OREM — One morning senior quarterback Christian Covey and his teammates showed up for what they thought was just another session of lifting weights and watching game film.
Instead, he said, Timpview head coach Louis Wong told the players they'd be pulling weeds as a service project. Covey said the boys found the task difficult at first, but it also changed the nature of their relationship.
"We came out of it with a stronger bond than if we would have just lifted and watched film," said Covey, who spoke on behalf of the 12 senior scholar-leader-athletes who were honored Tuesday night by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Utah Chapter, Tuesday night at UVU. The young men were chosen from 6,000 high school football players in Utah. "This experience is a great example of gaining from giving."
He encouraged all in attendance to continue to improve and understand the influence they can have as successful athletes.
"Building character is far more important than scoring touchdowns and winning games," he said. "One person can make a monumental impact on another person's life."
In the end, Covey said he hoped that he and his fellow honorees would continue to find inspiration in those around them, but also someday become the ones to inspire and "have a vision for someone else."
The high school football players honored were:
Marcus Case, running back, Springville, 3.9997 GPA. He also is a member of the National Honor Society, made t-shirts to sell in honor of his friend and teammate, Brandon Curtis, who was killed in a car accident. He is also a three-year starter on the baseball team.
Christian Covey, Timpview, quarterback. He maintains a 4.0 GPA, earned Academic All-State honors, is a National Society member, Acapella choir member, Hope Squad participant and Eagle Scout.
Cody Groll, Rich, running back/cornerback. He maintains a 3.97 GPA and will graduate with his associate degree. He is also the National Honor Society president and an Academic All-Stater. He is also an Eagle Scout, volunteer for Down Under sports for baskeball, representing the U.S., youth leader in 4-H and volunteer on road clean-up crew.
Matthew Grover, Cedar, running back/linebacker. He maintains a 3.99 GPA and scored a 30 on his ACT. He is an Academic All-State winner, ranks fifth in his class of 247, is a primary Teacher, volunteer math tutor, lettered in wrestling three years and two years in track. He also volunteered at the Utah Summer Games Special Olympics and is the president of his seminary class..
Austin Heder, Pleasant Grove, linebacker. He maintains a 3.99 GPA, is a National Honor Society member, State Finalist-Utah Science Fair, Pleasant Grove Youth mayor, is a key club member, an Eagle Scout and a Stake Youth Committee Leader. He's also a member of the Steel Drum Ensemble.
Clayton Higginson, South Sevier, offensive line/linebacker. He maintains a 3.99 GPA and scored a 34 on his ACT. He is a member of the National Honor Society and will attend the Air Force Academy in the fall. He took second in the Snow College math contest in 2010 and qualified for Nation FBLA competition in business math. He is also an Eagle Scout, a member of the South Sevier Youth Court and a mentor for 4-H.
Brock Johnson, Northridge, running back/safety. He maintains a 3.99 GPA, Academic All-Region, 2008 Kiwanis Freedom Leadership Award. He also earned varsity letters in basketball and track and organized and participated in "Knights Tackle Hunger" for the Family Connection Center in Layton.
Alex Kuresa, Mountain Crest, quarterback. He maintains a 3.48 GPA and is a volunteer coach for Mtn. Crest Youth Football and basketball programs. He is the president of his Young Men's group and is a student body officer. He is also a captain on the basketball team and volunteers to read to elementary school children.
Stetler Shumway, San Juan, running back/linebacker. He maintains a 3.93 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. He will graduate with his associate's degree and was a first team honoree in baseball, as well as football. He is a member of Mentoring Club for kids who live in broken homes. He plays games with the young people once a week and takes them to lunch or to hang out as a reward for their good behavior.
Sam Williams, Olympus, defensive back/wide receiver. He maintains a 4.0 GPA and scored a 32 on his ACT. He is a member of the National Honor Society and is ranked No. 1 in his class of 443 students. He is an Eagle Scout, a volunteer for Special Olympics and a volunteer who put together 80 hygiene kids for Haiti, as well as organizing a donation drive for the Road Home.
Nik Wolford, Alta, middle linebacker. He maintains a 3.95 GPA and has been on the honor roll every term since seventh grade. He is a teacher's aide, helps special needs students, volunteers with the Association for Retarded Citizens Annual Hot Rod and Classic Car show, volunteer with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation annual walk and car show.
Devin Wright, Monticello, quarterback/running back/safety. He maintains a 4..0 GPA, is the National Honor Society President and UHSAA Academic All-State winner. He is also the student body president, Future Business Leaders of America president, Forensics Club member, FFA secretary, Eagle Scout and the band treasurer.
Perry Christensen, who coached for 35 years at Logan and Sky View High Schools, was honored with an Outstanding Service to High School Football Award. Steve Lindsay, an official who has worked every level of play from Little League to the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, was also honored with an Outstanding Service to High School Football Award.
Mike Price, the head football coach at UTEP, was honored with the Contribution to Amateur Football Award.
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman, was honored with the Distinguished American Award. The former Highland High standout earned a scholarship to the University of Oregon, where he played defensive tackle from 2002-2005. In 2004 and 2005, he was a consensus All-American and still holds the school record for blocking seven kicks during his three years.
He was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens and started all 16 games his rookie season. Ngata returns to Utah often to volunteer and work with young Polynesian student-athletes during summer football clinics. He also contributes financially to the defensive line's efforts to adopt several families in the Baltimore area for Christmas each year. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Christina Adams, and they have an 18-month-old son, Solomone.
He warned the students-athletes not to take anything for granted - including their talent.
"I have worked hard for everything I have been given," Ngata said. "There is no substitute for hard work."
He encouraged the young men to strive to be the best at everything they undertake from football to family life.
"If you settle for good, you'll never be the best at anything in life," he said.
The group also honored 23 junior scholar-leader-athletes at the beginning of the banquet. Those honored were: Austin Tate, Northridge; Brady Aste, Manti; Bryson Nickle, Timpanogos; Chase Hansen, Lone Peak; Dalton Judd, Payson; DJ Nelson, Logan; Hunter Dimick, Syracuse; Jared Hutlet, Enterprise; Justus Clark, Richfield; Kaleb Egbert, Orem; Michael Hickenlooper, Kearns; Morgan Unga, Bonneville; Nathaniel Hansen, Canyon View; Nicholas, Castillo, Woods Cross; Nick Vigil, Fremont; Peter Malaga, Kearns; Rylan Anderson, Gunnison; Sione Houma, Highland; Skyler Porcaro, Spanish Fork; Taylor Pili, Granger; Taylor Wilding, Box Elder; Tisi Tuifua, Bingham, Troy Hinds, Davis.