Porter Ridge running back – and track and field star – Jaylen Coleman was one of five finalists nominated for the National Alliance of African American Athletes’ Watkins Award and attended a gala held March 9 at the Crystal City Hilton in Alexandria, Va.
Nearly 50 members of the Watkins family have gone on to play in the NFL and several more are expected to be selected in next month’s NFL Draft.
Coleman, the 2018 Charlotte Media Group Offensive Player of the Year, was joined by Nakobe Dean, Horn Lake High School, Horn Lake, Miss. (enrolled at Georgia); Aeneas DiCosmo, Bergen Catholic High School, Montclair, N.J. (signed with Stanford); Elijah Higgins, John Bowie High School, Austin, Texas (signed with Stanford) and Roschon Johnson, Port Neches-Groves High School, Port Neches, Texas (enrolled at Texas).
This year’s Watkins Class members were selected based on their unweighted grade-point average, personal statement, extracurricular activities, community service and letters of recommendation.
The five standouts arrived in the Washington area earlier in the week and their trip included tours of Under Armour headquarters in Baltimore and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington as well as visits to the U.S. Capitol and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
They also participated in the Watkins Teen Summit on Leadership and Achievement
Former NFL player Ryan Clark was the keynote speaker.
Dean was selected the winner.
“Nakobe Dean is an amazing young man,” said J. Everette Pearsall, executive director of The Alliance. “We were very impressed with his contributions in the community, his excellence in the classroom and his success on the football field. As the Standard Bearer of the Watkins Class of 2019, we know that he will continue leading by example at the University of Georgia. Nakobe and the other members of this year’s Watkins Class are an incredible group and we look forward to following the next step of their careers.”
Last season, Coleman ran 211 times for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns. He averaged nearly 140 yards per game and a whopping 9.3 yards per rush, gaining nearly a first down on per every carry on average.
He could have run for more had late-season injuries not slowed his production to just 75 yards over the Pirates final two playoff games.
Even so, Coleman had one of Union County’s best-ever seasons for a running back and will leave a lasting legacy as he heads to Duke in the fall making him a perfect candidate fort his most recent acknowledgment in a long line of recognition.
“He’s a special player,” Porter Ridge coach Michael Hertz said. “Not only does he have great speed, but he’s very smart. He can get any yard and he knows when to turn on the breakaway speed. He’s just a real smart athlete.
“I think he’s a good fit anywhere. You combine his athletic talent with his grades – he has a 4.5 GPA and is in school leadership – he’s as well rounded a player and kid as I’ve come around in a long time.”