Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Updated: January 21, 9:27 AM ET
Size and struggle are themes of Rudy Award semifinalsits
By Mike Loveday
Most sports fans have seen the movie "Rudy". The image of former Notre Dame football player, Daniel Rudy Ruettiger, has become part of American life and a larger part of football players lives.
But Rudy's contribution had very little to do with his athletic prowess, but rather how he carried himself off the field.
Rudy Awards Semifinalists
The Rudy Awards winner and two runners-up will be announced Feb. 3. Leading up to that day, ESPN RISE will profile all 30 semifinalists:
- Steven Barber, Littleton (Colo.)
- Jonathan Blevins, S. Pittsburg (Tenn.)
- Daniel Bouwman, Grantsville (Utah)
- Anthony Braham, Niagara Falls (N.Y.)
- Cody Dean, Post (Texas)
- Jon Dierkes, Breese (Ill.)
- Dakota Dir, Kingsland (Ga.)
- Justin Ray Duke, Shepherd (Texas)
- Dalton Dyer, Auburn (Calif.)
- Kei Harris, Avondale (Ariz.)
- Jeremy Hester, Panama City Beach (Fla.)
- Chris Kania, East Brunswick (N.J.)
- Bobby Keeney, Tuckerton (N.J.)
- Evan Lawson, Minot, (N.D.)
- Kurt LeBlanc, Bourg (La.)
- Calob Leindecker, Baton Rouge (La.)
- Kye Leystra, Cambria, (Wis.)
- Bill Marnich, Monongahela (Pa.)
- Kyle Merrill, Los Angeles (Calif.)
- Naji Moore-Taylor, Lynnwood (Wash.)
- Kyle Muka, Northfield, (Mass.)
- Jesse Ortiz, Peoria (Ariz.)
- Anthony Pagano, Deep River (Conn.)
- William Peters-Vili, Omaha (Neb.)
- Cody Roberts, Tekonsha (Mich.)
- Jonathan Shaw, Thorndike (Maine)
- Tory Squires, Chicago (Ill.)
- Matthew Subish, Temecula (Calif.)
- Lukas Utz, Cheney (Kan.)
- Kyle Weafer, Overland Park (Kan.)
- * Rudy Awards Voting Page
- * Rudy Awards Home Page
It is in that spirit that Trusted Sports has created the Rudy Awards to honor "inspirational football players who best define what Rudy refers to as the "The Four C's": Character, Courage, Contribution and Commitment."
The process began with more than 390 submissions from 48 states and is now down to 30 semifinalists with the winner and two runners-up being announced on Feb. 3.
The winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship and will receive the High School Football Rudy Award, which will be presented by Rudy Ruettiger.
The two Runners-up will receive a $5,000 academic scholarship and Runners-up Award and each of the thirty Semifinalists will receive a 'Rudy 45' football jersey.
Tory Squires, Gordon Tech (Chicago, Ill.)
Why he is a candidate: Squires spent most of his childhood in a state of flux. His mother was addicted to drugs and Chicago's South Side is not the easiest environment to grow up. Squires spent his time in and out of several shelters in three different states before landing at Mercy Home in Chicago at 13. Since his arrival, Squires has flourished - improving his grades and becoming one of the stars on the football team. During the football season the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Squires woke up at 5:30 a.m. every day to take the 60-minute train ride to school and would not get back to Mercy until 8:30 p.m. Once back he spent time studying then doing chores before crawling in to bed. Squires has overcome his past and holds scholarship offers from several football programs.
Vote for Tory here
Kyle Muka, Pioneer Valley Regional (Northfield, Mass.)
Why he is a candidate: Part of the appeal of the movie "Rudy" is that he overcame his size and athletic ability to be part of a legendary program. Muka is the high school version. At 5-foot-1, 110-pounds, Muka looks nothing like a football player, but his determination has earned him a starting spot on special teams and play as a linebacker and even offensive lineman.
"The more I looked at it [the TrustedSports website and the Rudy Awards] and I said, wow, that's Kyle," Muka's high school coach Mike Duprey said. "He inspires his teammates. The way he walks through the halls and how he carries himself through the hall -- he's the perfect kid."
Muka has wanted to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis (Md.) since he was in sixth grade and according to Duprey, "already acts like an officer."
Vote for Kyle here
Kei Harris, La Joya Community (Avondale, Ariz.)
Why he is a candidate: The first line in a letter written by Kei Harris' senior year football coach, Jamie Harris, nomination page explains it best, "Statistically, Kei Harris should be either on his way to prison or dead." Kei grew up in an abusive household with his mother and stepfather. He and his siblings were taken into foster care when Harris was around 10-years old. Instead of being dead or in prison, Harris has turned himself into a role model for his younger siblings and is one of the most like students at LaJoya. Harris credits his stepmother for keeping him and his siblings safe and according to Jamie Harris, when the foster care center told Kei that he could move into his own home, paid for by the state since he was 18, he said no. "He said he wanted to stay with his foster mother and his siblings for as long as he could," Jamie said.
Vote for Kei here