Myer Krah and Vad Lee, former Durham Hillside teammates and long-time friends, shared a heartfelt desire to repay their community for their high school experience.
Krah, who is now an outside linebacker at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Lee, a James Madison quarterback, were captains on the Hornets 2010 state 4A football championship.
The past three years, they have helped organized a scholarship program for a Hillside student.
The program is called “All In Scholarship,” a play on the 2010 football team’s slogan of “All In.”
“We’re really close, and we didn’t want to let go of what we built at the school with the state championship,” Krah said. “We wanted to share this with other guys and future classes. We facebook them, email them; we want to build a network.”
They raised $500 in 2013 to help Quianti Cherry attend Elizabeth State University.
Krah and Lee doubled the scholarship to $1,000 in 2014 and presented it to DeAndre Harper, who went to Winston-Salem State.
The duo doubled the scholarship total again this spring, giving $1,000 to Keith Beasley to use at the University of North Carolina and $1,000 to Gerald Wilkes Jr. to use at Campbell University.
“Myer and Vad were outstanding leaders for us,” said Hillside football coach Antonio King. “They got most of the media attention and did the interviews, but they worked hard. They led more by example than talking. The other kids wanted to follow them and our team really came together. They also were great students.”
Lee and Krah wanted to do more than hand out a scholarship. They came up with an idea to combine the fund-raising effort with the “All In Reunion.”
The third annual reunion, held over Mothers’ Day weekend, created a festive atmosphere. The parking lot looked like a football Friday night. A few hundred fans were in the stands and the concessions stands were open.
On the stadium field, touch football games matched current players and past classes at both ends of the field. Greg Little, a 2007 Hillside graduate and four-year NFL veteran with Cleveland and Cincinnati, was among the former players.
“We hold it on the Friday before Mother’s Day to make it easier for everyone to come home that weekend,” King said.
Krah and Lee began to formulate their idea as they ventured down separate paths to college – Krah was admitted to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., after a year at the Naval Academy Prep School and Lee transferred to James Madison after starting his career at Georgia Tech. They stayed in touch throughout.
They acknowledged they benefited from of having two parents supporting them; others did not. Their football talent attracted recruiters; others were overlooked or lacked ability for the next level.
They could have waited after their college graduations to act, but the idea of sponsoring a college scholarship kept turning in their minds.
“We didn’t want to wait until we were old men,” Lee said. “We wanted to do something special because we feel Hillside and Durham are special places.”
You could say they informally devised their own chapter of “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative designed to mentor young students from under-privileged neighborhoods that was launched in 2014 by President Obama and other leaders.
“I do a lot of community work at school (Navy),” Krah said. “You don’t have to be in Baltimore to help communities. There are under-privileged kids on the other side of Annapolis we can influence.”
And they’ve done all this a year ahead of earning their college degrees as they prepare for their senior seasons.
Last season Lee won the Bill Dudley Award as the top Division I player in Virginia.
James Madison is a Football Championship Subdivision school in Harrisonburg, Va., but the Dudley award is for FCS and Football Bowl Subdivision athletes. Lee also was fourth for the Walter Payton Award for FCS schools.
He set school records for pass completions (282), attempts (465), yards (3,642), touchdowns (30) and total offense (4,288). He threw for 433 yards in a 55-20 win against then-No. 14-ranked Richmond. The Dukes finished with a 9-4 record and advanced to the FCS playoffs before losing in the first round to Liberty, 26-21.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder transferred to JMU for the 2014 season after a redshirt and two season playing at Georgia Tech. He was the Yellow Jackets’ backup quarterback with extensive playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and starter in 2013 as a sophomore.
Krah was a backup cornerback last season until Navy moved him to outside linebacker for the game at South Alabama. He responded with 10 tackles and an interception returned 31 yards in Navy’s 42-20 win during an 8-5 season.
He has added seven pounds and believes he can add another 10 by the start of the season without sacrificing any speed.
They have one final college season left, but they say they have many years remaining paying back their high school and neighborhood.