NSA students prepare to drive for the Heisman

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

Katie Byrd will probably never play college football. But she’s still got a shot at a Heisman.

Along with fellow Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior Joey DiRenzo, Byrd was picked to represent her school in the Wendy’s High School Heisman Awards Program. For the past 10 years, the fast food franchise has honored male and female high school juniors from across the country. NSA’s picks were announced at the school award banquet last week.

&uot;I was shocked,&uot; Byrd said of her thoughts when her name was called. &uot;I had no idea. I just sat there for a minute, thinking, ‘Is that me?’&uot;

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&uot;I felt pretty good,&uot; DiRenzo said. &uot;It’s an honor to be recognized. I was surprised. When I think of athletes being recognized, I usually think of the big sports like football and lacrosse. I didn’t think someone from swimming and cross country or another sport that’s not big in Suffolk would be picked.&uot;

Over the past two years, he’s captained his respective swimming, cross-country and track teams both years. A member of the National Honor Society and treasurer of the junior class, he’s also the founder of the Haitian Awareness Club and a peer counselor. His work with the Haitians won his the American Institute for Public Service’s Jefferson Award, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s Bishop Walter Sullivan Catholic Boy Scout Leadership Award (DiRenzo is an Eagle Scout), the Volunteer Hampton Roads’ Youth Achievement Award and the Portsmouth Knights of Columbus’ Young Person of the Year Award.

Byrd, who helped the NSA cheerleading squad to the TCIS title last year, is a three-year member of both the cheerers and the varsity softball team. She’s a past or present member of the National Honor Society, Student Cooperative Organization, Operation Smile, Students Against Drunk Driving, Just Say No Club, and the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) program.

After majoring in biology at James Madison University, she hopes to return to the CHKD as a pediatric cardiologist.

&uot;I’ve know that since fifth grade,&uot; she said. &uot;Heart problems run in my family, especially among the women.&uot;

Both Byrd and her younger sister suffer from heart trouble.

&uot;I have a ripped valve, but it doesn’t affect me at all,&uot; she said. &uot;I want to work at CHKD in case my children have heart problems. I want all the information.&uot;

DiRenzo, who hopes to go into the Armed Forces, will be looking for another form of information.

&uot;I want to study mechanical engineering and find an alternative to petroleum for fuel services,&uot; he said. &uot;I believe that our oil storage of petroleum could run out in the near future.&uot;

Between now and December, Byrd and DiRenzo will find out if they’re selected as part of the nation’s top 12 nominees, who will head to New York in late December for the final selection. A Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student made it to the final round in 1996.

&uot;That would be exciting,&uot; Direnzo said. &uot;I hope I can help somebody with this.&uot;