By L.A. Byrne (A member of the NFF Morris Country Chapter, Laura Byrne wrote the following blog after attending the organization’s 19th Annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet April 17, 2013.)

The 2013 National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Award recipients sat in two long rows of tables, wearing identical black tuxedos and suiting up for the final time as high school football players.

I had an opportunity to talk to several individuals, including Kyle Adams, a player for Roxbury, who will attend Harvard; Robert Thoma, from Delbarton, who is Amherst bound; and Samuel Kaplan, Randolph, on his way to UPenn. I found their astounding accomplishments echoed in their stance, straight shoulders and crisp responses. These are young men who are accustomed to listing their successes, yet not one spoke with conceit. The fact of their athleticism had long ago been established. They earned their seats at tonight’s banquet by applying the lessons learned on the gridiron to endless tests of both character and intellect.

Bob Mulcahy
, former Rutgers athletic director, Bill Spoor, Penn State football player-turned-entrepreneur-extraordinaire, and Atlantic Health System representatives were among those who spoke in celebration of the counties’ best and brightest football players. The honorees were identified through evaluation of three criterion: athletic talent, academic success, and community service.

With the introduction of each award recipient, the audience was dazzled by staggering statistics of rushing yards, passes completed, and post-season accolades. The honorees complemented their on-field accomplishments with equally stunning GPA’s that hung around 4.0’s and leadership in the community that included efforts in local and national disaster relief and community-enrichment projects. Clearly, these young men understand that while scoring in the red zone is vital, playing four quarters is just as important. Their unrelenting intensity not only made their team better, when applied off the field it makes the world better.

It’s easy to think of the gifts these young men have received: tonight, a certificate from their congressman and a plaque from the National Football Foundation; and throughout their lives, a sound body and mind. But these are not young men who have taken these attributes for granted—this sport does not allow this. Injuries are too common. Greater talent always exists. The shadow of adversity and setback constantly threatens. Finding success amid the haze defines these players.

Tonight, there were no shoulder pads and helmets, no cheering crowds, or thunderous marching band. Tonight, there were just poised young men with level gazes who humbly thanked parents and coaches. And tonight was our chance to thank our award recipients for giving us hope that our future is in capable hands—those that make the big plays that our complicated and imperfect world requires.

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2013 Scholar-Athlete award recipients for the Morris County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame:

Boonton – Theodore Stammer

Butler – Brian Ensley

Chatham – Vincent Ziccolella

Delbarton – Robert Thoma

Dover – Jacob Pyrzynski

Farleigh Dickenson University - Charles Thomas

Hanover Park – William Julich

Jefferson Township – Daniel Brown

Kinnelon – Joseph Presti

Madison – Devin Koep

Montville – Parker Meytrott

Morris Catholic – Joseph Vidal

Morris Hills – Robert Sihlanick

Morris Knolls – Nickolas Patterson

Morristown – Ernest Stiner

Morristown Beard – Timothy Worts

Mt. Olive – Justin Mancini

Mountain Lakes – Scott Flynn

Parsippany Hills – Tyler Simms

Pequannock – Luke Foukas

Randolph – Samuel Kaplan

Roxbury – Kyle Adams

West Morris Central – Robert Hughes

West Morris Mendham – Matthew Kuhn

Whippany Park – Daniel Linfante

IN THE ATHLETE’S WORDS…

This award is given to celebrate your success and hard work, but it’s also given to inspire the younger football players in your community. If you had one piece of advice for younger athletes what would you tell them?

“To set goals as a freshman, make good choices, and don’t cut corners.” - Brian Ensley, Butler

“To do the best you can at whatever you’re doing.” - Daniel Brown, Jefferson Township

“To work hard, and focus on schoolwork.” - Kyle Adams, Roxbury

“To enjoy high school because the experience goes by quickly, and make sure academics are a priority starting freshman year.” - Robert Thoma, Delbarton

“Make no excuses.” - Samuel Kaplan, Randolph

"To surround yourself with good people, and set goals.” - Matt Kuhn, Mendham