ESPN RISE honors 3 athletes who persevered

ARLINGTON, Texas -- ESPN RISE honored three local student athletes at the Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Luncheon on Monday at Cowboys Stadium.

The ESPN RISE Above Student Athlete Awards are given to athletes who overcome adversity and excel in athletics as well as academics. These athletes receive much more than plaques marking their accomplishment; they are given a sneak peek inside what it takes to put on Monday Night Football and attention from NFL and ESPN brass.

“It’s about high school athletes overcoming incredible obstacles, in the community, the classroom and the field,” Ndidi Massay, director of business operations for ESPN RISE, said. “It’s not always your best athletes, but it’s the athletes that have overcome the most and have these heart-wrenching stories.”

Football player/wrestler Adrian Casadas (Dallas Molina), cross country runner Hector Salinas (Fort Worth Diamond Hill-Jarvis) and basketball player Octavia Tate (Arlington Seguin) were the recipients of this award and a day of fame that began early Monday morning in Arlington’s monument to football.

The winners, along with a few friends, began the day touring the club level of the stadium, where the Chalk Talk Lunch was held. Along the way, various ESPN employees met with the award winners and explained their role in the events of the day and motivated the students to work hard to find similar successes they have achieved.

The award winners and guests were then treated to a discussion panel that included Paul Richardson, senior vice president of human resources for ESPN, and former Dallas Cowboy Rocket Ismail, among others.

Ismail spoke of the people and experiences that shaped him as a youth, passing along that wisdom to future generations.

“I’m kind of stunned because time has fast forwarded and now I’m giving [wisdom] that I’ve got,” Ismail said. “I love that and I love being a part of programs that put that first.”

During the Chalk Talk presentation, the student-athletes shared a stage with the likes of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Monday Night Football personalities Ron Jaworski, Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden, receiving recognition for their accomplishments and plaques as tangible evidence of their achievement.

“It’s amazing,” Casadas said about the day. “It’s just such a great experience. It said it would be life changing, and it really is. The fact that I’m here, in the new stadium, meeting new people, meeting the Rocket Ismail. It’s amazing.”

Both ESPN and the NFL make matching donations to the high schools of the athletes selected for the award.

“The [student-athletes] that were here today; they were here because [overcoming adversity is] what they did,” Ismail said. “I just really wanted to bring home to them that they might not be the best athlete in your school or the most popular, but what you’re developing characteristically is a thing the very best athletes wish they had.”