The children stole the show at the Lott Trophy Watch List luncheon on Thursday which honors college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. And that's just the way Ronnie Lott -- the trophy's namesake -- wanted it.
The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation kicked off its seventh year of identifying college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year in Newport Beach, Calif. in front of some of football's biggest dignitaries. John Robinson, Terry Donahue, Brad Budde, Ron Yary, and Kermit Alexander were all in attendance. But halfway through lunch, a half-dozen kids reduced those gridiron giants to some audible sniffs and a few wiped eyes.
The first young man to take the podium was Adam Allen, a slightly-built 10th grader who is in his second year of battling brain stem cancer. Allen was granted his life-long wish by the Make-a-Wish Foundation -- a charitable organization that the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation supports -- and explained how he got to meet his favorite player, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, at Lambeau Field.
Allen toured the Packers' locker room and found a locker with his name engraved above it as well as a personalized hanging inside. Allen smiled as he told the rapt audience about running with the players through the tunnel onto Lambeau Field and attempting the Lambeau Leap, laughing while admitting that he, "didn't make it."
His most memorable moment, though, was his one-on-one time with Donald Driver on the field after the rest of the players had left. Driver tossed the ball with Allen, and according to Allen, he "caught all ten passes," despite others telling him he couldn't do it.
Alexander and his wife Tami had met a young boy named Clifton in a Haitian orphanage and wanted to make him a part of their family, but the typical bureaucratic mess of red tape in getting Clifton to the United States was long and tedious. After every trip to Haiti, they promised Clifton they would come back for him. On one visit, they were surprised when another child at the orphanage asked for a picture of Clifton. When Alexander asked why, the child told him that "he's my brother," and that all of Clifton's siblings wanted a picture of him because they may never see him again.
The Alexanders' one-child adoption mission expanded to include Clifton and four siblings, but it took the devastating 2009 earthquake in Haiti to finally speed up the adoption process. The newest members of the Alexander family--ranging from 9 to 16 years old now have a permanent home with Kermit and Tami. Proudly introduced at the luncheon by their father, his kids were beaming and the audience members were reaching for napkins to dab away their tears.
Closing speaker Ronnie Lott asked for both Clifton Alexander and Adam Allen to come back to the podium and putting his still cut arms around the two boys, he paused slowly before he spoke, and looked intently at the audience.
"Isn't it obvious?" Lott asked with a slight waver in his voice. "This award is bigger than us. Think of the people it's touched. "
Indeed, Mr. Lott. Your message is heard, loud and clear.
The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation's mission is to recognize and support both national and local charities that serve the youth of America and have an impact on the lives of those served by these groups. The 42 players on the 2010 Lott Trophy watch list were selected due to their personal overall IMPACT both on and off the field, with criteria selection emphasis on Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
2010 Lott Trophy Watch Listers:
Akeem Ayers, UCLA Mark Barron, Alabama Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma Brandon Boykin, Georgia Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech Ugo Chinasa, Oklahoma State Jared Crick, Nebraska Brian Duncan, Texas Tech John Graves, Virginia Tech Mark Herzlich, Boston College Cameron Heyward, Ohio State Ross Homan, Ohio State Jeron Johnson, Boise State Tejay Johnson, TCU A.J. Jones, Florida Greg Jones, Michigan State Thomas Keiser, Stanford Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue Casey Matthews, Oregon Cliff Matthews, South Carolina Bryan McNary, Army Wyatt Middleton, Navy Von Miller, Texas A&M Dontay Moch, Nevada Mike Mohamed, Cal Rahim Moore, UCLA Stephen Paea, Oregon State Patrick Peterson, LSU Robert Quinn, North Carolina Andrew Rich, BYU Greg Romeus, Pitt Kenny Rowe, Oregon Tyler Sash, Iowa Kelvin Sheppard, LSU Malcolm Smith, USC J.T. Thomas, West Virginia JJ Watt, Wisconsin Deunta Williams, North Carolina Lawrence Wilson, UConn Alex Wojciak, Maryland Anthony Wright, Air Force