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Posted: Thursday, June 19th 2014 at 1:18pm

Branch's Keaton Coker crowned Georgia's 'Most Positive Athlete'

By staff
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Keaton Coker, center, accepts the Positive Athlete award from Hines Ward, third from left.
ATLANTA -- Flowery Branch High School football player Keaton Coker was named the 2013-14 Most Positive Male Athlete at the inaugural Positive High School Athlete Awards on Saturday in Atlanta.

Coker was presented the award by former Georgia Bulldogs star and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward, former Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice, former Atlanta Falcon and Braves star Brian Jordan, and former Falcon wide receiver Brian Finneran.

"Keaton has had to overcome miles of adversity in the past few years to be able to participate in the sport he loves," said Ward, who helped create the Positive Athlete program. "Despite his circumstances, he continues to push on and be an inspiration to those around him."

The summer before his junior year, Coker was diagnosed with brain cancer. After being released from the hospital following multiple surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy, he made sure to never miss a workout or practice.

According to Flowery Branch football coach and nominator Chris Griffin, "His first words after brain surgery were, 'will I make it to practice today?' "

Two weeks ago, Coker was admitted back into the hospital and his parents were not sure he would be able to make the award ceremony. But typical of his positive attitude and spirit, he made the event and was brought to the stage with a standing ovation by those in attendance.

Two other Hall County student-athletes were named "Most Positive" in their sport. Caitlin Parsons, a cheerleader from Johnson High School, and soccer player Connor Knotts, also of Flowery Branch High School.

"These young men and women deserve our highest praise for their accomplishments on as well as off the playing field," said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. "Through these awards, I know that we can hold up these young adults as an example to others of the importance of hard work and civic engagement. These athletes have worked hard on the playing field and in their communities, and I could not be more proud of them."

Six-hundred nominations from coaches, principals, athletic directors, teachers, and parents were submitted, representing 65 different Atlanta metro area high schools. In addition to excellence on the field, each nominated Positive Athlete was required to show characteristics such as an optimistic attitude, teammate encouragement, servant leadership, heart for others, ability to admit imperfections, giving 100 percent all the time, and realizing the team as more important than the individual.

"We did not put out a search for the best athletes in Georgia," said Ward. "We put out a search for kids with positive attitudes whose efforts don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheets. These kids are also positive role models in their schools who get involved in charitable causes, have already learned the meaning of giving back at an early age, and many have overcome difficult circumstances and remained positive."

"The most successful business men and women are positive individuals, so we’re using sports to help instill those characteristics at a young age," said Scott Pederson, President of Positive Athlete Georgia. "Positivity is a life skill that will help any young person deal with relationships, obstacles and opportunities."

Pederson and Ward are creating an awards program for the 2014-15 school calendar year to recognize the Most Positive High School Athletes in North Georgia next Spring, which would include student-athlete nominees from Hall, Forsyth, and Dawson County. Athletes are nominated by coaches, parents and fans.

Positive Athlete, a subsidiary of parent company Celebrate Positive, LLC, is a group of high-character professional athletes who have teamed up to promote the benefits of positivity to young athletes around the world. These athletes believe it is crucial to begin shaping the futures of young athletes for life skills beyond athletic competition. Positive Athlete Georgia mirrors the successful program put together in Pittsburgh by Pederson and Ward. Positive Athlete Georgia’s web site is designed to tell positive stories about the kind of role models our young athletes should aspire to.

Link: Learn more about Positive Athlete here
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