St. Paul Central football star Garrett Gardner became the first recipient of the Stacy Robinson Leadership Award last Sunday evening at the 8th Annual Minnesota Football Honors banquet held at the Hilton Minneapolis.
The event was sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The organization honors leadership, academic excellence, and sportsmanship in youth though the promotion of amateur football.
The leadership award was presented for the first time in honor of Robinson, a 1980 St. Paul Central graduate who starred in football, basketball and track. He went on to an outstanding track and football career at North Dakota State University, leaving the school as one of the most prolific wide receivers in school history.
After graduating in 1985, he went on to play wide receiver for the New York Giants, winning two Super Bowl rings before retiring after the 1990 season. Robinson, who passed away in 2012, later worked with the National Football League Players Association as director of player development.
“It was an honor to be nominated for this award, and to win it was even better,” said Gardner, who has quite a résumé of his own.
He was named the 2014 St. Paul City Conference Player of the Year, excelling as a running back and linebacker. He led the Minutemen to back-to-back City Conference championships, scoring 53 touchdowns the past two years and 250 career tackles.
After accepting his award, Gardner acknowledged the importance of football in his life. “I wanted to open doors for myself and others, be a role model, and have the opportunity for a free education,” he said. “Football helped me accomplish that.”
It helped him indeed.
As a member of Central’s School Climate Committee, he mentored fellow students and strived to create a better learning environment for his fellow classmates and staff. Gardner also served as a volunteer youth football coach at Jimmy Lee Recreation Center during his high school career, and he recently announced that he will major in sports medicine and play running back at the University of Wyoming on a full scholarship.
Despite all of his accomplishments Gardner, who also started for Central’s basketball team, was still in awe shortly after receiving his award.
“I’m speechless,” he said after a brief photo session. “To get this award is pretty awesome. Stacy [Robinson] was an amazing person.”
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