Suffolk Pop Warner star meets Jerry Jones

Published 10:14 pm Saturday, June 7, 2014

Select company: Seventh-grader and First Team Academic All-American Tristan Jolley of the Bennett's Creek Warriors, right, presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at the recent Pop Warner Scholastic Banquet in Florida. (Photo submitted by Brian Heffron)

Select company: Seventh-grader and First Team Academic All-American Tristan Jolley of the Bennett’s Creek Warriors, right, presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at the recent Pop Warner Scholastic Banquet in Florida. (Photo submitted by Brian Heffron)

Seventh-grader Tristan Jolley of Suffolk has some extraordinary motivation for this fall, both to hit the books in school and strive for improvement on the gridiron.

He plays football for the Bennett’s Creek Warriors, a Pop Warner league, and was recently honored for his work as a student by Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc. He was named a First Team Academic All-American, ranking him among the top 35 seventh-graders nationally in Pop Warner.

Then, Jolley applied to be a presenter at the recent Pop Warner Scholastic Banquet at Walt Disney World and was accepted. He shared the stage with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, giving the billionaire businessman a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to youth, community and humanity.

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Jolley had received Second Team Academic All-American status for his work as a fourth- and fifth-grader, but he described what it meant to now be on the first team, an honor recognizing his sixth-grade academic performance.

“To me, it means that I’m capable of great things and that there are great things that can happen in the world,” he said.

To be considered an All-American, he needed a grade average of at least 96 percent. There are only 280 members of the first team across all ages out of the more than 400,000 football players, cheerleaders and dancers in Pop Warner.

“I’m proud of him,” said Brian Jolley, Tristan’s father. He said if Tristan can stay focused and stay with the right crowd, “I think he’s on track to be a very special young man.”

In his application to be a presenter at the scholastic banquet, Tristan wrote why being on the second team was not enough.

“Although I was proud of my achievement, I knew I could do better,” he stated. “I can’t settle for gaining one yard in a 4th and 2 yard situation, and I refused to settle for second team.”

He described his schedule, which starts every weekday at 5 a.m. during the school year and includes hours of homework, Pop Warner and middle school football and indoor and outdoor soccer.

“It was difficult, but I think I managed it well,” he said of the demanding routine.

Brian Jolley said, “It shows the drive that he has that he was focused and had improved his grades and his status of the things that he had done enough to be recognized.”

Tristan had one word to describe his on-stage moment with Jerry Jones.

“It felt amazing,” he said. “I can’t really explain it other than ‘amazing.’”

His father agreed: “A man of his stature standing next to my son, it kind of gives you a glimpse of what (Tristan’s) capable of when he puts his mind to it and the possibilities of where he could go if he stays on a positive track. And he handled himself very well up there, so I was very proud of him.”