Watkins Award

Honoring Academic Excellence


The National Alliance of African American Athletes

About Us

The National Alliance of African American Athletes was at an organizational crossroads. He was stunned by the sudden death of co-founder Franklin D. Watkins. The group was committed to continuing the work Watkins had begun to mold and equally committed never to forget the many contributions he had already made. It was decided that Watkins memory would be perpetuated by the National Alliance of African American Athletes by honoring a student with a trophy bearing his name annually

As unavoidable role models on the “image” front lines, talented athletes-especially in football, basketball, and baseball-define what the emerging generations of African-American males will value and the aspirations they will have. The Watkins Trophy Award is a means for recognizing exceptionally talented African-American male athletes who, by their example, help promote high academic standards and a commitment to community service.

Since 1992, the top high school seniors have been honored with the title “Premiere African-American Male Scholar-Athlete.” Three of these have received athletic scholarships from Stanford University (Michael Craven and Marcus McCutcheon). Three of these received athletic scholarships to play for Penn State (Deryck Toles, Ahmad Collins, and Shawn Lee). Three more accepted athletic scholarships at Notre Dame (Raki Nelson and Grant Irons) and Pittsburgh's University (Darnell Dinkins). The first scholar-athlete to receive the Jostens trophy, Ronald Curry, selected the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The ninth annual Watkins Award recipient, Marcus Houston, attended the Colorado State. Our finalists are also doing exceptionally well attending world-class institutions such as Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State, and Stanford, to name a few.

Because they were concerned with helping students recognize the value of education and increasing the awareness and involvement of parents and businesses throughout the community, Jostens Inc., through its Renaissance program, has produced an elegant Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy for the winner and plaques for the runners up. As a tribute to African-American high school seniors for their outstanding achievements in athletics, scholarship, and community service, the Watkins Trophy Award is forcefully demonstrating that academic excellence and community service are valued and rewarded.

Available data consistently show that while African-American females are making gains in education, African-American males in the 18 to 26 age bracket are far more likely to be involved at some level with the criminal justice system rather than higher education. In July 2000, the National Urban League reported, for example, that while African-American female PhDs increased by 111%, African-American male Ph.D.’s decreased by 2%. These consistent trends are reasons enough to focus on African-American males' development while still in a high school setting. While there have been all-out efforts to recruit collegiate sports stars, there has been little focus on developing opportunities at the high school level to seriously motivate African-American males to pursue higher education. The Watkins Trophy Awards program recognizes the expressed value of education in the pursuit of athletic goals and encourages young men to pursue this balance of success.

By the time a high school senior is a finalist for the Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy Award, he will have received numerous awards, dominated the attention of high school recruiting magazines, and appeared regularly in the media. What then does the Watkins Trophy Award bring to a young man’s life?

Excerpts from a letter by Shane Battier, a 1996 finalist, illustrates what is expected of Watkins Trophy Award recipients:

Throughout my adolescence, I have not been the “average teenager.” My stature and character have always set me apart. Some call me an inspiration, a leader, and a pillar in the community. Being a 6’8″, intelligent, articulate black man, I know I defy many stereotypes that modern society places upon me. I know I am different. I do not run nor duck my uniqueness, but rather embrace it and take advantage of it to become a leader in our society. I show society that one can be successful at all vantage points in life without compromising one’s integrity and morals. I show the world that old-fashioned hard work still pays off even in a very technologically advanced society. My success transcends economic, racial, and social boundaries to provide a standard for people of all races, religions, and creeds…I take my position as a leader very seriously. I believe that along with my success on the basketball court comes the responsibility of being a role model and teacher for not just today’s youth but society as a whole. It is a responsibility that does not end with the end of my basketball career, but I will continue to uphold it throughout my life—excerpts from a letter by Shane Battier, a 1996 finalist.

Franklin D. Watkins

Mr. Franklin D. Watkins was born on January 8, 1945, in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the son of the late Deacon and Mrs. Leroy (Beatrice Harris) Watkins. On Saturday, August 24, 1991, he departed this earthly life in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

At an early age, he joined the Ridgewood Baptist Church and later became affiliated with Harris A.M.E. Zion Church in Harrisburg, PA.

He was a graduate of C. A. Johnson High School, and he later attended Allen University of Columbia, South Carolina. He received his Associate Degree from Harrisburg Community College in Pennsylvania.

The United States Navy employed him in the Ship Parts Control Center in Mechanicsburg, PA, for nineteen years. He was a Master Sergeant in the United States Army Reserve. Mr. Watkins was honored with many awards and citations from his employment and the United States Army Reserve.

“Frank,” as he was affectionately called, was very active in the community and civic affairs, particularly those that involved young people. He was a little league basketball coach for many years. At the time of his death, he was a coach with YMCA Youth Basketball League in Harrisburg, PA.

Mr. Franklin D. Watkins leaves precious memories in the hearts of many, his loving wife, Mrs. Thomasina Alston Watkins of Harrisburg, PA; three sons, Mr. Dearaney S. Watkins of Harrisburg, PA, Mr. Cedrick Watkins of Philadelphia, PA, and Mr. Paul Dreher of San Francisco, CA; one granddaughter; Ms. Kianna Watkins of Harrisburg, PA and one grandson Mr. Jamir Dreher of San Francisco, CA; three sisters, the late Mrs. Barbara W. Samuels, Ms. Beverly Watkins of Columbia, SC, and the late Elizabeth Tucker of Columbia, SC. Messrs. the late Leroy Watkins Jr., Charles E., Romeo, and Willie L. Watkins, all of Columbia, SC; father and mother-in-law, Mr. And Mrs. Isiah Alston of North Charleston, SC; aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law; nieces, nephews, and a host of other relatives and friends, all of whom will miss him dearly.

"We are thankful for the things you are; And for the things you’ve done. To make one world a better place; Our lives happier. We are hoping you will understand; We are very proud and glad; To have someone as wonderful as; You to call our DAD" - Cedrick Watkins and Dearaney Watkins.

Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy

The Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy Award was initiated in 1992 to promote academic excellence among young African-American males. Since 1992, high school seniors have been honored with the title “Premiere African-American Male Scholar-Athlete.” The real significance of the Watkins Trophy Award can be captured in one word- “EXPECTATION.” Watkins Trophy Award finalists are expected to be leaders in efforts to empower and improve disadvantaged communities. It brings young men to face to face with the reality that they have an opportunity and an obligation to do more for their communities through sports. What they do and say will transcend sports and have a significant impact on society.

The Watkins Award has become the preeminent award bestowed on the top High School Scholar-Athlete in the Nation. The finalists are chosen based on their:

  • Unweighted grade point average

  • Their statements

  • Extra-curricular activities

  • Community service

  • Letters of recommendation