Saranac Laker nominated for USA Football award
SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake’s Rione Symonds was nominated for USA Football’s Heart of a Giant Award this week.
Symonds is a junior at Saranac Lake High School and a member of the school’s varsity football team.
The 2021 USA Football Heart of a Giant Award, presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants, is for tri-state area high school football players who have been nominated by their coaches for their commitment, teamwork, will, character and dedication.
When the football season first started, Symonds would bike to practice from Onchiota, where he worked.
“I really wanted to do football this year and I didn’t know if there was anyone who could give me a ride,” Symonds said. “I said, you know what, I’ll just bike and I’ll get there when I get there.”
Even though Symonds had never played organized football, he still rode his bike 15 miles to practice. He said he just wanted to experience football.
“There is some times I get confused,” Symonds said. “But then everyone helps me figure stuff out since this is my first year playing.”
“I don’t think you can get a much bigger heart than if you are willing to bike 15 miles to practice,” Saranac Lake coach Eric Bennett said. “After working all day and knowing that you are going to have a three-hour practice. Especially committing to that and having never played the sport before. It’s a tremendous commitment on his part and he has honored it through and through. We couldn’t be happier to have him on our team.”
Bennett, who has emphasized the importance of positive culture within the football program, said his commitment and dedication is another piece of the team’s culture puzzle.
“Rione is a hard worker, determined and kind,” Bennett said in a statement. “He is a great teammate and even though he has never played the sport of football before, he strives to become a better teammate every single day.”
Symonds is among 60 student-athletes who will be chosen as nominees for the award. Each week, over the course of a six-week span, 10 student-athletes will be announced as nominees for the award.
He was nominated for the award in the second week of announcements. The nominees for each week will be entered into an online voting competition. The athlete with the most votes each week will be chosen as finalists.
Along with the winner from each of the six weeks, an additional five wild card finalists will be chosen based on their character and work ethic. The 11 finalists will then submit a video on why they have a “Heart of a Giant.” The videos will be reviewed by USA Football, Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants.
The grand prize winner will be presented the USA Football Heart of a Giant trophy on the field during a New York Giants’ home game in December. The winner’s school will also get an additional $4,000 equipment grant for the high school football program. All finalists will receive a $1,000 equipment grant for their school.
The voting period is currently open. Voting will close on Oct. 3 at 11:59 p.m. For more information and how to vote visit: https://usafootball.com/hoagvote.