May 21, 2009
Johnathan McKenzie received more than a diploma Friday when he graduated from Starkville Academy.
In a special presentation at graduation, McKenzie was honored with the Don Souder Award for being the outstanding male student-athlete in the Mississippi Private School Association.
"It''s the highest award that a student-athlete gets in Mississippi Private School Association," Starkville Academy Athletic Director Glenn Schmidt said. "It''s wonderful for Johnathan, the senior class, and all of Starkville Academy. It gives our youngsters something to aspire to in the future.
"The importance of the award is signified by the fact we interrupt graduation for it. The MPSA comes down here and presents it, so that emphasized the significance of the award."
The award, created 17 years ago, is named after Don Souder, the former executive director of the MPSA. He is retired and lives in Jackson, Tenn.
The award is given each year to a senior who has excelled in athletics and academics. The winner represents 120 schools and more than 35,000 students in 16 varsity sports, and more than 10,000 independent athletic competitions each year.
The award itself is an eight-pound piece of black onyx shaped into a replica of the 500 BC obelisk, which for centuries has been a symbol of strength and achievement.
McKenzie was presented the award by Les Triplett, the MPSA director of activities.
"I am truly honored to be associated with an award that represents the very best of the MPSA," Triplett said at the award presentation. "This year''s winner will be remembered as one of the outstanding athletes that has participated in the MPSA. He is not only a great athlete, but he also is a great student and person.
"Our winner not only represented (Starkville Academy) like a true champion, but he represents all that is good about Starkville Academy and the MPSA."
McKenzie was chosen his team''s MVP in the MPSA all-star football and basketball games.
He also was a MPSA first-team all-state pick in football and basketball.
"There''s not much to say that wouldn''t be a profound statement," Starkville Academy football coach Brian Sims aid. "I mean it''s unbelievable. To have a kid with a work ethic like that and intelligence like that and athleticism like that on your team is a blessing. He was a huge blessing to our football team. He was just unreplaceable."
McKenzie will continue his football career at Mississippi State.
In the classroom, McKenzie had a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 30 on the ACT.