Full Speed Ahead to College
Speedy Connecticut HS Senior Receives National Play It Smart Honors.
DALLAS, May 11, 2007 - The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) announced today that Terrell Wilks, a standout wide receiver at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn., has been selected as the March Student-Athlete of the Month for Play It Smart, the NFF's highly successful mentoring program targeted at student-athletes in underserved communities.
"It's a dream of everybody to play professional sports, but I am not going to base my life on playing professional sports," said Wilks. "Play It Smart puts academics first, so it helps balance both academics and sports. It eliminates the slack that my teammates have. Lower grades are not tolerated. We have study hall everyday. I do my homework and get that out of the way... It keeps the teams around each other longer, and the structure of the program creates structure in your life. Play It Smart is a big deal. It plays a big role in my high school life."
An honors student, Wilks has accepted a full football scholarship to attend Villanova University this fall. Widely recruited by Florida, Clemson and others for his dazzling speed as one of the top three fastest high school student-athletes in the country running 6.29 in the 55 meters, Wilks chose Villanova because of the chemistry with the Wildcat coaching staff, and according to his current coaches, Villanova will provide the perfect venue for Wilks to continue to develop on and off the field.
"He is an awesome kid. He has done everything from day one that he is supposed to do. He is just a phenomenal person in terms of character," said Hillhouse academic coach Gary Moore. "I have been an academic coach since 2000, seven years, and he's the best all-around kid we have had in terms of the total package and total person deal. His upside is enormous. We are really proud of him."
A workhorse for the Hillhouse squad during the past two seasons, his senior year stats include 845 yards, 9TD's, and 8INT's. He made the New Haven Register and the Connecticut Coaches High School Association All-State teams. A team captain his senior year, Wilks made contributions that played a critical role in getting Hillhouse to back-to-back berths in the state championship game in 2005 and a victory in 2006.
"I just think he's a tremendous young man with a good head on his shoulders. I think he's got a great future ahead of him. I can honestly say that he's one of the most mature kids that I have coached in the last ten years at Hilllhouse," said head coach Eric Barbarito. "We did not think much of him his sophomore year. Then his junior year he started to shine. He saved the playoff game that got us to the state championship game."
Wilks represents a special moment for the Play It Smart program. Along with Thomas Arrington and Anttwan Brown, the three young men participated in the first class of Play It Smart start students at the middle school level, and now all three of them are poised to play college football this fall.
"High School wasn't a big shock. We did everything that I did in high school when I was younger," said Wilks. "When [others] got here it was something totally new, doing community service and having somebody pressing them to express the importance of grades to do a sport. I was not blind coming into high school."
Anthony Hargett, the academic coach at Roberto Clemente Middle School in New Haven, Conn., proudly boasts the trio's accomplishments on his office wall as inspiration for his younger players to see, including photos from signing day and Wilks accepting an NFF High School Scholar-Athlete Award from the Gene J. Casey (New Haven) Chapter.
"What he's doing now is the culmination of all the hard work he's done, not to mention he's grown about five inches," said Hargett. "He's an example of what can be accomplished of what we can do if we get them early. We get them to understand what it takes to be a football player and a student at the next level in terms of time management and social adjustment."
While in middle school, Wilks' experiences in the program included study halls, life skills sessions and special field trips to the NFL Draft and to Philadelphia for a leadership conference. He also did a lot of volunteer work.
"It's giving back to the community and people appreciate stuff like that," said Wilks. "I needed help at one time, and it feels good when somebody helps you, and they're not expecting anything in return. It feels good to help."
Wilks has kept up a rigorous regimen of community service during his six years in Play It Smart, including food drives, volunteering at a road races, the Special Olympics and several walk-a-thons. Wilks recently returned to Robert Clemente as part of middle school transition day, where student-athletes from Yale University, Southern Connecticut State, Wilbur Cross High School, and Hillhouse spoke to middle school students about the challenges and opportunities at the next level. Moore depended on Wilks to be one of the leaders with community service, touting that he could count on him even if the event started at 7 a.m.
"He's here everyday and never slacks off," said Moore. "When it comes time for business he's the one who says to his teammate, let's go take care of business. He's a great leader. He's a great example."
Each month the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame honors one student-athlete as the Play It Smart Student-Athlete of the Month. Winners are selected from nominations received from academic coaches in 85 cities nationwide. At the end of the school year the "Student-Athlete of the Year" will be selected from the monthly winners to be honored at the NFF's Annual Awards Dinner held at the Waldorf- Astoria in New York City.
"Terrell Wilks will be a great ambassador for the Play It Smart program for many years to come," said NFF President Steven J. Hatchell. "We look forward to watching him develop as he continues to set new goals at the next level and as he pursues his goal of dental school. We're thrilled to recognize him and, by extension, his teammates and coaches from the Hillhouse program."
Other nominees this month include Herbert Bolivar, a center from Orange HS in N.J.; Eduardo Garcia, a DB/WR from Eastside High School in N.J.; Michael Oakley, a TE/DE from Science & Technology High School in Mass.; Dan Persa, a QB from Bethlehem Liberty HS in Pa.; Donnie Seward, a RB from Huguenot HS in Va.; and Anthony Wright, a QB from Maple Heights HS in Ohio.
"The student-athlete of the month award allows us to highlight the accomplishments of some truly outstanding individuals," said Len Stachitas, vice president of the National Football Foundation and executive director of Play It Smart. "Terrell Wilks and this month's group of nominees stand out as some of the best student-athletes in our program, and they provide great examples of how great student-athletes can be even greater with the support of an academic coach and the Play It Smart program."
With major financial support from the NFL and the NFL Players Association, as well as a broad-coalition of corporations, communities, individuals and organizations, the Play It Smart program has quickly become one of the most comprehensive and effective youth development programs in the country, achieving dramatic results that include:
* 96% of seniors graduating high school, compared to 85% of their peers;
* 84% of seniors enrolling in college compared to 62% of their peers;
* Participants taking the SAT or ACT at twice the rate of their peers;
* Participants completing more than 84,000 hours of community service annually;
* Rosters increasing by 35% for teams with fewer than 40 players;
* Participants earning more than $6 million a year in scholarships; and
* 200-plus graduates earning places among the elite collegiate ranks during the 2007 season on Football Bowl Subdivision rosters. Prominent alumni include Penn State's Jay Alford (Drafted by the NY Giants), LSU's Craig Davis (Drafted by the San Diego Chargers), Ohio State's Ted Ginn, Jr. (Drafted by the Miami Dolphins), USC's Dwayne Jarrett (Drafted by the Carolina Panthers), Ohio State's Antonio Pittman (Drafted by the New Orleans Saints), Florida's Ray McDonald (Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers), Rutgers' Ray Rice, and Miami's Leon Williams who played for the NFL's Cleveland Browns during the 2006 season.
Play It Smart builds on the positive peer influences of team sports and a participant's interest in football. The program's academic coaches are trained in a set of guiding principles and a variety of tactics, which are designed to make academic achievement the norm. Working closely with the direct support of a team's head coach and others in the community, academic coaches hold one-on-one goal setting meetings, career and life skills sessions, mandatory study halls, SAT/ACT prep classes, community service projects and other team building events.