THS graduate receives scholarship from Detroit Lions player

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Calvin Johnson Jr. (l) and Brad Vannatter. Photo submitted.

Detroit Lions superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. presented Tecumseh High School 2012 graduate Brad Vannatter and five other Michigan seniors scholarships during his Annual Catching Dreams Scholarship Athlete Extravaganza and Fundraiser at the Weston Book Cadillac Hotel on Saturday, June 23.

The “black-tie” event began at 6:30 p.m., with a VIP Reception and Silent Auction and followed with dinner, program, and presentation of scholarships, each in excess of $2,000, approximately an hour later.

The Lions’ No. 81 wore a black suit, yellow shirt and a white rose pinned to his lapel similar to the scholarship recipients. Regardless of being in his formal attire, Vannatter said it wasn’t hard to recognize Johnson simply by his size and demeanor.

“It was really unbelievable, the whole thing,” Vannatter said. “The first time you see him, you’re in awe. His hands are just massive.”

To qualify for a Calvin Johnson Jr., Foundation Inc., scholarship the recipients had to have been graduating seniors, already have a partial college football scholarship, and had at least a 2.5 grade point average upon their high school graduation.

In addition, the students also had to submit two letters of recommendation (one from a counselor/teacher and one from a coach): a personal statement (of at least 300 words) about career goals and how this scholarship will help achieve them: a copy of high school transcript and SAT/ACT score report; and copy of their college acceptance letter.

Vannatter was a starting quarterback for the past three seasons and his essay spoke of being a leader on and off the field for the Indians. Vannatter has received several awards during that time but one of the highest honors was being awarded Tecumseh High School’s prestigious Tilton Award. The award is presented to the senior male and female athletes who have contributed most to the success of the entire athletic program as voted on by all of the Tecumseh High School varsity coaches. The recipients have demonstrated dedication to the THS athletic program through their participation, hard work, spirit and hustle.

In his essay, Vannatter also talked about how important it was to attend a good academic school while being offered the opportunity to continue playing football. Vannatter received a partial scholarship from Alma College and begins his career with the Scots on August 10, studying Business Administration and Communications while also playing football and baseball. Vannatter said he’s very excited about the move knowing a Tecumseh 2011 graduate and wrestler, Collin Lesko, is there and loves it.

Johnson didn’t just hand over a check and call it a day. He and other family members conducted workshops for the scholarship recipients that addressed setting and reaching life goals. His mother and foundation vice president and Co-executive Director, Dr. Arica R. Johnson, Ed. D. spoke on success for life while his sister and Co-executive Director, Erica L. Johnson, Ph. D., had a presentation on staying away from drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. A close friend of the Johnson family spoke about handling finances.

“It was a great life-lesson teaching event,” said Vannatter. “It was inspiring.”

In his CJJRF Spring Newsletter Johnson said of his foundation involvement, “I wanted to give back by supporting and sponsoring community programs designed to change youth’s outlook on life. Metro Atlanta is home, but, now, so is Metro Detroit.”

Brad’s father, Tim, mother, Renee, and brother, Ben, also attended the extravaganza. Tim said that the best part of the event was meeting the entire Johnson family. “They are some of the most talented, humble and generous people we have ever had the opportunity to meet,” Tim said.

During the evening Brad was gifted several items of sports memorabilia including an autographed football, Lions hat, cards, a book, Nike bag and Fathead, a life-size wall sticky poster, of Johnson.

Something else that was acquired during the evening was creating great connections within the Lions organization. Brad was seated next to Calvin during a luncheon and met many big supporters of the foundation. The Lions have already inquired about Brad’s interest in potentially becoming an intern in the future.

The year’s previous scholarship award recipients were flown in to attend the Detroit event and Vannatter said Calvin invited him to next year’s big event in Atlanta, Georgia.

Johnson’s foundation has awarded 24 scholarships in the last four years in the Atlana and Detroit Metro areas. For more information, email cjjrf81@yahoo.com or write to the Calvin Johnson Jr., Foundation, Inc., c/o Catching Dreams Scholarship Program, P.O. Box 1015, Tyrone, GA 30290.




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