If those 56 seniors continue to meet the first qualification to win the Jimmy Hitchcock Memorial Award — strong personal character — they’ll always rise above the pack.
“Talent may get you in the door, but it doesn’t produce any longevity,” said the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Jonathan Evans, a chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, before Thursday’s 54th award ceremony at Frazer United Methodist Church. “It’s character that produces longevity.”
These seniors have showed leadership, stayed true to their faith, worked hard, are smart, bright and can play a little ball, too. As a result, someone else felt they were worthy of being nominated for the award.
That in itself is as achievement.
As important as this moment is for them, their family, friends and supporters, it shouldn’t be the crowning moment of their life. There is so much more that is out there for them to achieve.
They’re going to be in a position to make a difference in our society. They can be strong for the weak, the logic for the irrational and the stability for the erratic.
Staying true to the first requirement to receive this award will help them stay on a path of purpose.
“Character is the main thing,” Evans said. “If you’re going on to the next level, people want to know what kind person are you. Are you the same person behind closed doors that you are when everybody is watching? These kids just need to continue doing what they’re doing. They’re obviously here because of their character. People look at character and think it’s very important.”
Having played in the NFL and now working for the Cowboys, Evans, 31, has seen how the bling, cheddar and attention can make athletes lose sight in what’s most important.
“The main thing is to understand the life maker knows more about life than you do,” Evans said. “If you live your life thinking you know more than the person who manufactured your life, you’re going to have some problems with the way things work.”
I’ve never heard someone refer to God as the “manufacturer” of life, but Evans provided a compelling parallel that makes sense and one the nominees should take seriously.
“When the manufacturer makes a product, it comes with a manual because the manufacturer wants you to know how to use the product correctly,” he said. “The Bible is no different than that illustration.”
Evans preaches to the Cowboys about staying true to God’s word because by not doing so, they can be influenced by others who lack direction and go astray.
Then again, he knows those outside vices and temptations have “power” too.
So his job is far from being easy.
“You talk about how a guy who comes into the NFL, he’s 21, 22 years old and he signs a $22 million contract,” Evans said. “Normally, that’s a license to lose your mind. We definitely have to address that, but they also realize to whom what’s given is expected and they’re under a microscope. It’s hard for them to just go out in public without being harassed and all those different type of things.”
It may seem outrageous to even compare the life of pro athletes to those seniors, but consider this:
In their community, those young men and women are standouts and recognized as the best of the best, but not everyone is singing their praises.
They’ve got some haters out there.
When you step out on faith, some people try to bring you down. When you fall, they’re snickering in the background saying, ‘I told you he wasn’t about anything’ or ‘she ain’t better than nobody.’
Plus these kids are entering a world that’s not only ever changing, but more challenging and ultra competitive. So it’s even harder to stay on the right path.
Ultimately, having faith and belief is what gets you through, but for 17- and 18-year-olds, even the ones recognized Thursday, it’s not easy to stay true to those principals.
However, if those 56 seniors maintain strong personal character, they’ll not only continue to separate themselves from the pack, but rediscover the faith necessary to overcome the obstacles awaiting them.