Nine of northern Louisiana’s top high school football stars, who completed their prep careers last fall, will be recognized and awarded scholarships at the National Football Foundation’s annual SM McNaughton Chapter Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner next Thursday night in Shreveport.
The elite group, nominated by their head coaches, consists of North DeSoto’s Hunter Addison, Green Oaks’ Fred Benjamin, Red River’s Elijah Harper, CE Byrd’s Christian Jones, West Monroe’s Blake Loring and St. Mary’s in Natchitoches’ Adam Parker, Kam Robinson of Captain Shreve, Logansport’s Hayden Rolfe, Northwood’s Mason Welch and Haughton’s Peyton Polk.
A special presentation will be dedicated to NFF North Louisiana Chapter President and founding board member Leo Sanford, who has served on the NFF board since its inception in 1980. Sanford, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions and Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, was a star center and linebacker at Shreveport’s Fair Park High School and Louisiana Tech before joining the Chicago Cardinals became a Pro Bowl player in the NFL and won the 1958 NFL championship alongside Johnny Unitas with the Baltimore Colts.
Also recognized for Chapter Coach of the Year is Jess Curtis, who has guided Many High School to back-to-back state championships, including an unbeaten season last fall. He’s the new coach at Natchitoches Central.
Two more traditional special prizes are awarded, as they have been held annually since 1981. Longtime Byrd coach Mike Suggs will receive the chapter’s award for his contribution to amateur football. The distinguished list of past recipients includes Eddie Robinson, Lee Hedges, Bert Jones, Joe Ferguson, Alton “Red” Franklin, Stan Humphries, Doug Williams, Jimmy “Chick” Childress, Alan Carter, Rodney Guin, Broderick Fobbs, Joe Raymond Peace and Sam Goodwin.
Mike McConathy, who served as a basketball coach for Northwestern State for 23 seasons in a 41-year coaching career, receives the chapter’s Distinguished American Award for his far-reaching influence on high school and collegiate athletics and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Past winners include Sanford, Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, Denny Duron, Orvis Sigler, Bo Campbell, Carl Miklovich, Tim Brando, James Davison, Terry Slack, Billy Montgomery, Dr. George Bakowski, John Manno Jr., Ivan Smith Jr. and George Sirven, along with McConathy’s father Johnny McConathy and local NFF chapter namesake Milton McNaughton.
One of the nine student-athletes will be recognized as a McNaughton Chapter nominee for the National Football Foundation’s nationwide honor for Academic Athlete of the Year and will be in the spotlight at Atlanta’s College Football Hall of Fame for the year 2023-24.
Another student-athlete is recognized as KTBS/Johnny’s Pizza House Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Five — Addison, Harper, Parker, Polk and Welch — are eligible after being selected for last fall’s NFF Scholar-Athlete Watch List.
The above story is part of a press release from the NFF North Louisiana Chapter