Allstate Sugar Bowl and National Football Foundation Honor Scholar-Athletes

Photo by Melissa Stoltz.

NEW ORLEANS (May 7, 2019) – The Allstate Sugar Bowl Chapter of the National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame held its 2019 Awards Luncheon on Tuesday afternoon in the St. Charles Club Room at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The highlight of the event was the announcement of four winners of college scholarships from the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Allstate Sugar Bowl Chapter of the National Football Foundation

Twenty-nine local high school football players were recognized for their achievements in the classroom, in the community and on the football field. The honorees were chosen from a group of nominated scholar athletes from the New Orleans area. Archie Manning, the national chairman of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, recognized each of the 29 student athletes at the event. From that group of 29, four were selected to receive Allstate Sugar Bowl Scholarships for $20,000 each. The scholarship winners were chosen based on essays submitted after being notified of their selection as scholar-athletes.

The four scholarship winners were Tyruss Gayden (West Jefferson High School), William Harper (Thomas Jefferson High School), Kenny-Khai Vo (L.W. Higgins High School) and Jalen Womble (Holy Cross High School). Monique Morial, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee, recapped their accomplishments and referenced their winning essays prior to presenting each scholarship winner with a commemorative check.

Gayden has overcome significant challenges to have a very successful high school career. He wrote in his essay about growing up in a rough neighborhood with drugs and guns prominent from an early age. He used football as an escape while hoping it would give him a chance at a better future. However, just after earning a starting position as a sophomore, he lost his father in a car accident. With the support of his family and his teammates, he remained focused and finished his career as a three-year starter, a team captain and an all-district selection. He was also an honor student and a regular volunteer at local elementary schools. This fall, he plans to play football at Southern University.

Harper was a four-year letterman and captain of his football team. He was a member of the National Honor Society and competed for his school’s track and field team. In his essay, he wrote about the financial challenges for his parents, who will be supporting their third child in college. This scholarship will allow him to make a significant financial contribution of his own.

Vo wrote about a work-ethic that was instilled in him at home by his parents, who emigrated to the United States from Vietnam. As a football player, he was a four-year letterman for the football team and served as a team captain for three years. He quoted a valuable lesson from one of his coaches, “Practicing bad habits create a problem, while practicing good habits create a solution.” His work-ethic and good habits also shine through in the classroom where he has maintained a grade-point average of over 4.0 and is currently ranked No. 1 in his class. He plans to study medicine at LSU in the fall and he hopes to become a general practitioner in the future.

Womble was a team captain and a standout offensive lineman. He was also a member of the National Honor Society after earning Honor Roll recognition in every semester since the fifth grade. In his essay, he wrote about the value of education in his life. Referencing his mother’s efforts to put herself through college and also his great-grandmother, who became a teacher during the height of the Civil Rights movement, he wrote that he has learned that no matter what path he chooses to follow in the future, education will get him there. He will attend Rhodes College in the fall.

In addition to the high school honorees, two local leaders were recognized for their contributions to the community and the sport of football.

Paul Hoolahan, who will officially retire as chief executive officer of the Sugar Bowl on June 30, was presented with the Contributions to Amateur Football Award, which is given annually to an individual for his or her effort to promote the game, preserve its history and ensure its future. He took over the helm of the Sugar Bowl in 1996 and has directed the bowl’s operations for five national championship games during his tenure in New Orleans. In addition to maintaining the Sugar Bowl’s status as one of the premier bowl games in the nation, Hoolahan has been a driving force in the Bowl’s significant contributions to amateur football. While the Allstate Sugar Bowl is one of the top amateur football events in the nation on an annual basis, the organization also sponsors the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s state football championships each December. In 2012, the Allstate Sugar Bowl was a major partner in the rebuilding of Joe Brown Park in New Orleans East. The multi-million-dollar project resulted in a state-of-the-art stadium, including field, locker rooms and meeting spaces, for youth and high school football. A native of New York, Hoolahan was an all-conference football player at North Carolina before working at his alma mater and Vanderbilt University before taking the helm of the Sugar Bowl organization.

The owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, Gayle Benson was presented with the Distinguished American Award, which is presented each year to an individual who has set the standard for a life of service to the community and has made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football. The New Orleans native is an accomplished business professional and philanthropist with strong ties to the local community and who is dedicated to contributing to the growth and enhancement of the Gulf South region. Mrs. Benson has continued her late husband Tom’s vision to build championship-level NBA and NFL organizations, while making a positive impact in the community away from the basketball court and football field as well, through significant philanthropic investment, annually putting millions of dollars back into the community in financial supports, in-kind donation, charitable appearances and donations of goods and services.

The New Orleans Chapter of the National Football Foundation was established in 1971. The Sugar Bowl took over sponsorship of the chapter in 2000.

2019 National Football Foundation Scholar Athletes (alphabetical by high school):

Dawson Millen (Archbishop Hannan High School)
Academic Achievements: Principal’s Honor Roll and Crimson Honor Roll. Athletic Achievements: Three-year letterman, team captain, all-state, all-parish, all-metro, all-district WR & Returner, District 7-3A offensive MVP, two-year letterman in basketball and track. Extracurricular Activities: Volunteers at the Children’s museum. Name of College Attending: Louisiana State University.

Jacob Renton (Archbishop Rummel High School)
Academic Achievements: Alpha Honor Roll, Athletic Achievements: Two-year letterman, Iron Raider Award winner (recognizing strongest player pound for pound), state semifinalist, four-year letterman and two-year captain in soccer. Extracurricular Activities: Big Brothers, Raider Ambassador, Special Olympics, volunteered at ARK of greater New Orleans. Name of College Attending: Louisiana State University.

Patrick Daly (Benjamin Franklin High School)
Academic Achievements: National Merit Semifinalist, National Hispanic Scholar, National Honor Society, Honor Roll, Presidential Scholar Nominee. Athletic Achievements: Team captain, two-year starter at quarterback, Bob O’Neil Coaches’ Award, also lettered in basketball. Extracurricular Activities: Four years as percussionist in school band, volunteer and camp counselor at LASPCA, Sailing Camp counselor. Name of College Attending: Undecided.

Maxwell Rick (Benjamin Franklin High School)
Academic Achievements: National Honor Society, National Merit Semifinalist, U.S. Presidential Scholar Candidate. Athletic Achievements: Three-year starter on offense, defense and special teams, team captain. Extracurricular Activities: Tulane Research Experiences for Undergraduates – paid research in chemical engineering, Asian Pacific Club, Louisiana Children’s Museum volunteer, tutoring. Name of College Attending: UCLA.

Malik Lucas (Bonnabel High School)
Academic Achievements: National Honor Society, Leadership Committee. Athletic Achievements: Team captain, four-year starter and letterman, all-district, team MVP. Extracurricular Activities: Entourage Service Club, Leadership Team, Theater Club, Peer leader, Climate Club, church volunteer. Name of College Attending: Louisiana College.

Brady Faust (Brother Martin High School)
Academic Achievements: Principal’s Honor Roll; Alpha Honor Roll; Brother Martin Academic Scholarship. Athletic Achievements: Three-year letterman and starter; all-district; all-metro; all-state honorable mention; set school records for receptions in a game and for punt return yards in a game; LHSAA All-State Academic Football Team; Bob Conlin Award Winner. Extracurricular Activities: Volunteer at Ozanam Inn and with the Miracle League. Name of College Attending: Southern Mississippi.

Avery Mendheim (Covington High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Scholars, Honor Roll. Athletic Achievements: Three-year letterman and starter, all-district. Extracurricular Activities: President of the FCA. Name of College Attending: Louisiana State University.

Gabriel France (De La Salle High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll every semester, National Honor Society, Cavalier of the Year Award (De La Salle’s most prestigious award). Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, all-district, also participated in basketball and baseball. Extracurricular Activities: Kehoe France Summer Camp, trumpet in school band, No Place for Hate Club, Student Council, Service Club in part of Rebuilding New Orleans project, Big Brother program. Name of College Attending: Loyola or Holy Cross.

Darrius Harry (East Jefferson High School)
Academic Achievements: Principal Honor Roll (4 Years). Athletic Achievements: Team captain, three-year letterman, all-district. Extracurricular Activities: FCA, Church Missionary, Key Club, Hi-Y, Student Council, Class President. Name of College Attending: Will play football at Southeastern Louisiana.

Christian Bobo (Fontainebleau High School)
Academic Achievements: National Honor Society, Student of the Year Finalist, District Literary Rally, Louisiana 5A Academic All-State Team. Athletic Achievements: Three-year letterman, team captain, all-district, also lettered in track. Extracurricular Activities: Boy Scouts of America (Eagle Scout), National Youth Leadership Training Instructor/Staff Member, Student Council, Future Farmers of America. Name of College Attending: United States Military Academy.

Jalen Womble (Holy Cross High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll every year since 5th grade; National Honor Society. Athletic Achievements: Team captain, Leadership Council, two-year letterman. Extracurricular Activities: FCA; National Society of High School Scholars. Name of College Attending: Rhodes College.

Eli Abramson (Isidore Newman School)
Academic Achievements: Four-year honor roll, Cum Laude, WGNO scholar athlete. Athletic Achievements: Three-year letterman and starter, all-district, co-leader in tackles and interceptions, also played special teams. Name of College Attending: UCLA.

Martin Butcher (Isidore Newman School)
Academic Achievements: List of Merritt, WGNO scholar athlete. Athletic Achievements: Two-year letterman and starter, team captain, all-district, all-metro, all-state, two-time team MVP, set school records with 3,238 passing yards and 51 touchdowns in a season. Extracurricular Activities: Trinity Church volunteer. Name of College Attending: Will play football at Georgetown University.

Michael Schmidt (Jesuit High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll, National Honor Society (Vice President), Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica, WGNO Scholar Athlete of the Week. Athletic Achievements: Three-year letterman in both football and lacrosse, all-district in lacrosse. Extracurricular Activities: Student Council, Campus Ministry, Jesuit Service Corps, Peer Support, Big Brother, Mu Alpha Theta, Urban Farming Club, PLEASE Foundation. Name of College Attending: Undecided.

Ahmad Bradley (John Ehret High School)
Academic Achievements: New Orleans Student of the Week, Alpha Honor Roll, National Honor Society. Athletic Achievements: Three-year starter and letterman, all-district, all-metro, all-state, two-time Outstanding Offensive Lineman. Extracurricular Activities: Volunteer at West Jefferson Medical Center, landscaping community service with church and neighbor group. Name of College Attending: Will play football at the United States Naval Academy.

Cory Chairs (Landry-Walker High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Society. Athletic Achievements: Two-year letterman and starter, all-district, team MVP. Name of School Attending: Will play football at Birmingham Sports Academy.

Kenny-Khai Vo (L.W. Higgins High School)
Academic Achievements: National Honor Society, ranked No. 1 of 238 in the class of 2019. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, New Orleans Saints Scholar-Athlete of the Week. Extracurricular Activities: Key Club, Student Council. Name of College Attending: Louisiana State University.

Jacob Bernard (Lakeshore High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll all four years. Athletic Achievements: Four-year starter and letterman, all-state, all-district, 2017 Football State Championship Most Outstanding Player; also all-district in soccer and baseball. Extracurricular Activities: FCA. Name of College Attending: University of Louisiana Lafayette.

James Louis Lamy (Lusher Charter Day School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll; National Honor Society. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, all-district. Extracurricular Activities: Camp Counselor at Camp St. Stanislaus, Volunteer for the Louisiana SPCA Animal Shelter, Trumpet/Trombone player in school Jazz band. Name of College Attending: Louisiana State University.

Bryce Langford (Lusher Charter School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll; National Honor Society; POSSE Scholar. Athletic Achievements: Two-year letterman, all-district. Extracurricular Activities: Secretary of the Debate Club; Lead Literary critic for the creative space club; event coordinator at Mount Zion Lutheran Church; Volunteer at the 2nd Harvest Food Bank; Entertainment Editor for the school newspaper. Name of College Attending: University of Notre Dame.

Christian Becnel (Metairie Park Country Day School)
Academic Achievements: George Eastman Young Leaders Award, National Honor Society, All Academic Louisiana Football Team, WGNO Scholar Athlete of the Week, Class President, Class President. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, three-year starter, team captain, all-state, all-metro, all-district, All-South Louisiana. Extracurricular Activities: Relay For Life Team Captain, Ocean Healing Group Volunteer, Nola Tree Project. Name of College Attending: Undecided.

Thomas Polinard (Metairie Park Country Day School)
Academic Achievements: Beasley Foundation Scholarship. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, two-year team captain, District Defensive MVP, Metro Defensive MVP, all-state, also lettered in tennis for four years and basketball for three years. Extracurricular Activities: Ozanam Inn for the homeless Outreach Program, Big Brother. Name of College Attending: Texas Christian University.

Austin Thombs (Northshore High School)
Academic Achievements: National Merit Finalist, St. Tammany Parish Student of the Year, National Honor Society, MENSA Member, Straight A Honor Roll. Athletic Achievements: Two-year letterman, all-district, Coaches’ Award, LHSAA All-Academic Football Team, also lettered as a pole vaulter. Extracurricular Activities: FIRST Robotics Team, Quiz Bowl, FCA, Beta Club, NHS Ambassadors, Panther Pals, Student Council Representative, Church Usher. Name of College Attending: Texas A&M University.

Rashawn Gallaspy (Salmen High School)
Academic Achievements: 2018 Honor Roll. Athletic Achievements: Two-year letterman and starter, all-district, team defensive MVP, also all-district in basketball. Extracurricular Activities: Three-year volunteer for Redeemer Church in Jackson, Miss. Name of College Attending: Will play football at the United States Military Academy.

Derrick Roberts (Sophie B. Wright High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor roll, dual-enrollment courses with Southern University of New Orleans. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman and starter, team offensive MVP, all-district. Extracurricular Activities: Football and basketball coach New Orleans Recreation Department. Name of College Attending: Will play football at Arkansas Baptist College.

Jack Mashburn (St. Paul’s High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll every quarter, National Honor Society, Academic All-State. Athletic Achievements: Four-year Letterman, team captain, all-state, all-district, all-metro, two-time district champion, four-time state quarterfinalist, Clarion Harold’s Elite Team. Extracurricular Activities: Habitat for Humanity; Miracle League coach; Heritage Manor Nursing Home volunteer; Special Olympics volunteer. Name of College Attending: LSU.

Michael Philippe (St. Paul’s High School)
Academic Achievements: Gold Honor Roll (All A’s) for every quarter, National Honor Society, District and State Literary Rally. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, team captain, all-district, academic all-state, Clarion Herald All-Catholic School Team, three-year letterman in lacrosse, all-district in lacrosse. Extracurricular Activities: Key Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Habitat for Humanity, church youth group volunteer. Name of College Attending: Louisiana-Lafayette.

William Harper (Thomas Jefferson High School)
Academic Achievements: Breakfast of Champions, National Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, team captain, all-district, West-Bank All-Star Team, Coaches’ Award, also lettered in track and field. Extracurricular Activities: Community Service with National Honor Society. Name of College Attending: Southeastern Louisiana.

Tyruss Gayden (West Jefferson High School)
Academic Achievements: Honor Roll Student. Athletic Achievements: Four-year letterman, three-year starter, team captain, all-district, all-state honorable mention, also lettered in track and field. Extracurricular Activities: Volunteer at local elementary schools. Name of College Attending: Will play football at Southern University.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 50 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 85-year history. The 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2020. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade.

-www.AllstateSugarBowl.org-