The Valley of the Sun Chapter of the National Football Foundation will honor 39 high school and college football scholar athletes March 1 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Scottsdale.
Headlining the event are Gannon Conway, All-Pac 12 defensive end honorable mention, who helped anchor the Arizona State front seven that was among the best in the nation in several categories, and Drew Emanuel (Northern Arizona University) a semifinalist for the William v. Campbell Trophy which recognizes the best scholar athlete in the nation in college football.
Conway, an honor student who received All-State honors out of Higley High School in 2008, will serve as an inspiration to several of the high school scholar athletes being honored that may not have received the college recruiting interests they deserved. Gannon was in consideration for the 2013 Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding collegiate football player who began his college career as a walk-on.
Having received no Division I scholarship offers, Conway opted to play for Mesa Community College and helped lead them to the Valley of the Sun Bowl Championship, in 2008. Then, after a two-year LDS mission in the Dominican Republic, he walked-on at ASU, eventually earning a full-ride scholarship, and became an integral part of new Coach Todd Graham’s stalwart defensive scheme that resulted in the Sun Devil’s 10-3 record – and a post-season Holiday Bowl appearance. In ceremonies preceding the San Diego Bowl game, Conway was awarded the Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp Trophy, given to an individual who demonstrates unselfish commitment, motivation and teamwork. Gannon, now at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, hopes to get a good look at an opportunity to play in the NFL.
Drew Emanuel (Highland graduate), received All-Big Sky playing accolades as a junior, while playing tight end for Northern Arizona University. On Feb. 18, Emanuel was recognized nationally as the NFF Scholar Athlete of the Day.
The Chapter’s Scholar Athlete of the Year is quarterback Zach Werlinger, of Chandler Basha. Zach posted a near perfect 3.98 GPA, with an honors-weighted 4.548 GPA, and was a DI 1st Team All State QB. And yet again, another stellar scholar athlete with great physical attributes – at 6’2” and 190 pounds – seemed to go unnoticed by the Division I schools. But, this baffling lack of attention abruptly ended when Werlinger quarterbacked the Arizona All Stars to a third consecutive Canyon-Coast Classic win over the Southern California high school All stars, in January. Soon the Sun Devils, Wildcats, and other big-schools came courting, and Werlinger will be attending the University of Arizona as a “preferred walk-on” this fall.
The Valley of the Sun Chapter’s scholarship commitment this year totals $ 39,500, and this inspiring event which recognizes the best football scholar athletes from among the 250,000 students from the 184 high schools in the Chapter’s region, is open to the public.