The entire Foundation school was summoned to a pep rally April 12 to witness the awards ceremony.
Foundation Academy basketball player Justin Williams received the third annual Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Basketball Courage Award Tuesday, April 12.
Jersey Mike’s representative Raul Ceide presented Williams with the award, as well as a check for $1,000.
“I want to thank God; I wouldn’t be here today without Him,” Williams said. “I'd like to thank my family and friends for always picking me up when I’m having a bad day. I want to thank my teammates. … I want to thank coach Hughes … the staff and teachers at Foundation — for always being welcoming.”
According to Jersey Mike's, hundreds of players from around the country were nominated for the award by their coaches and athletic directors. The award “recognizes one male and one female high school basketball player who has consistently gone above and beyond throughout the basketball season and has demonstrated courage in their approach to their team, school and community.”
Williams was born with Apert syndrome. As a result, his outer extremities were fused together and not separated in the womb. In total, Williams has undergone 12 surgeries throughout his childhood; five of those have been on his head.
Foundation students filled the gym minutes before Williams made his appearance. Students sat on the bleachers and displayed many banners with Justin's name.
“We want Justin!” they shouted.
“We called a pep rally for Justin Williams,” Tilden Foundation Academy Principal Sarah Reynolds said. “He deserves (this award), because every day, he gets out there, and he just does what he does. He perseveres. Things are a little more difficult for him than for you or me. Nobody seems to notice it, (and) that’s the beauty of Justin. And I can bet that everyone of you, if you ever come in contact with Justin, you will never hear a negative word, an unkind word, but you’ll see a smile and someone who encourages you all the time. So when I think of who is worthy of this award, is that young man seating right here.”
Foundation basketball coach Nathaniel Hughes also addressed the audience.
“When I was thinking about some of the characteristics to describe Justin, it’s kind of hard, because there are so many,” Hughes said. “When I observe Justin — I’ve known him for the last three years and have had the privilege of being his coach — he shows everybody respect and kindness, and that’s one of the things that as a coach you look for in a teammate.
“There’s never been a moment where Justin complains or makes excuses," he said. "He’s always there. He’s consistent about showing up and giving his all for his teammates every day. This year, I think of all the opportunities he took advantage of. Did you know that he is willing to lead in our Fellowship for Christian Athletes lead devotionals and serve in that area? And he’s always the first one up off the bench to encourage their teammates, to lift them up, to celebrate them. Well guess what? Today, we are here to celebrate you.
“There’s three things I want to say,” Hughes said. “The first is that Justin is someone that you can rely on. He’s somebody that as a team, as a coach, we look at Justin to stay consistent. … Justin is reliable, and he’s selfless. He puts the needs of others before his own. I think that’s very evident, if I ask any number of you in here, I think they’d say the same thing. And the last thing, and this is why I think Justin deserves this courage award, is because he’s confident in who the Lord made him to be. He never uses his limitations as an excuse, and honestly, I can’t imagine Foundation Academy or my Foundation basketball program without Justin being a part of it, I really can’t. And Justin: Thank you for your example. Thank you for being the glue that holds our basketball family together. And I think someday you are going to be a great coach, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for you.”
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