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Amy Donaldson, Deseret News
Thirteen senior scholar-athlete award winners, former USU standout and Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner (Distinguished American award), Mike Jacobsen (Contribution to Amateur Football award), and Juan DIego head coach John Colosimo and official Bob Blair (both honored for contributions to amateur football) pose for a picture before the group's annual scholarship dinner at UVU Tuesday.

OREM — Bobby Wagner didn’t find his way onto a football field until he was a junior in high school.

Once he did, he knew he wanted to play in college.

“Coming out of high school, I wasn’t really highly recruited because I was still learning the game,” Wagner said during his remarks after being given the Distinguished American award by the National Football Foundation’s Utah chapter on Tuesday. “Everybody kind of passed up on me; a lot of the teams I played against said I was too short, I wasn’t strong enough, I wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t physical enough. The only team that believed in me was Utah State.”

Wagner, who went on to be a four-year starter at USU and led the WAC in tackles for three consecutive seasons, said he wasn’t going to waste the opportunity the Aggies offered him. He worked hard and stayed humble.

The California native was drafted in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks (47th pick), and in just his second year, he helped the Seahawks defeat the Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl.

“It was very humbling to me, just the journey that I had,” he said. “I worked hard and had support from my family, but it was a grind at Utah State.”

He said hard work and dedication can help you accomplish what no one else sees as a possibility.

“My mom taught me, ‘There are a lot of doubters out there,'” he said. “It doesn’t matter what everybody else thinks.”

The Distinguished American award is the highest honor the group gives as part of its annual banquet. In addition to honoring Wagner, the group honored 13 high school seniors for outstanding athletic accomplishment, scholastic excellence and a commitment to community service. Dixie High’s Gavin Graff spoke on behalf of the athletes after they received their awards and a signed football from Wagner.

“Football isn’t just a game we play to have fun,” he said. “It’s a game that prepares us for the future and exposes our true character.”

He recounted how Dixie lost in the first round of the 2011 playoffs and just two weeks later began the long, arduous journey to win the state title in 2012 despite entering the postseason as a No. 3 seed.

“Our playoff run was a Cinderella story,” Graff said. “I believe all Cinderellas have a few things in common. They don’t have the most talented players. Most people don’t think they have a chance. But they are willing to work hard, fight through the pain, take their failures and learn from them. Most important of all, they believe in themselves when no one else does. They never give up. This is what I call grit. Learning how to be gritty is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, I learned from my high school football experience.”

In addition to Graff, the scholar-leader athletes honored were: Connor Justin Aste, Manti; Robert Borden, Olympus; Dakota Rylie Clark, Rich; Taylor Compton, Logan; Zachary Thomas Dawe, Pleasant Grove; Ky Fisher, Grantsville; Hunter Fowles; Conner Haller, Olympus; Kasen Hutchings, Beaver; Shay Morrison, Richfield; Chase Nelson, Logan; Nick Peterson, Woods Cross.

Juan Diego head coach John Colosimo and official Bob Blair were honored with a Service to High School Football award. Mike Jacobsen, the Utah Valley University athletic director for 29 years and a founding member of the NFF’s Utah chapter, was honored with a Contribution to Amateur Football award.

The 2014 junior awards went to: Trevor Aldor, Grantsville; Treven Aloi, Murray; Colby Averett, South Summit; Nik Bentley, Parowan; Dallin Brooks, Cedar City; Kade Cloward, Bingham; Britain Covey, Timpview; Tucker Cowdin, Desert Hills; James Empey, American Fork; Quinn Fabtrizio, Alta; TJ Fehoko, Cottonwood; Christian Folau, East; Carson Gibbs, Bear River; Zach Gordan, Springville; Romney Harker, Syracuse; Brayden Hinckley, Provo; John Hunter, Highland; Kody Jarvis, Herriman; Austin Kafentzis, Jordan; Gaige Kartchner, Corner Canyon; Jaden Lindquest, Viewmont; Osa Masina, Brighton; Josh McMillan , Herriman; Dallas Moklebust, Northridge; Jason Money, Spanish Fork; Mason Newton, Woods Cross; AJ Semeatu, Cyprus; Connor Simonsen, Davis; Tyler Skidmob, Roy; Nic Smith, Union; Tevita Tauteoli, Hunter; Conner Udy, Box Elder; Bracken Williams, Logan; Matt Wilson, Wasatch; Jason Money, Spanish Fork.

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