It’s not every day that a kid from Jersey City gets invited to visit the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., much less receive an award named after the most decorated graduate in the school’s history.
Eli Terry will be a senior at St. Anthony High School in the fall. He’s a standout member of the school’s football team, a fleet-footed running back who has led the Friars to victory on several occasions.
But Terry is more than just a leader on the gridiron.
Terry recently went to West Point to receive the Dwight D. Eisenhower Leadership Award from the West Point Society of New Jersey.
The award, named after the 34th President of the United States, is given to students (not necessarily athletes) who display the kind of leadership that Eisenhower did during his tenure at West Point, eventually becoming a five-star general of the United States Army in World War II.
Each year, the West Point Society of New Jersey recognizes high school students who exhibit exceptional performance and potential in the areas of academics, athletics, community service, good citizenship, and leadership.
Terry, who had never even visited West Point before, knew that Eisenhower was indeed a president, but had to look up his military leadership achievements.
“When I first heard I was getting the award and was going to West Point, I looked it up,” Terry said. “I didn’t even know that President Eisenhower went to West Point. It was really impressive.”
What was even more impressive was the visit Terry made to the campus with his parents.
“When I found out about this, I thought my teachers were joking around with me,” Terry said. “When I got there, I couldn’t believe how big it was. The campus is huge. They were telling us about the history of the school, like the cannons that were on the grounds were used in the Civil War.”
Terry was also amazed that the entire campus stops its daily functions every day at 5 p.m. for one reason.
“The flag goes down and everyone just stops,” Terry said. “That was pretty impressive.”
Terry was one of only 50 students to receive the award and was the only junior from New Jersey.
“Everyone has heard of West Point, but not many people get to go there,” Terry said.
Terry was selected by his teachers at St. Anthony because he is a positive role model.
“I show leadership and a positive attitude to everyone,” Terry said. “I show what you need to do to be a leader, not joking around all the time. I try to show the freshmen and younger kids what they should be doing.”
Terry’s resume speaks for itself as well. He’s a student with a 3.4 grade point average.
“I take a lot of pride of what I do in the classroom,” Terry said. “I want to get a scholarship to college, but if you don’t do anything in the classroom, that won’t happen.”
St. Anthony head football coach Ed Stinson, who is also a vice-principal at the school after a long and storied career at Hoboken High, said that he has been a proponent for true student/athlete advocacy for four decades.
“The academic thing, the citizenship thing, is all part of the true student/athlete concept,” Stinson said. “I had players like Marc Taglieri and Jason Casessa at Hoboken that were like that. What a great honor this is for Eli. This is the way we want to project ourselves as young men, as football players. We want to be good citizens in school. We want a St. Anthony football player to have a positive connotation, with citizenship, with academics.”
Stinson pointed out that basketball standout Tarin Smith, headed to Nebraska University in the fall, just recently graduated from St. Anthony as the valedictorian of the Class of 2014.
“That’s the best thing to happen to St. Anthony, having Tarin as the valedictorian,” Stinson said. “But Eli Terry gets an Eisenhower Award, goes to West Point, gets honored with his family. It’s not big for just our football program, but for the entire school. He demonstrated leadership and truly defines the student/athlete. No doubt, he leads by example every day. He walks the walk and solidifies the argument I’ve had for the last 43 years, balancing academics and athletics.”
Terry was honored to receive the award.
“It’s a pretty big accomplishment,” Terry said. “It proves that I’m a good student/athlete, that I showed leadership, not only on the football field, but with others in the school. I was really honored to get the award.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.