Freshman James “JT” Webb has been named one of 50 semifinalists for the High School Football Rudy Award, in a nationwide contest sponsored by the Trusted Sports Foundation and Parade magazine that celebrates young athletes who embody the values of “character, courage, contribution and commitment through the sport of football.”
On Dec. 11, members of a selection panel that includes former NFL pro quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Troy Aikman, 2005 Most Valuable Player Shaun Alexander, and three-time Super Bowl winner Tedy Bruschi, will announce the 12 finalists, with the winner to be named on Jan. 15. Fan voting will be part of the winning tally.
“The High School Football Rudy Award celebrates outstanding young athletes—not because of their statistical performance, but because of their ability to inspire teammates, classmates and communities,” according to the foundation’s website.
Webb, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, played football in the local Police Athletic League (PAL) while in middle school, and was part of the high school’s freshman football team this fall.
Unfamiliar with the sport before he tried out for the PAL team, Webb trained with a private instructor and “…asked millions of questions,” according to the award nomination submitted by PAL coach and Fanwood police Sgt. Russell Yeager.
Webb’s determination and progress were noted by his teammates. “When JT first started out, he didn’t know hip pads from his knee pads,” said Alex Mirabella, a student of Magnet Academy for Allied Health Sciences who played with Webb on the PAL and freshman teams. “After learning the fundamentals, he really excelled as an athlete…and ended up starting on the defensive line.”
“I feel this award is very significant…It gives him a sense of accomplishment, knowing he has worked very hard to achieve this well-deserved recognition,” said freshman football coach William Miller. “His teammates can feel very proud to have played with JT, and to see the progress that he made, weekly, on the practice and game field.”