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Auburn defensive coach to headline Achiever Award banquet

Student-athletes around the county will be honored for their work on the field of play and off during the 20th annual Achiever Award banquet.

Tickets are on sale now for $20 each at the YMCA for  the banquet, which is currently slated for May 4 at the Greenville First Baptist Church Family Life Center.

The Achiever Award recognizes top student-athletes from area schools, including Greenville High School, Fort Dale Academy, Georgiana School and McKenzie School, not only for excelling in the classroom and on the playing field, but also for their involvement in their respective communities.

Two students—a male and a female—will walk away with scholarships.

Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce director Francine Wasden said that last year’s scholarships totaled nearly double their annual commitment.

“We are committed to $1,500 each, but we hope to be able to raise more money than that,” Wasden said. “We gave $3,000 each last year, and we’re hoping to match that again this year.”

Last year, those scholarships were awarded to Fort Dale Academy seniors Cody Parker and Mary Claire Carlton.

Kevin Steele, a defensive coach at Auburn University, will serve as this year’s keynote speaker.

Steele, a veteran coach who has seen success at both the collegiate and NFL levels of play, joined the Auburn coaching staff before the 2016 season as defensive coordinator.

Steele has served in a variety of capacities across the SEC, including stints at LSU and Alabama.

He also helped lead Clemson to the Tigers’ first ACC title since 1991 back in 2011 as a defensive coordinator.

From 1989-94, he coached linebackers under Nebraska legend Tom Osborne, helping the Cornhuskers to a 60-11 run, six bowl appearances, four conference champions and a national championship with a 13-0 record in 1994.

“He’s going to do a great job, and he has such a wonderful resumé,” Wasden said.

“But I have to give the accolades to Mayor McLendon on that one.  He actually reached out to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and invited Coach Steele to come.”

Wasden added that the Achiever Award banquet is an annual reminder of the quality of student-athletes the county continues to produce each year, and that she is proud to have been involved with such a storied program.

“It’s so rewarding to get to meet these young people,” Wasden said. “They are the best of the best. It’s just fun to get to interact with them and see them vying for this scholarship because it is very prestigious.  So many people who have won in the past have gone on to do great things, and have come back to Greenville.

“It brings all of our county schools together and it allows all of our young people to get to know each other, from the southern end of the county all the way to here in Greenville as well as Fort Dale.  So we’re looking forward to it—it’s going to be a great night for Butler County.”