Student named finalist for Hall of Fame award
GYPSUM — Balancing herself in her aqua high-heel pumps, diminutive Jaycey Beard didn’t quite match the profile of a Pro Football Hall of Fame honoree.
But excellence comes in many forms, and that was the spirit of the morning when representatives from Canton, Ohio, and the U.S. Army trekked to Eagle Valley High School on Thursday to honor Beard as one of only 20 national finalists for their Student/Athlete Award for Excellence.
Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback and former New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders legend Mike Haynes, along with a corps of soldiers from the U.S. Army, honored Beard during a formal ceremony.
“Obviously this is a tremendous honor for Jaycey, but also for her school, community and family,” said Jerry Csaki, of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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The U.S Army —Pro Football Hall of Fame — Award for Excellence program highlights the achievements of student-athletes from across the country. It is open to all sophomore, junior and senior-level high school athletes in the United States; finalists were determined based on athletic, academic and civic achievements. Beard is among an elite group of 20 finalists who have demonstrated excellence in all they do and an understanding of the importance of adaptability and versatility when working as a team.
Haynes knows a lot about that subject. He was the first defensive back chosen in the 1976 NFL Draft when the New England Patriots used their first round pick on the Arizona State star. He made a splash on the NFL scene when, as a rookie, he intercepted eight passes and led the AFC with 608 yards on punt returns. His career was split between the Patriots (1976-1982) and the Raiders (1983-89). In all, he registered 46 interceptions, which he returned for 688 yards and two TDs. He was voted to nine Pro Bowls, selected All-Pro four times, named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s, and enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is one of the greatest honors you can receive as a football player,” Haynes told the students assembled for the presentation. “Being a Hall of Famer puts you in a position to be a leader.”
“The person we are honoring here today is just starting her path as a leader,” Haynes continued. He cited Beard’s participation in basketball, volleyball, cross country and track as well as her work with the Devils Against Destructive Decisions group and her community service efforts.
Excellence is attitude
For her part, Beard spoke about the nature of excellence as she accepted the award.
“Excellence is just an optimistic outlook in all you do,” she said “When you have grit, you have what it takes.”
To demonstrate how she walks that talk, Beard noted she stands just 5 feet, 4 inches, but that didn’t stop her from playing high school basketball.
Now Beard will take that positive attitude on an excellent adventure.
Each U.S. Army — Pro Football Hall of Fame — Award for Excellence student athlete finalist will be recognized in Canton during this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend.
The finalists will be honored during a special luncheon on Aug. 6, at which the national winner will be announced. All 20 finalists will attend this year’s Enshrinement Ceremony of the Class of 2016 — Edward DeBartolo Jr., Tony Dungy, Brett Favre, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel. The finalists and winner will receive special recognition during the telecast on ESPN and the NFL Network.
The weekend celebration will be capped off when the finalists and their guests attend the NFL’s preseason opener between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers in Canton on Aug. 7.