Earnest “EL” Dickey was confused.
Tuesday afternoon, during the fourth block of his school day, Dickey was asked out of his classroom by an adult he didn’t know. The senior from Clover High School was worried. And that’s understandable.
On the way back to class, the same question kept coming up in her head: What did I do?
It wasn’t until he returned to his classroom — when classmates, football teammates and even three family members cheered and clapped and gave him a standing ovation — that Dickey knew what he was up to. ‘He did.
And that was something pretty cool.
Dickey, a senior offensive lineman on the Clover football team, had won a $2,500 scholarship from the NFL Players Association Professional Athletes Fund. According to the association’s website, the award is given to two athletes from across North and South Carolina — one female and one male — and is intended to “recognize high school athletes for their non-athletic achievements and help them achieve their academic career goals. .”
“Really excited,” Dickey said in an interview Tuesday with a big smile, “and really grateful.”
Dickey received the award from NFLPA Charlotte Area President Colin Cole and Marques Murrell. Cole is a former defensive tackle who played football in Iowa and rebounded in the NFL from 2003 to 2013. Murrell played at App State before having a professional football career from 2007 to 2012.
And that stranger who dragged Dickey out of his classroom, to walk him back to a standing ovation? It was Liz Benavides, who serves on the committee that oversees the selection and distribution of the scholarship.
“Sorry to scare you,” Benavides told Dickey in front of the class with a laugh. “We have a lot entries each year, and it is up to us to review them and select the winners. This young man stood out not only because of his athleticism, but also because of his academics and really everything else about him.
Dickey, at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, was the starting center on Clover’s offensive line in 2021. The 18-year-old was born in Clover and has always loved football, he said. He played fullback in college and youth football, back when Clover was a Wing-T town, before head coach Brian Lane came along and instituted a wide-spread offense.
In high school, Dickey noticed being an offensive lineman was one place he could contribute. So regardless of whether he was undersized or underdog, he tried for the job and each week stared at a defensive lineman who was the big winner — and always rose to that challenge.
Clover’s interior offensive line coach Steve Churm wrote Dickey’s recommendation for the scholarship. It was easy to find the words, he says.
“He starts at the center of a 5A football team in South Carolina,” Churm said Tuesday. “I mean, he’s sort of the embodiment of the little engine that could.”
Dickey is Clover’s senior class president and will attend Clemson to pursue a degree in communications after graduating later this month. He eventually wants to study law and become a criminal defense attorney, he said.
EL will join his sister, Erin, in Clemson and continue to bring pride to his mother, Millicent, and grandmother, Amarintha Whitener. All three were at school on Tuesday to watch EL get caught.
And what a pleasant surprise it was.
This story was originally published May 12, 2022 10:46 a.m.