Walker: Life’s tough lessons haven’t deterred Sugar Bowl scholarship winners _lowres

Sugar Bowl scholarship winners: Left to right : Isaiah Carter (Covington) , William Kenyon (St. Paul's ), Miguel Black (Northlake Christian), Matt Adams (Fisher), Montana Giordano (Holy Cross)

The five scholarships awarded Tuesday were worth a total of $50,000.

The life lessons the five football players wrote about in essays to earn those five $10,000 scholarships were worth much more.

They all seemed to have a common theme: No excuses.

Take Matt Adams for example.

Adams, a lineman at Fisher, sat on the stage Tuesday alongside the other 32 local athletes being recognized at the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Football Foundation Scholarship luncheon inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

He turned his head as far to his left as he could to read the lips of Sugar Bowl President T. Carey Wicker as he announced the winners.

Adams, you see, was born deaf. He wears hearing aids in both ears.

But he didn’t let that stop him from succeeding on the football field and in the classroom.

He was a three-year starter on the football team and also won back-to-back wrestling titles. He won his second title just a few months after blowing out his knee.

His inspiration is his 19-year old brother, Christopher Schexnayder, who, like Matt, was also born deaf. But Christopher also has Down Syndrome.

“I used to look at myself and think ‘I’m deaf, how am I going to do stuff,’ ” Adams said. “I used to make excuses. But then I look at my brother and his life is so much harder than mine and I realize that my life isn’t that bad. I have parents that blessed me to have two good hearing aids. I’ve got a lot going for me.”

Adams admits it wasn’t always easy, especially growing up and getting teased by his peers.

“I had to get over it and make a joke of it myself or it would have haunted me forever,” he said. “Getting over people making fun of me was a big thing. Sports was huge for me. My father coached me when I was younger and he wouldn’t treat me any different and that made me feel like I was just like the other kids. I didn’t want to be different from the other kids. I wanted to be just like the other kids, so I just had to work a little extra harder.”

West plans to attend LSU and may walk on to the football team.

Isaiah Carter, a linebacker at Covington, is also motivated by his 19-year-old brother, Elijah Carter, who was born with health issues as well.

“A lot of people think he’s my younger brother because they always see me helping take care of him,” said Carter, who plans to attend Southern Miss. “But without him, I wouldn’t be where I am. He’s so strong. He teaches me that it doesn’t matter how athletic you are. As long as you have heart and drive, you can become whatever you want.”

For Northlake Christian running back Miguel Black, the lesson came from his mother, Gelon Lazard, a single mother of four.

“People say a woman can’t raise a man by herself, but I beg to differ,” Black said. “I give my mom. She’s the reason I am the person I am.”

Black will play football at Mississippi College in the fall.

St. Paul’s tight end William Kenyon will attend Louisiana-Lafayette.

His parents divorced when he was 4 years old.

“So football was always my way out,” said Kenyon, who has a 4.0 GPA. “Football is what I did when I wanted to get my mind off things.”

In his essay, Kenyon wrote about a saying he learned from his football coach, Ken Sears.

“The player with the most heart becomes the best player both on the field and in life.”

For Holy Cross center Montana Giordano, the lesson came early in life.

It was one he learned from his mom, who told him the story of a set of twins: one became a prisoner, the other a CEO.

One day, the twins were asked how they became what they became.

“Because my mother died when I was 11,” the prisoner answered.

“Because my mother died when I was 11, the CEO also answered.

That lesson stuck with Giordano, who had to apply it to his own life when he was 12 when his father was killed in an automobile accident.

Giordano didn’t use that as an excuse. He sports a 4.69 GPA, is class valedictorian, and will attend Notre Dame.

“That lesson my mom taught me is what I live by,” Giordano said. “Every time something goes wrong in my life, I know I just can’t give up and tank it. You have to push through it and get through it and make other people proud.”

Troy Girodano would have surely been proud, just like the rest of the parents in the Superdome seeing their boys being honored for not only what they did on Friday nights on the football field, but also for what they did on Monday — Friday in the classroom.

Kudos to all 33 of you.