Meet 2 outstanding winners of the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Program

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Rogers High School Erin Brown and Guntersville High School Gabe Marsh. (Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

This school year, 104 high school seniors from every corner of the state received scholarships totaling $380K from the Bryant-Jordan Student Athlete Scholarship Program. Consider it a down payment on Alabama’s future.

The Student Athlete Scholarship Program was started by the Board of Directors of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (ASHOF) in partnership with the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) in 1986, in memory of legendary coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant and Ralph “Shug” Jordan. The program was one of the first projects of its kind in the nation. Since its beginning, it has given out 3,430 scholarships throughout the state.  

Inspiration and Hope

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Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan and Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Photo via ASHOF

“This was our 37th year.” Scott Myers, Managing Director of the program, told Bham Now. “When you start seeing the young ladies and young men and what they’ve accomplished through their lives, culminating upon their senior years, it is truly remarkable. It gives you a lot of inspiration and a lot of hope.” 

How the Program Works

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2022 Bryant-Jordan Scholarship winners walking in on the red carpet at the Sheraton Ballroom in Birmingham. (Jacob Blakenship/Bham Now)

Each year, member schools of the Alabama High School Athletic Association can nominate award winners—whether it’s a 1A high school in rural Alabama or a 7A high school from one of the larger cities.

The program is divided into two categories—one based on balancing academics and athletics (Scholar-Athlete Award), the other based on achievement overcoming adversity, unique challenges and obstacles (Achievement Award). These student-athletes have overcome some significant adversity, whether it be an illness, injury, poverty, family crisis, etc. 

A total of 52 students are honored annually in each category, with eight regional winners from each classification—1A through 6A—and four regional winners in Class 7A.

Out of the 104 winners, two overall awards are given; the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Student Achievement Athlete of the Year Award and Larry D. Striplin, Jr., Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.  

“Each year there are a number of extraordinarily impactful stories on both the scholar athlete side and on the achievement award side,” added Myers. “This year was no different.” 

2022 Overall Winners

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2022 Bryant-Jordan Scholarship winners. (Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

On April 11th, Guntersville High School’s Gabe Marshand Rogers High School’s Erin Brownwere selected the overall state winners at the 37th annual Bryant-Jordan Student Athlete Awards Banquet held at the Sheraton Ballroom in Birmingham.

Gabe Marsh

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Gabe Marsh, winner of the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Student Achievement Athlete of the Year Award. (Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

Marsh won the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Student Achievement Athlete of the Year Award. 

Born with no legs and one arm, Gabe was adopted by Ed and Ann Marsh at an early age. He learned how to swim by four years old and soon began competing in the sport. At Guntersville, he swam all four years earning the state title in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle twice. 

In an emotional acceptance speech upon receiving the award, he thanked his family, coaches, teachers and mentors.

“I want to especially thank my parents. It’s a miracle. They took a chance on me. You don’t have to have blood to have a family. They are the two most important people in my life. They may not know it… I love them so much.

Everyday I wake up and expect greatness. I never think negative, I think positive. Everytime I get down, I think of all the blessings that God has given me.”

After the award ceremony, his father, Ed Marsh was bursting with pride.

“I’ve raised 12 children (including fostering 47 children). You never know the direction they are headed. I feel so good about Gabe. He has a calling to ministry. This (scholarship) gives him the opportunity to get the education where he wants to go.”

Erin Brown

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Erin Brown, winner of Larry D. Striplin, Jr., Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. (Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

Winner ofLarry D. Striplin, Jr., Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award was Rogers High School’s Erin Brown from the town of Greenhill in Lauderdale County.

The first Class 4A scholar-athlete to receive the award since 2005, Brown ranks first in her senior class of 84 students. She has a 4.39 weighted grade-point-average on a 4.0 scale and scored 33 on the ACT college entrance exam.

Other academic honors and activities include:

  • National Honor Society
  • Beta Club 
  • 30+ ACT Club
  • Junior class president
  • Senior class treasurer
  • Scholar Bowl captain
  • Active in her community as a Bible School teacher and community volunteer

A natural leader, Brown played volleyball, basketball and track. She earned All-State  Tournament honors in 2019 and 2021 helping the Pirates win the Class 4A basketball crown both years. She served as captain on both volleyball and basketball teams.

“I want to thank everyone who continually pushed me to be the best version of myself. They are the reason I’m standing here today.”

Myers added, “One of the things that stood out for Erin was her leadership and community involvement. She is a role model for all the people in her school, not just the senior class, but all the way down to the elementary school.”

For additional information about the Bryant-Jordan Award winners visit AHSAA Now

A Special Event

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Greg McElroy addressing the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Award winners and their families, teachers and coaches. (Jacob Blankenship)

This year’s Bryant-Jordan banquet was emcee’d for the 19th year by University of Alabama Basketball play by play announcer Chris Stewart. The keynote speaker was Alabama Football legend and ESPN color analyst Greg McElroy.  

In its 37-year history, the program has given away more than $11 million. 

“It’s a great time to honor and recognize some of the outstanding students and student athletes from all across the state,” Myers concluded.

To learn more about Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Program, visit: http://bryantjordan.org

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