Central Catholic was the area's big winner at the National Football Foundation awards banquet. Here, players Justin Traina, Kyle Jacklich and Eric Soares are pictured with their scholar athlete awards. Coach Roger Canepa (far right) also received the Rowland "Red" Smith Coaching Award.

Tuxedos and touchdowns: Five area football players receive national honors

James Burns

SACRAMENTO — On Thursday evening, Friday’s football heroes shed their helmet and pads and donned tuxedos before taking one last spin under the spotlight.

Five players from the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section were honored at a banquet hosted by the National Football Foundation’s Sacramento chapter. The gala celebrated approximately 40 football players from all corners of the section, acknowledging their performance on the gridiron, as well as their effort in the classroom and their communities.

Jim Coyne, a former high school and collegiate official now serving on the board of Sacramento's National Football Foundation chapter, said the NFF carefully selects its top scholar athletes. For instance, each recipient must have a 3.0 grade-point average, as well as strong extracurricular credentials.

Coyne said he received more than 80 nominees.

“The National Football Foundation does this across the country. It’s trying to honor young men who are contributing to society,” Coyne said. “… It’s more than just football. You have to have some scholarship application, and 20 percent of the grading is based upon school activity and community activity.”

Central Catholic football players Justin Traina, Kyle Jacklich and Eric Soares are pictured with their scholar athlete awards, presented by the National Football Foundation.

Central Catholic, the region’s top-ranked team and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II finalist, was the big winner. Four players earned awards, including three scholar-athletes: wide receiver and defensive back Justin Traina, running back Kyle Jacklich, and offensive lineman Eric Soares. Valley Oak League Most Valuable Player Chris Mendoza, a three-year starter on the offensive line, was an honorable mention.

Raiders coach Roger Canepa also received the Rowland “Red” Smith Coaching Award after guiding Central Catholic to 11 wins and a berth in the Division II final. The Raiders lost to Del Oro, 20-17.

The city of Ripon was well represented, as well. Ripon quarterback Ryan Daggett, the Trans-Valley League Most Outstanding Offensive Player, and Ripon Christian running back Michael Kamps, the Southern League’s Outstanding Offensive Player, received scholar athlete awards.

“I’m on an emotional high because I recognize all the men being honored are our future,” he said, “and it’s pretty impressive.”

Follow James Burns on Twitter @jburns1980, or email him at frontrowpreps@gmail.com.