Kevin Gray's Gray Matter: Future leaders shine bright
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch congratulates Milford High soccer player Morgan Andrews during a photo shoot for the Union Leader All State Athletes of the Year at the State House in Concord. At left are Bedford High soccer player Erik Martel and Exeter High football player Tyler Grant. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
GOV. JOHN LYNCH, nearing the end of his fourth term, had to feel great about the future following an impromptu meeting at the State House this week.
Gathered on the lawn, near statues of former great leaders Daniel Webster and Gen. John Stark, were some of our state's best and brightest student-athletes. The New Hampshire Union Leader Fall Players of the Year met for a photo shoot and were soon chatting with the inquisitive governor.
If these kids are the future leaders of our community - wherever they may end up - we're in good shape. Soccer player Morgan Andrews of Milford, an NHIAA state champion and captain of the U.S. U-17 World Cup Team, was asked to describe a quality that is most likely shared among the group of elite athletes.
"Obviously, everyone here has great talent, but probably the biggest thing is being a leader and helping out your team," said Andrews, committed to play soccer for Notre Dame next year.
These kids have the world at their fingertips, something they've earned through years of practice and studying, effective time management and a drive to succeed. I want my 6-year-old daughter to meet Andrews, Lindsey Nerbonne of Bow (field hockey), Molly Wotton of Dover (volleyball) and Elizabeth Conway of Manchester Central (cross country). I want my 8-year-old son to hang out with Jeremy Brassard from Coe-Brown of Northwood (cross country), Erik Martel of Bedford (soccer) and Tyler Grant of Exeter (football).
"All the hard work paid off," said Grant, planning to attend Bowdoin College. "Just being here with these great athletes and being with the governor and at the golden dome (State House), it's quite an honor."
What lies ahead for these athletes? There will be success, failure, big challenges and tough obstacles. And they are ready. Former New Hampshire Union Leader All-Stater Kristy Zurmuhlen, a Fall Mountain of Langdon graduate, won a soccer national championship at Stanford.
Last year's Player of the Year in football, Kevin Davies from Pinkerton of Derry, began his career at Plymouth State University with tremendous disappointment. He suffered a concussion during preseason training camp and never played in a game. He did, however, begin chasing a degree in criminal justice and plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. Believe me, when Davies is protecting the streets of your community, that'll be a good thing.
The group picture from Monday's gathering will be published as part of a special All-State section on Dec. 16. Grant has already asked Andrews if she'll autograph the photo someday when she's famous. It's the second straight year Andrews and Conway have posed for the fall All-State Player of the Year photo.
Nerbonne, who'll be heading to Syracuse University to play field hockey, said the Player of the Year honor is a reflection of coaches, teammates, friends, teachers and the school system. Bow and the state of New Hampshire is lucky to have such a well-rounded role model.
"I hope I'm a role model and community leader," Nerbonne said. "I try my hardest to be a leader and represent Bow well. I am so excited to be representing the state like this."
Grant, also the state's Gatorade Player of the Year for football, made similar comments on his Facebook wall, thanking his family and many others and giving a special shoutout to Exeter teammates: "I love all you guys. You have all greatly impacted my life, and I sincerely thank you for everything."
Thank you, Players of the Year, for your ongoing pursuit of excellence. Keep up the hard work. We're proud of you.
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Kevin Gray may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.