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C.J. Conrad finalist for Pop Warner Little Scholars

UK tight end CJ Conrad celebrated UK’s Homecoming with the patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. (Photo by Noah J. Richter | UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky senior tight end C.J. Conrad has been named a finalist for the 2018 Pop Warner Little Scholars, the nation’s oldest youth football organization, celebrating its 90th season.

The Pop Warner National College Football Award recognizes a college graduating senior who has made a difference on the field, in the classroom and in his community, and serves as a role model to Pop Warner’s young student-athletes. 

Pop Warner created the award in 2010 to honor a college player who has continued to demonstrate Pop Warner’s fundamental values of sportsmanship, academics and community service at the next level. 

The Pop Warner Little Scholars National College Football Award will be presented during the annual Pop Warner Super Bowl at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Last year’s winner was former University of Miami and current New England Patriots wide receiver Braxton Berrios.

The 2018 finalists are:

  • University of Southern California guard Jordan Austin
  • Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley
  • University of Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad
  • West Point linebacker Kenneth Brinson
  • Duke University linebacker Ben Humphreys
  • University of Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr.

Conrad, a native of LaGrange, Ohio, is the epitome of this award.

Prior to the 2018 season, he created a program called “Tuesdays with C.J.” where he visits the Kentucky Children’s Hospital each Tuesday to hang out with the patients and brighten their day. Sometimes he just spends the morning just talking to the kids and their families and sometimes he’s asked to make slime which has become one of his favorite things to do.

“We are honored to have C.J. come to the hospital and take his time just to see patients,” KY Children’s Hospital Child Life Coordinator Jennifer Guilliams said. “I had a mom tell me her daughter didn’t want to get out of bed for two days until she heard C.J. was coming and she walked down the hall to meet him. Not only does his visit brighten their day but it provides them with motivation to continue to get better and we couldn’t do that ourselves. As doctors, nurses and staff, we can only do so much. C.J. coming in is an inspiration to our children, an inspiration to our staff and we all get excited for his visits. What makes it even more special is that he does this out of the kindness of his heart.”

In the spring of 2017, Conrad befriended nine-year old cancer patient Ryan Cremeens of Richmond, Kentucky. Ryan was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in the summer of 2016, a soft-tissue muscle tumor that had grown in his sinus cavity. Conrad heard about Ryan’s illness and along with several teammates, began visiting him in the hospital. Cremeens had most of the tumor removed and underwent 42 weeks of chemo and seven weeks of radiation. Conrad and his teammates were present at the hospital to help Ryan celebrate his last day of chemotherapy and ring the bell, which celebrates the end of chemo treatments. Conrad invited Cremeens to be his special guest at the 2017 Blue/White Spring Game and run out of the tunnel with the team.

Later that year, Conrad was chosen to participate in a one-week service trip to the Dominican Republic in 2017 where he interacted with residents of impoverished communities, visited an orphanage, constructed park benches in a sugar cane village, distributed food to the hungry, visited a nursing home and spent time with special needs children at a local daycare.

Conrad has also been a guest speaker at several local schools and organizations and in his hometown of LaGrange, Ohio, talking about leadership. Conrad’s mission is to educate and help provide opportunities to young children from small towns like himself, the chance to succeed on and off the field by using the game of football.

He’s also volunteered with Amachi Central Kentucky along with 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member Courtney Love. Amachi is a mentoring program that seeks to pair caring, positive adults with children and youth in the Bluegrass who have one of both parents in state or federal prison or are affected by incarceration in some way.

In the classroom, Conrad, a member of the 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll and Dean’s List, is on track to graduate in December with a degree in communications.

On the field, he has helped the No. 21/20 Wildcats chart a 7-3 overall record and finish conference play at 5-3, UK’s first winning record in the Southeastern Conference since 1977. Besides being an excellent blocker, Conrad has caught 23 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns this season. He now has 884 career receiving yards and needs just 116 more to become the 28th player to reach 1,000 yards receiving.

In Conrad’s four-year career, the Wildcats have 26 total wins, the fifth-most since freshmen became eligible to play in 1972-73.

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