:

“Thank you Mr. Joyce, members of the National Football Foundation, Scholar Athletes and their families, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honor to be selected as a scholar athlete and I want to congratulate all the other scholar athletes who have been acknowledged here this evening. I want to especially acknowledge the parents and family members who have sacrificed so much to enable us to get an education and participate in high school athletics. We will always be in your debt.”

“This award is particularly significant for me since my father received the same award when he graduated from high school. It is also significant for me since it is the first time that I have publicly spoken in front of more than a classroom full of 20 high-school students. When I look at this audience, I might not recognize most of the faces, but I do know that there is a common bond between all of us.

“One commonality that we all share is that we strive for excellence in everything we do. We give the extra effort not only on the field, but also in our academics and the way we live our lives. Again, thanks to our parents and family members for raising us in that fashion. That instinct to not settle for “ok” but instead striving to reach your full potential is something I believe every one acknowledged here tonight has. Thanks to our parents and family, that instinct will allow us to strive to be the best in our future careers.

“There are two parts to the term scholar-athlete. One involves what you do in the classroom and the other involves what you do on a field. And although these two activities might differ in specifics, the way that we approach them is very similar. Whether it is spending that extra hour to study for midterms or staying longer after practice to work on routes or technique, all of us possess the determination necessary to be successful. I want to congratulate everyone here tonight for maintaining that determination on a consistent basis in both sports and academics. This certainly is not an easy accomplishment.

“On behalf of all of the scholar athletes here this evening, I want to also thank our coaches. My coach, Mr. Felix Petrillo is here tonight. A very comical person, he made those three hours of practice a lot easier to get through every day. But more importantly, Coach Petrillo, and all the coaches of the scholar athletes here were able to teach us. I'm not only talking about the x's and o's, but the valuable life lessons that we will be able to take with us for the rest of our lives. I know personally, I did a lot of growing up between my junior and senior year and I'm sure that my fellow scholar athletes will say the same. That is all because of the energy, fortitude, and certainly patience that our coaches and family provided for us. And they do it obviously not for the money but for the love of the game and because they care about the kids.

“Lastly, our experiences in high school football have not only benefited us in terms of future success, but they have given us special memories that will last a lifetime. For lona Prep, one of the memories was turning the entire varsity football team into a choir group. Our classic hit songs were the Lion King and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. But my personal favorite was getting all of the lineman of our team to dance in unison to the song Oompa Loompa from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

“I recently watched an ESPN special on a pre-game ritual that Notre Dame football players did. They would bounce a ping-pong ball off of the wall and each others heads in order to get it into a plastic cup. Once they got it in they would go crazy celebrating tackling each other to the floor. They would not be comfortable going into the game the following day until they successfully completed the pre-game ritual.

“After the ESPN special, the television camera switched to two ESPN commentators, one who had played football and one who had not. The one who had played football said a quote that was not on the teleprompter, but that I believe was a valid statement. He said, "You know practices... are not so great, the games ... they're great and everything, but the bond and memories that you have with your brothers ... that's what you live for."

“Thank You Everyone”