The 2013 Deacon Club stewardship brunch was an event that put many things in perspective for me. We were treated with testimonials that illustrated how scholarships provided to deserving student-athletes are not only serving to educate young minds, develop leaders of tomorrow, train world-class athletes and win championships, but most importantly, save lives.
“Wake Forest saved my life,” said Alphonso Smith, former Wake Forest All-American and NFL free agent, at the event. A scholarship provided Alphonso with a chance to achieve something greater, away from the rough environment dominated by gang activity and drugs that he grew up in near Pahokee, Florida.
It also provided him with a chance to take advantage of all the resources Wake Forest had to offer, including coaches, professors, academic counselors and many others who were dedicated to helping him succeed. Alphonso transformed his attitude during his years at Wake Forest from a “me against the world” mentality as a freshman, gaining a maturity that has allowed him to become the good father, husband, neighbor and friend that he is today.
The words that sparked this change in him came from his coach, Dean Hood, now head coach at Eastern Kentucky, who told his players “that he would judge himself not by his players’ performance on the field, whether they won every game or went to the NFL, but by who they become as people”. If his players turned out to be a good friend, a selfless neighbor, a caring father and a compassionate husband then Coach Hood would have succeeded.
Alphonso went on to All-American honors, an ACC Championship and an NFL career, but judging by his testimonial at the stewardship brunch he has made Coach Hood proud by the champion that he has become as a person as well.
Antonio Ford, who also spoke at the Stewardship Brunch, hails from Belle Glade, Florida – a neighboring town to Alphonso’s Pahokee. With no father figure in his life, Antonio’s cousins served as role models for him growing up. His cousins were involved with drugs and were in and out of jail, however, and his life could have turned out much differently if his mother had not insisted that he try out for football to occupy his time and put him on a better path.
Antonio embraced football and found new role models to look up to, and says that his life was also saved by his Wake Forest scholarship. His story of adapting to the culture shock of Wake Forest – making friends, adjusting to the rigors of playing Division-I football and going to school at a top 25 university – was inspiring. It was a challenge that he embraced and as a sophomore is learning more in the classroom that he could have ever imagined. He has aspirations of a career in business and will enroll in the business summer management program in 2013.
Antonio is currently overcoming a severe injury suffered during the Maryland game last fall where he broke bones in both of his legs. After multiple surgeries and daily physical therapy, Antonio has an even greater appreciation for the state-of-the-art sports medicine department at Wake Forest. He also has a great appreciation for the kind of compassion that sets the Wake Forest family apart. During his recovery, “Mrs. Big Daddy,” Coach Bill Faircloth’s wife, provided motherly care by nursing Antonio back to health and assisting him in getting him to class while in a cast that severely limited his movement.
In speaking at the stewardship brunch this February, Antonio overcame a very shy nature to deliver his testimonial in front of over 250 student-athletes and donors. He captivated the audience and endeared himself to all those attending. In reflecting on the event, it stuck me that this experience was part of Antonio’s growth, not in the physical sense, but off the field and in the classroom. He is truly a Developing Champion.
Finally, during the final moments of the brunch, Wilma Pettyjohn provided a stirring account of how her donation in providing a scholarship has given her more than she could have imagined and touched her in ways she never anticipated. She challenged everyone in the room to “do a little more.” Scholarships are forever and certainly an extremely important part of our work at Wake Forest. Consider following Wilma’s lead and help us save lives through an athletic scholarship. You may just find that, like Wilma, your life will be forever changed in the process.
For a full video recap of the February 16 Stewardship Brunch, please click here.
To view photos from the event, please click here and enter password: WFU.