By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
BIRMINGHAM — Blake Byrd, the three-sport standout from Corner, has won one of the state’s most prestigious awards for high school athletes.
He was selected as the winner of the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Student Achievement Athlete of the Year, one of the top two awards given by the Bryant-Jordan Student Athlete Awards program.
Byrd, along with Carmen Carlos of McGill-Toolen, were announced as winners in a banquet Monday night at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. Carlos won the Larry D. Striplin, Jr., Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.
The senior was the starting quarterback and safety in football, a starting guard in basketball and is four-position player in baseball for the Yellow Jackets. Byrd has won numerous awards from coaching and media organizations over his career, including multiple North Jefferson News All-Star Team selections.
Byrd has battled through a tough family situation throughout his life, a struggle chronicled in a front-page story in The Birmingham News last week.
“I love sports,” Byrd told the banquet audience. “I have loved sports from the time I was seven years old. It has allowed me to be around coaches and teachers who have really helped me. This is awesome. I want to thank my coaches, teammates and family. I am not the most perfect kid in the world, but I know if you go to God he will fix everything in your life.”
Byrd will receive a total of $8,500 in college scholarship money.
Byrd was not the only local player honored by the Bryant-Jordan organization. Amanda Dean, a track-and-field athlete at Mortimer Jordan, won the student-achievement award for Class 5A, as Byrd had also done in 4A. She also won the Herman L. “Bubba” Scott Coaching Scholarship.
Dean’s scholarship awards total $8,000.
Orion Recke, a baseball pitcher/outfielder and basketball forward for Jordan, was also a regional finalist for the Class 5A scholar-athlete award. That includes a $2,500 scholarship.
The Bryant-Jordan program, now in its 28th year, was created by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in conjunction with the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The banquet honored 96 recipients, with scholarship awards totaling approximately $1 million.