The faces change every year, but the excitement of recognizing student athletes never gets old for John Maher, whose business, John Maher Builders, has sponsored a countywide scholar-athlete program for 13 years.
“It’s a fantastic way to recognize the kids that are doing the right thing,” said Maher.
The Williamson Herald started the program with John Maher Builders in 2006 to recognize students who excel, not just in sports, but also in the classroom and the community.
Nine female and nine male athletes were invited to attend Tuesday evening’s year-end banquet at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, where each student was recognized for his or her achievements. A drawing of four names — two females and two males to receive checks for $2,000 each — highlighted the event.
The winners were Andrea Aceveda and Kaylee Seidel of Brentwood High School, Drew Cannon of Independence High School and Cole Scott of Grace Christian Academy.
“We are blessed and thankful,” said Kim Seidel, Kaylee’s mother. “We were at the lucky table tonight!” The Aceveda family was also seated at the same table as the Seidels.
The evening featured comments from Jeremy Qualls, who serves as athletic director for the Williamson County School District, and keynote speaker Mike Keith, the “Voice of the Tennessee Titans.”
Qualls talked about three things that student athletes should always carry with them in life.
“Always be coachable, be humble and be thankful,” Qualls said. “Humble people make the best leaders.”
Qualls went on to talk and thank the Mahers for their philanthropy in the community.
“John has been a teacher and a coach, and he understand the effort.”
Keith started off his keynote talk with an interesting story about being hired to broadcast a paintball tournament, one of the many sports he has called over the years. Keith then went into a story about calling the Tennessee Titans’ play against the Buffalo Bills in a 2000 wild card game that became the Music City Miracle, which, in essence, put Keith on the broadcasting map.
Keith also discussed the success of the NFL draft, but the highlight was talking about his relationship with John Maher, who Keith met in 1979 as a student at Franklin Junior High School, where Maher was a teacher.
“I am here tonight because of John Maher,” Keith said. “Forty years ago, Franklin was a different place; it was not the shiny place it is today. There were kids with poverty and problems and it was a tough time for many kids. This man stood up for those people, every single day. He was not your friend or your pal, he was a mentor. You knew he was in charge, but he would help you, that is the kind of man John Maher is, and he is still here today, helping kids.”
Franklin resident Ron Shuff, grandfather of award winner Jonah Albert of Franklin High, was emotional when talking about the evening.
“These are great kids, and it’s so wonderful for them to be recognized by the Herald and John Maher,” Shuff said. “This was authentic and real and not just your normal awards banquet.”