Pope John Paul’s Sean O’Brien finalist for NFF scholar-athletic award

Sean O’Brien, a graduate of Pope John Paul II in Slidell, has been selected as a finalist for a National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame High School National Scholar-Athlete Award.

The NFF will honor one man from each of the country’s five regions as the best and the brightest for their accomplishments as athletes, scholars and citizens at the high school level. The NFF announced the 36 finalists Wednesday morning and will announce the five regional winners the week of Oct. 9.

O’Brien, who will play football at Rhodes College this fall, was nominated for the honor by the Allstate Sugar Bowl NFF Chapter after being recognized as one of 32 local scholar-athletes at the bowl’s NFF Scholar-Athlete Luncheon in April. He was also selected for a $10,000 scholarship at the event. Scholarship winners were chosen based on essays submitted after being notified of their selection as scholar-athletes.

“The NFF Chapter Network continues to grow and excel, and their work this year has allowed us to identify these exceptional 36 scholar-athletes who have clearly established themselves among the best in the nation,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “It will be a difficult task to select one from each region as the absolute best. Each possesses incredible talent in all facets of their lives, and it is a tremendous honor for us to highlight their accomplishments.”

O’Brien has overcome his share of adversity — he lost his mother when he was 9 years old, followed shortly after by losing his home to Hurricane Katrina. Then at 12 years old, his father died. He wrote, “Life will be filled with challenges and because of what I have been through, I know I will be strong enough to succeed.”

And succeed he has; he was a four-year football letterman, a three-time all-district pick and a two-time team captain. He also has a 4.0 grade-point average, a source of pride for his grandparents who have raised him.

With 120 chapters and more than 12,000 members, the NFF Chapter Network impacts more than 500,000 student-athletes at 4,800 high school. The centerpiece of their efforts are the chapter awards banquets, which recognize more than 3,500 scholar-athletes and distribute more than $1 million in scholarships. The regional winners will travel to New York to be honored during the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon.

Runners win Athlete of Month

A pair of local track stars, one distance runner and one sprinter, have been selected as the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month for June and July.

Eric Coston, an All-American miler from St. Paul’s School was the June winner and Aleia Hobbs, a national champion 100-meter runner headed for LSU, was recognized for her July accomplishments. The monthly award-winners are chosen in voting by the Greater New Orleans Sports Award Selection Committee, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Coston, a sophomore this year on St. Paul’s cross country team, had a highly decorated freshman season.

With a win in the Freshman 1 Mile at the New Balance National Outdoor Track and Field Championship on June 13, Coston defended his indoor national title and notched his second All-American accolade.

His personal-best time for the mile defeated runner-up Nick Dahl by nearly four seconds, 4:21.55-4:25.03. Coston ran 4:16.48 for 1,600 meters to finish runner-up at the Class 5A state championship on May 10.

“It’s great,” Coston said. “To have the top times in the state and the country is something I’ve always wanted to work myself up to.” He will look to defend his Class 5A State cross country championship this fall.

Hobbs picked up two first places at the USATF Junior Olympic Championships held July 21-27 in Humble, Texas.

The freshman-to-be at LSU won the 100-meter dash while also helping the 4x100 relay team to first place. Hobbs and her teammates qualified for the national meet, which featured over 6,000 athletes, with a successful showing at the Region 6 meet in Homewood, Alabama.

In addition to winning the 100 at the regionals, Hobbs’ 400-meter relay team set a meet record (45.06) at that event. She was named the High School Track Performer of the Year after her senior season at McMain.

Other candidates for June included Elise Bradley (LSU golf), who won the women’s state amateur title; Alexandra Thomas (Louisiana Fire Navy Soccer Club), who led her team to the championship match of the Under-17 girls bracket of the US Youth Soccer Region III Championship; and Justin Walker (Northwestern State track and field), who earned-team All-America recognition in two sprinting events at the NCAA outdoor meet. The July runner-up was Jace Nini, a summer baseball star for Refuel’s American Legion team.

Nini batted .422 for the month to go with a 3.31 ERA on the mound.