Allen Park student-athlete becomes finalist for Award of Excellence

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — A local football player was named a finalist for the U.S. Army and NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame Award of Excellence Thursday.

Jake Barann is a senior tight end from Allen Park High School and is one of 10 finalists for the award. The finalists were chosen by a group of Hall of Fame players, including former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders who presented Barann with a plaque signifying the accomplishment.

“I am proud to be here and present this award to Jake because he has shown his excellence through preparation, discipline, and dedication,” Sanders said. “I am pleased with what Jake has done so far because it is great to lay a foundation early and have some early successes. Im pulling for him because I know he has what it takes to succeed.”

George Veras, president and CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises, said Barann and the other finalists were “perfect examples” of the combination their mission for excellence in football with the Army’s mission of excellence in school, community service and athletics.

“We are excited to recognize Jake Barann for his outstanding achievements, dedication, and hard work,” Veras said.

Barann had no idea he was going to be considered until he was approached by Athletic Director Kenneth Stephens to fill out the application for the award.

“I filled out the application and remember thinking, ‘Really, they picked me?’” he said. “I wasnt expecting it at all. This is a great honor and a humbling experience.”

His teachers and coaches said he is known to take charge and is a natural leader. Barann’s chemistry teacher, Mary Jordan-McMaster, said he leads by example and doesn’t just talk about the task, he just goes out and gets it done.

Tom Danosky, an AP assistant football coach and science teacher, taught and coached Barann and said he possesses an “unmatched mental and physical toughness that is second to none.” He said Barann is an extraordinary student-athlete and “a true pleasure” to teach and coach.

“He is extremely dedicated, passionate and intellectual on and off the field,” Danosky said. “Through voice and actions, he is an esteemed leader.”

Kristyn Pierfelice, Barann’s National Honor Society sponsor, said he wants to be the best at everything he does, no matter the circumstances.

“Jake sets an impeccably high standard for himself,” she said. “His drive to be the best pushes him farther than I have ever seen a student go.”

From an early age, Barann said he always gave his best and “good grades were not acceptable” for him. Barann said he received an “invaluable” amount of motivation from his family, friends and teammates, but he always wanted the best for himself.

“I chose to motivate myself to do my best in anything I did, whether it was football, school or anything else,” he said. “But, it would have been all for naught, if I didn’t have the continued support of my family, friends, team, and coaches. I really appreciate all of them being there for me.”

Barann and the other nine finalists will attend the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, in San Antonio, Jan. 3. The winner of the award will be announced during a ceremony at halftime.

The award focuses on athletic achievements and excellence in academics and community involvement of high school sophomores and juniors.

“The U.S. Army is strongly committed to America’s youth and supports their many achievements,” said Mark Davis, the deputy assistant marketing secretary for the U.S. Army. “The nominees for the Award of Excellence possess a unique set of strengths and adhere to a core set of values shared by Army Strong soldiers. These students don’t just excel athletically and academically. They are leaders in their communities.”

Barann is the captain of the football and basketball teams and retains a 4.1 grade point average. He accepted a scholarship to play football at Harvard University and said he hasn’t planned out his education path, but cannot wait until he can be on campus and immerse himself into the academic and athletic atmosphere the campus has to offer.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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