Joey Learman, a two-time All-Foothill League offensive lineman from Burroughs High, has a 4.05 grade-point average, a 1300 SAT score, plays guitar for his church band and plans to enroll at Columbia University this fall.
As proud as he is about his football achievements, the fact people have begun to notice his academic success has left him a little startled.
"There's not a lot of rewards for doing the right thing," he said. "It's cool to get recognition for it."
Let me introduce a group of football players who won't make it on "Hard Copy," can't be found in the police blotter and won't be placing firecrackers under the principal's desk--at least until senior prank day.
They want to become doctors, lawyers, police officers, teachers, scientists and business executives. Soon, they'll be attending such schools as Stanford, UCLA, Pennsylvania, Harvard, Brown and the Air Force Academy.
Thursday night at the Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills, 47 high school football players will be honored as part of the scholar athlete awards dinner sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
Each player earned his honor by maintaining a minimum 3.0 grade-point average and displaying outstanding campus leadership and citizenship.
It's inspiring to hear their hopes and dreams. It's heartening to learn how much they trust their parents. It's encouraging to see them succeed in sports and academics.
Take a look at Lucas Ladd of Valencia. He started for three years at linebacker on the varsity despite standing just 5 feet 5 and weighing 160 pounds. So many times, people told him, "You're too small to play football."
"There's plenty of people who are big, strong and fast," he said. "But there's not many around who would die for the team."
During the college football recruiting season, Ladd joked about hearing from UCLA, USC and Florida State.
"I couldn't believe it, man," he said. "I was sitting by the phone. I was waiting for the Seminoles to call. Not only did I not get any offers, that chapter in my life is kind of over. I'm ready to start the real world. But I'm going to miss it."
Ladd has a 4.1 GPA and wants to become a psychiatrist. UC San Diego, which has a doctoral program he likes, won the academic recruiting battle.
"I think it's fascinating to trace behavior to certain parts of the mind," he said. "And, hey, I can get paid to talk to people."
Ryan Gaudioso of Royal is the son of a junior high principal and teacher. "I was expected to do well in everything, and I do," he said.
He's an All-Marmonte League defensive back with a 3.3 GPA. He almost became a model but decided sports and school were too important. Every step of the way, he has turned to his parents for advice.
"I think they've helped influence me by setting a real good example," he said. "We get into occasional teenager/parent arguments about what the right thing to do is. They'll lay down the law and later I realize it was the right thing and appreciate they didn't give in."
Tony Arredondo of Notre Dame wants to one day be called Dr. Arredondo. The All-Mission League wide receiver has a 4.3 GPA with A's in physics, chemistry and calculus.
"I think it's self-discipline and having self-drive and pushing yourself to the limit in every area," he said.
Sean Atkins, the starting quarterback at San Fernando, wants to be an entrepreneur. He enjoyed taking calculus, algebra and any kind of math. He has a 3.0 GPA in San Fernando's magnet program. "Sometimes it gets hard, but you have to work past those things," he said.
Wide receiver David Van Duzee of Saugus is an Eagle Scout with a 3.73 GPA. He plans to attend the Coast Guard Academy or Merchant Marine Academy and become a marine biologist. If someone needs to solve a future eco crisis, Van Duzee's the one.
Sam Miller of Harvard-Westlake is a true genius. His GPA is 4.6 and he missed just two questions on the SAT for a score of 1570 out of 1600. An All-Mission League offensive lineman, Miller is headed to Harvard or Princeton. His major will be cognitive neuroscience. The East Coast teenagers had better watch out. He's a Valley boy with the brain power to rise to the top.
In fact, all 47 honorees fit in the same category. They've made their parents and teachers proud. They're examples of how schools and families, working together, can make a difference.
"There are times where it gets real hard," Learman said, "but it's doing what you've always been told, being good to what your parents said."
Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.
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Scholar athlete winners to be honored by San Fernando Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame:
* Chris Poling, Agoura
* Derek Brown, Alemany
* Joe Manning, Antelope Valley
* Alex Roldan, Bell-Jeff
* Jon Wangsgard, Bethel Christian
* Scott Doherty, Birmingham
* Jonah Martin, Burbank
* Joey Learman, Burroughs
* Ben Gordon, Calabasas
* Justin Castillo, Campbell Hall
* Mike Shoemaker, Canoga Park
* Scott Winchester, Canyon
* Matt Markis, Chaminade
* Jorge Rocha, Chatsworth
* Eric Nelson, Crespi
* Alex Perez, El Camino Real
* Tim Greer, Faith Baptist
* Ricky Mathiesen, Granada Hills
* David Neill, Hart
* Sam Miller, Harvard-Westlake
* Michael DeLeon, Highland
* Mike Conn, Hueneme
* Kris Bullard-Wolf, Kennedy
* Charles Mikiel, Littlerock
* James Adomian, L.A. Baptist
* Joshua Enomoto, L.A. Lutheran
* George Garcia, Monroe
* Russell Thomas, Newbury Park
* Jonathan Hicks, North Hollywood
* Tony Arredondo, Notre Dame
* Christian Chivaroli, Oak Park
* Matt Leonard, Palmdale
* Dominic Washington, Paraclete
* Matt MacLearn, Poly
* Jerel Lewis, Reseda
* Ryan Gaudioso, Royal
* Jesse Zamudio, St. Genevieve
* Sean Atkins, San Fernando
* David Van Duzee, Saugus
* Walter Williams, Simi Valley
* Joey LaPorte, Sylmar
* Larry Jones, Taft
* Jeff Wyly, Thousand Oaks
* Lucas Ladd, Valencia
* Young Joo, Village Christian
* Jared Kearns, Westlake
* Evan Ben-Artzi, Westmark