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Trio of IHSA Student-Athletes Up For Prestigious U.S. Army Award for Excellence

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the U.S. Army announced the 25-highschool, student-athlete finalists for the U.S. Army-Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence. The program, now in its fifth year, highlights the achievements of student-athletes across the country. The prestigious program expanded the number of finalists recognized from 20 to 25 individuals.

The list of 25 finalists includes a trio of student-athletes from Illinois, including Stillman Valley’s Jared Van Vleet, Raymond-Lincolnwood’s Ryan Poggenpohl, and Bolingbrook’s Andrew Santiago.

Former Arizona Cardinal and Hall of Fame member Aeneas Williams presented Val Vleet with his award in a ceremony on April 7, 2017 (above).

Pro Football Hall of Fame member Kellen Winslow recognized Poggenpohl (below) at his high school on April 20, 2017, one day after Winslow presented Santiago with his honor (bottom).

The Award for Excellence program is open to all sophomore, junior and senior level high school student-athletes in the United States. The honor focuses on great athletic achievement, excellence in academics and community engagement.

“The Pro Football Hall of Fame is proud to partner with the U.S. Army to pay tribute to the fine young men and women who will shape the future of our country. Congratulations to the 25 finalists in 2017 who exemplify the Hall’s core values of commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence,” commented Pro Football Hall of Fame Chief Operating Officer & Executive Producer George Veras.

“These students embody the excellence and dedication that both Army Soldiers and Pro Football Hall of Famers bring to their own lives every day. They give their best to achieve their goals and give back to their communities. The Army is proud to be honoring this group as the 2017 Award for Excellence finalists,” said Mark Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army.

The 25 finalists for the Award for Excellence will be recognized during formal ceremonies at their respective high schools this spring, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 21. The student-athletes will receive their finalist plaque from a Pro Football Hall of Famer during their individual events. Gold Jackets currently confirmed for the ceremonies include: JOHN RANDLE, Kellen Winslow, Aeneas Williams, Anthony Munoz, Marcus Allen, Andrew Reed, Bruce Matthews, Derrick Brooks and Thurman Thomas. Additionally, each finalist nominated a teacher who has been influential in his or her academic career to be recognized at the ceremony.