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May, 2022

Pop Warner Celebrates 2022 All-American Scholars

Honor inspiring NFL players, retired players and executives

Langhorne, PA (May 4, 2022) – More than 3,300 youth student athletes nationwide have been named All-American Scholars by Pop Warner Little Scholars, the nation’s oldest youth football, cheer and dance organization and the only one with established academic standards. These student-athletes achieved the honor by earning a minimum of a 96% GPA.

Additionally, Pop Warner announces its 2022 National Award Recipients, recognizing four prominent leaders in professional sports for their outstanding commitment to their communities and crafts. The award winners include:

  • Inspiration to Youth Award: Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raider Tight End and The Darren Waller Foundation founder and president 
  • Trailblazer Award: Dawn Aponte, NFL Chief Football Administrative Officer, Football Operations
  • Humanitarian Award: Warrick Dunn, Warrick Dunn Charities, Inc. founder and former NFL running back
  • NFL Team of The Year Award: LA Rams
Darren Waller, a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, is receiving the Inspiration to Youth Award, an honor given to an individual who has inspired the youth of today to become great achievers of tomorrow. After battling years of substance abuse, Waller climbed his way back into the league and today is one of the NFL's top players in the game. His story of discipline and triumph serves as a source of hope to those who may be facing similar battles in their lives, but more than that, Waller’s openness in talking about his experiences is creating positive change by sparking important conversations around substance abuse and mental health. In 2020, Waller started The Darren Waller Foundation where he speaks to at-risk youth in Las Vegas to build their confidence, give guidance and provide support during recovery and treatment. In this way, Waller serves as a last line of defense for the youth in his local town. 

Dawn Aponte
, Chief Football Administrative Officer, Football Operations of the National Football League, is being awarded the inaugural Trailblazer Award, formerly named The Female Achievement Award. The Trailblazer Award is given to an individual who has broken barriers in their field of work and whose actions and contributions provide new possibilities for the next generation. In her 30+ years with the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and the NFL, Aponte – who has often been the first female in each of her positions – has paved a path for young women who aspire to work in the business of professional sports. With an impressive background as an attorney and an accountant, Aponte worked her way up the ladder and has held critical roles relating to contract negotiations, salary cap management, labor and CBA issues, as well as day-to-day management of the football business and administrative operations. She is an advocate for youth sports, earning a seat on USA Football’s Board of Directors to help guide the game’s development for youth. Through her sheer tenacity, Aponte continues to impact the lives of future generations in unprecedented ways.

Warrick Dunn
, a first-round draft pick and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with three Pro Bowl appearances, has accepted the Humanitarian Award, an award given to an individual who has portrayed both outstanding athletic achievement and high humanitarian principles. In addition to his impressive on-field accomplishments, Dunn is best known for his involvement in philanthropy. As a rookie for the Buccaneers, Dunn founded his Homes for the Holidays program to honor his mother, who was tragically killed on duty as a police officer, and fulfill her dream of home ownership for single-parent families. Understanding the social and economic challenges of caregiving and home ownership, Dunn wanted to help those with similar circumstances and began partnering with local organizations to turn houses into homes for single-parent families through home furnishings and down-payment assistance. Since its inception, Home for the Holidays has furnished more than 200 homes, all while providing nutrition and wellness education, financial literacy, scholarships and tech skills and career development. Long past his playing days, Dunn remains an embodiment of selflessness and compassion.

The LA Rams
were given the NFL Team of the Year Award, an award presented annually to the organization that has demonstrated commitment to its community and support of our nation’s youth. Champions both on and off the field, the Rams continue to make important contributions to the local Los Angeles community, including through their partnership with the LA Watts Rams Pop Warner – a program started by LAPD officers that focuses on bridging community and police relations through youth sports. The Rams organization supports the program by fostering mentorships between youth and professional players, supplying school materials and providing unique experiences that inspire young student-athletes to aim higher, including a trip to the Super Bowl.

This year’s All-American Scholars celebration will be hosted virtually on May 4, 2022 on Pop Warner’s
YouTube and Facebook channels. Scholars will hear from Pop Warner National Staff along with this year’s National Award Recipients.


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Langhorne, Pennsylvania 19047

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