For three days, the grandest stage in football was in Chicago, where athletes showed off their multicolored suits and broad grins during the nationally televised NFL draft.
In the Sacramento area, by contrast, several high school football players recently were commended for selfless deeds in near anonymity, but their grins were just as broad.
Folsom offensive tackle Kooper Richardson was honored Saturday as the Character Combine Scholar/Athlete of the Year, but not just for his football prowess.
Richardson is skipping his senior trip to Disneyland to attend the Evening of Dreams, a prom for special-needs students. The annual event, May 14 at Capital Christian, includes a red-carpet introduction with teens with disabilities escorted by area athletes and campus leaders.
We’re all role models. We not only represent our teams and our families, but we represent our towns and cities.
Folsom tackle Kooper Richardson
When he received his award Saturday at Folsom High, Richardson was stunned with a treat from Character Combine, a national organization that stressed the benefits of sportsmanship: two tickets to Disneyland.
“I did the right thing,” Richardson said. “Evening of Dreams is such a special night, and every time I go, it brings me more life lessons.
“This night won’t be about me or any of the football players. It’ll be about our dates. I can go to Disneyland anytime. But some of those special-needs students may only go to one dance like this, and it’s every kid’s dream to go to a dance like that, all dressed up. I’ll be proud to go.”
In the tiny farming community of East Nicolaus in the heart of Sutter County, the mood of residents and students can sway depending on how good the crops are – and how good the football team is. And the football team was very good, winning the CIF State Division Division VI title in December.
Two players on that team, junior lineman Dallas Fisher and junior defensive back Daegan Peterson, were recognized last week by the Sutter County Board of Supervisors for their recent heroics.
In March, Fisher and Peterson saw a fire that was threatening a barn, house and cars. Fisher and Peterson bolted out of their pickup, raced to the fire and grabbed garden hoses. They knocked down the flames long enough for the East Nicolaus fire department to arrive.
We were able to help a friendly neighbor, the right thing to do. Don’t be afraid to help those in trouble.
East Nicolaus lineman Dallas Fisher
Firefighters told Fisher and Peterson that without those garden hoses and their bravery, the flames would have engulfed everything.
Charles Kirkman, the property’s owner, was so moved he attended a campus rally to thank Fisher and Peterson. During the rally, the fire department presented them with certificates of appreciation.
“It was a sweet moment at the rally, and those boys are examples of kids doing the right thing at the right time,” said Karen Villalobos, the East Nicolaus Joint Union High School District superintendent/principal, who recommended Fisher and Peterson be honored. “Do kids make right decisions? Yes, they do.
“Kids everywhere make these kinds of decisions. We always tell our students, ‘Don’t walk by an opportunity to make a difference.’ These two did. Very proud of them.”
Said Fisher: “We were able to help a friendly neighbor, the right thing to do. Don’t be afraid to help those in trouble. We saw that car on fire, grabbed hoses, started spraying, because it might have all gone up. I’m glad we were there.”
When told what Fisher and Peterson did, Richardson smiled.
“That’s so cool,” he said. “We’re all role models. We not only represent our teams and our families, but we represent our towns and cities. It’s our responsibility to help and do the right things. Too many people think athletes don’t care. It’s not true. There are lot of good people doing good things in the world, including athletes.”