Chicken Express and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football are partnering to honor the heroes in your community. Male and female student-athletes that lead by example on the field of play and in the classroom can be honored as Chicken Express Community Heroes and receive scholarship money to continue their education beyond high school.
Riley Latham, Lufkin
Lufkin senior Riley Latham is a prime example of what it means to be a model citizen. Latham is ranked third in her class, serves in a number of volunteer roles and is a standout volleyball player.
“When it comes to being a leader one of the things that sets her apart from her peers is that she’s just so unselfish,” Lufkin Athletic Director Jerri Boyd said. “She’s good at what she does but she’s much more concerned about others than herself, if there’s an opportunity to help someone out even at her own sacrifice she’s going to do it.”
Latham can do it all on the volleyball court, she accumulated 334 kills, 104 digs and 36 aces last season earning her first-team all-district honors. Additionally, the outside hitter brings an extreme intensity and commitment to her craft.
“Riley is a pure example of what every coach wants their players to be like,” Lufkin head volleyball coach Leah Flores said. “She’s so committed — she’s at every possible thing that I offer over the summer: summer workouts, she plays club, she’s so committed to being great at what she does.”
Latham is just as committed to her studies as she is to volleyball and is currently ranked number 3 in her class. The standout student was in the valedictorian spot after the second semester of her junior year, however, was passed up because she takes an athletic period and the two students in front of her don’t. Latham is working to get back into an academic class in the second semester in hopes of reclaiming that top spot and graduate as valedictorian.
“She’s the hardest working kid off the court,” Flores said. “If she’s not on the volleyball court, from what her Mom says, she’s sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework and studying up.”
Latham is extremely passionate about helping others and making sure that others are taken care of. This past year she volunteered at her church’ Vacation Bible School, helped lead Fellowship of Christian Athletes and volunteered at various volleyball camps. Flores has had the opportunity to see Latham’s selfless service firsthand.
“She’s out there in practice leading the girls and making sure that she isn’t just making them better volleyball players but better girls,” Flores said. “She cares about them so much and it's amazing to see a young lady wanting to be such a good person and making other people better people.”
After high school, Latham wants to play college volleyball and has already received interest from several Div. II and Div. III colleges. She also intends to build on her passion of helping others and pursue a career in the medical field.
David Etherington, Bastrop
There are players that stick out in the minds of coaches even after they graduate. For Bastrop head coach Todd Patmon, one of those players is David Etherington, who played center for the Bears for four seasons and graduated in June. Etherington earned second-team All-District honors in 2017 and was the anchor of the Bastrop offensive line, but what makes him stand out in Patmon’s mind is the kind of person that he was.
“He was the leader for us the last two years. He’s a verbal guy that’s not afraid to make adjustments. He also leads with his actions,” Patmon said. “He’s going to be a very tough young man to replace.”
Etherington’s leadership was also noticed as he played for the U.S. National football team. He started off camp very quiet but by the end was a verbal leader on the team. He was named a captain and after the game, his head coach, Virgil Hart, the head coach at Northwestern St., awarded him with the game ball.
“It meant a lot to me that my hard work didn’t go unnoticed,” Etherington said. “The first couple of days I was really quiet and then once we found out what teams we were on we got to know the coaches a little better and I started to be more verbal and help the coaches out a little bit.”
What also makes Etherington stand out to Patmon was his effort when it came to academics. The stand out center graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and was a member of the National Honor Society.
“He was a great example of a student-athlete that any coach and any program would want,” Patmon said. “He came to school every day and worked hard in the classroom. He cared about his GPA and his academics, he’s a very astute young man.”
Additionally, Etherington gives back to his community through his church, as he goes on mission trips, and volunteers at their summer camp. He says that what inspires him to volunteer within the church is the happiness that it brings to the people who he’s helping.
“I’ve grown up in the church my entire life, it makes me happy to be nice to people and help them,” Etherington said. “It helps me know that I’m doing the right thing and it also makes people’s day and makes them happy.”
Etherington had college interest from around the country but declined to take any visits because he wanted to use his first year of college to prepare himself for medical school.
“I might change my mind and play the last three years,” Etherington said. But I’m definitely taking this year off to get my mind where it needs to be and my body in the right spot.”
He will be pursuing a Biology Pre-Med major at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon or a physical therapist after medical school. That said, he has already talked to the UMHB coaching staff who said that he has a spot on the team if he decides that he wants to play.
“Athletics is another reason why I chose to go to UMHB,” Etherington said. They have a very strong athletic program with a history of National Championships so I respect that a lot.”