Geraldine Ezeka of Western Tech (left) and Ryne Schanberger… (Colby Ware, Baltimore Sun )
Whether teammates needed help developing their skills or just a few words of encouragement during a particularly challenging practice, Western Tech's Geraldine Ezeka and Loch Raven's Ryne Schanberger each were eager to step up.
Ezeka often ran behind teammates to offer support if they were struggling with conditioning drills during Western's basketball season. She was also ready to dive for a loose ball in a practice or game, always leading by example.
Schanberger, an offensive guard, was dedicated to the summer workout program for Loch Raven's football team, and learned how to punt after the team desperately needed a kicker. Schanberger also developed series of verbal and non-verbal cues to convey instructions when a teammate had trouble learning his blocking assignments.
As a result of their commitment to their respective teams, Ezeka and Schanberger were chosen above 110 other athletes as the recipients of the 72nd annual McCormick Unsung Heroes Awards at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn on Monday night. Ezeka and Schanberger also received C.P. McCormick Scholarships valued at $36,000 over four academic years.
"I love the game of basketball, Ezeka said. "Basketball, to me, was never about playing time. It was all about sport and the team work that came with it. Basketball taught me leadership."
Ezeka will attend UMBC and plans to eventually enroll in medical school. Her main goal is to open a hospital in Nigeria.
Both Ezeka and Schanberger were the first athletes from their respective schools to win the award, which began in 1940 with Southern's James Nugent as the first recipient. Schanberger is considering Stevenson University to play football and study business.
"It was kind of unexpected, but it's just nice," Schanberger said of the award. "I'm looking at business management or anything toward a business degree. I run a small lawn-care business, so I like it."
More than 700 people — including school officials and families from the area — attended the event. Baltimore native and CBS news correspondent Byron Pitts served as the keynote speaker, and he was nostalgic about playing football at Archbishop Curley, where he was also an Unsung Hero Award nominee.
"Don't be indifferent to the opportunities you have," Pitts told the student-athletes. "When you're blessed with good parents, they can get you through the difficult moments."