Pop Warner Little Scholars, the nation's oldest youth football, cheer and dance organization and the only one with established academic standards, today honored nearly 3,000 Pop Warner participants as All-American Scholars and five prominent leaders in professional sports for their contributions to the community.
In a week-long virtual celebration starting April 1, Pop Warner will recognize Pop Warner student-athletes nationwide who earned All-American Scholar status for their hard work in the classroom. These young athletes are among the top 2% of all Pop Warner participants, receiving a 96% GPA or higher.
In addition to honoring its own athletes, Pop Warner is recognizing professional football and cheer athletes and coaches who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to athletics, youth, education and health, as the nation struggled to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and confront issues around social justice. The 2021 award winners include:
- The Buffalo Bills: NFL Team of the Year
- Denver Broncos Safety Justin Simmons: Inspiration to Youth Award
- Washington Football Team Assistant Running Backs Coach Jennifer King: Female Achievement Award
- Denver Broncos Cheerleader Gabriela Windey: Humanitarian Award
- Kansas City Chiefs Guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif: Humanitarian Award
"At a time when every aspect of life, including school and sports, was upended in some way, our young-students athletes rose to the challenges and professional athletes and coaches everywhere stepped up to help others and create positive change," said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars. "Our mission at Pop Warner is to instill lifelong values of teamwork, dedication and superior work ethic, and I think those values were more prominent and on display this year than ever from both young and professional athletes alike. I am beyond proud of our 2021 All-American Scholars for their commitment in the classroom and out in their communities, and am so honored that our youth has such remarkable leaders to look up to."
The Buffalo Bills were named Pop Warner's NFL Team of the Year, given annually to the organization that has demonstrated commitment to its community and support of our nation's youth both locally and nationally.
"When it came time to choose our 2021 NFL Team of the Year, we couldn't think of a more deserving team" said Butler. "The sense of community in Buffalo and the way in which both the organization and its fan base have embraced and supported one another, uniting as one team and family is truly amazing.
While the Bills' remarkable season itself kept fans and the community inspired throughout 2020, so too did the organization's continuous commitment to their neighbors throughout Western New York - inspiring change, influencing the youth, supporting those in need and raising awareness of important issues."
Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and former Pop Warner player Justin Simmons is presented with the Inspiration to Youth Award, which is given to an individual who inspires the youth of today to become great achievers of tomorrow.
Simmons' accomplishments on and off the field make him a model representative for young student-athletes throughout the nation. He focused much of his efforts on COVID-19 relief and social justice initiatives while also launching the Justin Simmons Foundation, which focuses on youth development, hunger relief, educational initiatives and other charitable causes. In March 2020, he made contributions to the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Foundation's Food Security Fund and the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund, and in May, spoke publicly about issues of racial inequity and justice.
Jennifer King is the recipient of the Female Achievement Award, which is given to a woman who has demonstrated remarkable strength of character and leadership in attaining achievements in her life that inspire others. This year, she became the NFL's first Black female full-time assistant coach when the Washington Football Team elevated her to assistant running backs coach.
Through her on-field accomplishments as a seven-time All-American quarterback and wide receiver for the Carolina Phoenix Women's Tackle Football Team and her glass-breaking professional achievements - first as an intern for the Carolina Panthers, then as Offensive Assistant at Dartmouth and now in her position with Washington - King is a pioneer, paving the way for young girls and women in sports everywhere.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Denver Broncos cheerleader Gabriela Windey are co-winners of the Pop Warner Humanitarian Award, given to individuals who set a positive example for today's youth by accomplishing both outstanding athletic achievements and philanthropic initiatives.
Duvernay-Tardif and Windey are awarded for their service on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, Duvernay-Tardif as an M.D. who took the season off from football after winning the Super Bowl to help at a long-term care facility back home in Montréal, and Windey as an ICU nurse at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Colorado, working 12-hour days to care for patients most impacted by the virus. Windey is the first female and NFL cheerleader in the history of the award, which has traditionally been awarded to NFL players. Both Windey and Duvarney-Tardif's selflessness and commitment to helping others are an embodiment of sacrifice and teamwork, making them model representatives for young student-athletes across the nation.
To join in on the Pop Warner All-American Scholars celebration, visit popwarner.com or follow along on any of Pop Warner's social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Each day, Pop Warner will share a video of an award winner accepting their honor and providing words of encouragement to this year's All-American Scholars.
About Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.
Founded in 1929 and headquartered in Langhorne, PA, Pop Warner Little Scholars is the nation's oldest youth football, cheerleading and dance organization and the only youth sports organization that emphasizes academics as a prerequisite for participation. Pop Warner participants enjoy the opportunity to learn and compete in their sports in an atmosphere that emphasizes fun, safety, academics and character. For more information on Pop Warner and its programs visit popwarner.com or follow Pop Warner on Twitter @Pop_Warner, Facebook @PopWarnerLittleScholars, Instagram @popwarnerlittlescholars and Snapchat @popwarner1929.