Justin Allen Earns National Honor

June 4, 2004

The National Consortium for Academics and Sports has announced that Arizona State's Justin Allen is a recipient of a 2004 Giant Steps Award in honor of National STUDENT-Athlete Day. The 2004 honorees include Civic Leaders Priest Holmes (Kansas City Chiefs) and Dionte Hall (Largo High School, St. Petersburg, FL); Courageous Student-Athletes Justin Allen (Arizona State University) and Samantha Eyman (Saint Xavier University) and Coach Beverly Kearney of the University of Texas.

Allen was named to the 2003-2004 Pac-10 Men's Basketball All-Academic squad. He earned second-team honors, as he graduated in May of 2003 with a degree in Justice Studies and a 3.46 grade point average. Allen earned first-team honors in 2002-2003, along with Shawn Redhage, and earned honorable mention honors in 2001-2002.

A native of Malta, Ill., Allen played in 95 games in his four-year career and also won the 2003 Jimmy V Comeback Player of the Year and was a recipient of a Gene Autry Courage Award in 2002 after learning he had cancer in 2000.

Beverly Kearney has been head coach of the University of Texas women's track program for 12 years. She has led the Longhorns to four NCAA National Championships and 16 league titles during her tenure. Last year, the Longhorns won the Big 12 indoor and outdoor team titles and placed fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships before claiming runner-up honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. These accomplishments are much more amazing considering the personal struggles that Coach Kearney has endured since December 2002. Kearney was involved in a car crash that took the lives of two of the five passengers in the vehicle in which she was riding. Coach Kearney suffered serious spinal cord and back injuries which left her paralyzed. Kearney's personal triumphs over the injuries - which forced her to coach from her hospital bed and then from a wheelchair throughout the season - by undergoing intensive daily rehabilitation, make UT's successes in 2002-03 quite remarkable. Kearney's journey has been chronicled by USA Today, ESPN, HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and CBS. Kearney has received numerous awards for her success as a runner as well as a coach. In 1996, she became the first woman and first African-American to become President of the Men's and Women's Track and Field Coaches' Association.

Samantha Eyman's quick foot speed, great throwing arm, and fierce competitiveness make her a standout outfielder for the St. Xavier University's softball team. Her skill level alone is enough to get her noticed on the field, yet her lack of a left hand makes her abilities even more notable. Eyman was born without a left hand, and remarkably would not wish it any other way. She looks at not having a left hand as a gift and believes with two hands she would not have accomplished the things she has with one, since it has pushed her to work that much harder. In doing so, Eyman has pushed others like her to achieve great things as well. Eyman volunteers her expertise each summer at Saint Xavier's softball clinics and offers valuable advice on working hard and never giving up. Eyman leads with both inspiring words and actions, and has motivated numerous athletes to achieve their goals.

Priest Holmes spends Sunday afternoons running down the field, but on his day off you can find him helping out young athletes in the community. Holmes is from San Antonio and although he has hit the big time playing in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, it has not gone to his head. Instead he has chosen to give back to other young football players from the inner city. Especially those involved in the Interscholastic League; the ones that are often forgotten about around Kansas City. They are benefiting from Holmes' generosity and passion, not to mention, his desire to give back to black kids. Holmes donated enough money to provide dental protection - top of the line mouth guards - for all of the League's athletes competing in contact sports. That means that players in such contact sports as football and wresting and even basketball from Central, Lincoln, Northeast, Paseo, Southeast and Van Horn, are receiving the best mouthpiece available to protect them from serious injury. Injuries to the head, and specifically near the mouth, can cause serious damage. However, special custom made mouthpieces are recommended by dentists and can help alleviate the troubles that concussions may bring. This donation was made from Priest's heart. As a kid who didn't have much, he understands the small things are always appreciated.

As Dionte Hall, a 14 year old J.V. basketball player from Largo High School, sat in a local fast food restaurant one evening with friends, he became the target of a racially motivated prank. One that, if Hall has his say, might change the way all hate crimes are prosecuted in the future. A 19 year old slipped a noose over Hall's head and directed a racial slur at him. Hall chose to remain calm and returned to school. The 19 year old was later arrested for committing a hate crime, but Hall isn't interested in suing as he knows money won't fix the problem. Hall and his family want aggressive prosecution for individuals who commit hate crimes and additional legislation that might hold parents responsible for instilling beliefs in children that might result in violence against others because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Hall has been pro-active in trying to change the laws. He has written to President Bush and he and his parents have held news conferences on the issue urging people to support a new law. Though Hall has refused to be an innocent bystander, his life was changed forever. Hall's courage is way beyond his years, but hopes to instill inspiration and action in others for years to come.

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