Why not (nominate) the best?

Opinion by DOUG IRELAND, Journal Staff

Lots of fine folks have contributed money to give away, legally, to top-caliber high school senior football scholar-athletes.

The S.M. McNaughton Chapter of the National Football Foundation has been doing this for over 40 years. The local chapter raises funds with tennis tournaments, auctions and other events, then awards scholarships to the cream of the crop among north Louisiana’s seniors.

One catch: those fine young men have to be nominated by their head coaches. Only 10 nominations have been submitted so far, from eligible football programs in districts 1, 2 and 3 in Louisiana.

When you read that the deadline to apply was last Thursday, don’t be alarmed. It’s been extended to Wednesday, Feb. 2, already a red letter day for senior prep football players. It’s also National Signing Day.

Throw in the excitement of Groundhog Day, and it’s a date impossible to ignore.

Not that the head coaches who haven’t nominated anyone yet are intentionally overlooking this wonderful opportunity for their super seniors.

Although the football season is done, those coaches aren’t. Offseason strength and conditioning programs have begun. All of the coaches are also teachers, with classes to educate and an ever-soaring amount of record-keeping required.

Most importantly, more than ever before, today’s coaches are mentors at least, and in many cases, surrogate parents for young people whose parents are too overwhelmed or sometimes sadly indifferent.

So, Coach, if you haven’t nominated your top senior football player in 2021 for the McNaughton Chapter NFF Scholarship, this second chance is for you, says Toni Goodin, the longtime secretary/backbone of the local chapter.

She can relate. The former Logansport High cheerleader has coordinated the NFF scholarship program for longer than the 2021 seniors have been living. It’s hardly the only cause for Goodin, who among other unpaid pursuits is a vibrant volunteer for the Independence Bowl, along with her mom Peggy Mitchell.

But currently, she’s the CEO honed in on opening the sparkling Shreveport Rehabilitation Hospital. That’s resulted in her delegating the oversight of the scholarship program to another NFF board member. She picked the rookie – me.

It’s a privilege. Just like it is to win one of these NFF scholarships. I’ve been to most of the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquets this century, watching and listening to the accomplishments of these remarkable young men, seeing their excitement at being recognized for not only being a really good player, but doing a great job throughout their high school years in the classroom, and being involved in community service.

Those are the cornerstone values. Nominees must have earned all-district honors for the 2021 season; have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.2; and have involvement in some extracurricular activity. The application, submitted to SBJSportsLine@gmail.com by the head coach, must include the student-athlete’s academic transcript and any recommendation letters or supporting materials.

Nomination info was e-mailed to local and area head coaches when school reconvened early this month.

Questions? Call or text me at 318-471-2086. It’s all about giving opportunity to deserving young men – and a lifelong memory at East Ridge Country Club on March 24 for the best of the best.

There are role models on the field every fall at every high school. Here’s a chance for your favorite one to sparkle one more time.

Photo: by ROBERT FREDERICK/TimeBoxPhotography.com