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Sumter Touchdown Club honors student-athletes with banquet

By J. SCOTT SEWELL
jscott@theitem.com
Posted 1/18/20

The Sumter Touchdown Club held its third annual season-ending banquet on Thursday at Central Carolina Technical College's Health Science Building on South Main Street.

Former Clemson standout running back C.J. Spiller served as the keynote …

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Sumter Touchdown Club honors student-athletes with banquet

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The Sumter Touchdown Club held its third annual season-ending banquet on Thursday at Central Carolina Technical College's Health Science Building on South Main Street.

Former Clemson standout running back C.J. Spiller served as the keynote speaker, delivering a message centered on hard work, academics and embracing leadership.

Spiller was the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, racking up 1,212 rushing yards and 503 receiving yards for the Tigers. He was selected ninth overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2010 NFL Draft, and played seven years in the NFL for five different teams.

"Whatever sport you play, you can't play it forever," said Spiller on the importance of focusing on academics over football. "One day it's going to come to an end, and you always have to have that backup plan.

"Are you accountable? Are you dependable? Does the guy next to you trust you," Spiller asked the student-athletes in attendance. "Are you showing up on time? Are you leading by example? You don't have to be a senior to be a leader; It just takes courage.

"Your talent can only get you so far," said Spiller "When you get to the next level everyone is talented. Then, if you happen to go to the NFL, (there's) even more talent. It all goes back to the hard work, the foundation that you have to set now. You can't wait until you get there. You have to go ahead and set that foundation now."

The TD Club honored five players of the year, and an assistant coach of the year.

Laurence Manning Academy's Wyatt Rowland and C.E. Murray's Antonio McKnight were both honored as the Sumter TD Club Offensive Player of the Year. Sumter High School linebacker Donte' Coleman was given the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second year in a row. Clarendon Hall's Kylic Horton won the Special Teams Player of the Year award, and C.E. Murray's Nyziah Alston-Daniels was given the Offensive Lineman of the Year award. Thomas Sumter Academy assistant coach David Decker was given the Assistant Coach of the Year award.

"This is our biggest night of the year," said board member Lee Glaze. "We target this all year long in order to try to highlight what's good in our schools and in our community. Not only with football, but also with the academic side of it and bringing in speakers like C.J. Spiller to hopefully inspire these kids. That's our mission, and that's what we want to try to do to be a positive influence in the community."

On the academic side, The TD Club also granted 10 $750 Merit Scholarships based on nominations from local schools. The organization has now granted $21,000 in scholarships to local student-athletes over the past five years.

Those receiving scholarships included Charles Grant of Crestwood, Blayne Aycock of Sumter, Emory Moore of Wilson Hall, Graham Campbell of Thomas Sumter, Nathan Suggs of Lakewood, Jon Russell Brannon of Robert E. Lee, Trey Sharpe of Laurence Manning, McKnight of C.E. Murray, Coleman of Sumter and Noah Tavarez of Wilson Hall.

"We can't thank our sponsors enough," said Glaze. "We could not do what we do without our sponsors. We had probably 75 or 80 of them, and they come from a lot of different counties -- Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties -- both businesses and individuals. Without them, none of this is possible."

The TD Club also recognized 12 scholar athletes as selected by each school. Those receiving scholar-athlete awards were Emmanuel McClam of Lake City, Campbell of Thomas Sumter, Suggs of Lakewood, Brannon of Robert E. Lee, Aaron Smith of Manning, Aycock of Sumter, McKnight of C.E. Murray, Grant of Crestwood, Sharpe of Laurence Manning, Wells Robinson of Clarendon Hall, Jamari Mellerson of Scott's Branch and Gavin Mathes of Wilson Hall.