Maurice Torres Receives Courageous Athlete Award for 2007 by NCAS

Maurice Torres (right) with 1996 Heisman Trophy winner and NCAS Hall of Fame inductee Danny Wuerffel

Maurice Torres, a junior for the Red Hawk men's basketball team, never envisioned the sort of celebrity status he was accorded when he attended the 10th Annual Giant Steps Award Banquet in Orlando, FL on January 28.

From the time he stepped into the Rosen Centre Hotel, Torres was lauded and sought out by some of the top names in collegiate sports, both past and present, who took the time to congratulate him on his honor. Torres was named the recipient of the Giant Steps Courageous Athlete Award for 2007 by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports.

"The experience was amazing. Just being able to meet other individuals and families who have had their own struggles and through the grace of God, overcame them," said Torres. "Coming into the ceremony, I new that I had an interesting story/life, but after I left, I found that these other individuals who were honored also had interesting stories that humbled me and reminded me not to take anything for granted."

Also honored in the various categories were Women’s World Cup Soccer champion Julie Foudy; legendary women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt of the University of Texas; Boston University standouts Brittany and A.J. Detwiler; former Army football player Johnnie Williams; The Miracle League; and the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team.

"It was truly an honor to accompany Maurice to the Giants Steps Awards Dinner," said Tara Rienecker, Coordinator of Student Development for Athletes. " It was a night to reflect upon what is truly important and how small miracles and perseverance can change lives.Maurice spoke with eloquence and was well-deserving of this special award."

During his three days at the conference, Torres posed for pictures, shook hands and spoke with many of the dignitaries, including former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, who was inducted into the NCAS Hall of Fame as well as Dr. Richard Lapchick, the President and Executive Director of the NCAS and the son of legendary Basketball Hall of Fame member Joe Lapchick, who coached both the New York Knicks and at St. John's University.

And while Torres was humbled by all of the attention, perhaps the most touching moment of the entire event for him came when he met Emmitt and Charlotte Ray, the parents of Jason Ray, the University of North Carolina mascot who was tragically killed along a New Jersey highway during the NCAA Regional Tournament at the Meadowlands last March. Ray was also honored by the NCAS. In addition, Torres also met Ronald Griffin, one of the 50 recipients of Jason Ray's organs. Griffin received Jason's heart.

"I was completely honored to meet Mr. and Mrs. Ray. I remembered hearing about Jason Ray's story on the news and on the internet," said Torres. "I was even more astonished how many lives Jason Ray impacted after God called him home. He lives on through the lives of others, and because of this amazing opportunity to meet other individuals, I was able to meet Mr. Ronald Griffin who lives on because of the heart of Jason. This was a great experience because seeing one families loss being a gain/glory of another is a great example of how God works."

Torres’ story of personal courage is one of great inspiration. As four-year-old child, Torres and his mother were homeless and slept in alleyways on cold nights, while his sisters stayed with relatives. His early years exposed him to witness drug use, violence, and prostitution.

Eventually moved to the foster care system, Torres kept in his mind his mother’s desire to “keep the family together,” a responsibility that made a strong impression on the five-year-old. Over the next few weeks, they were moved from home to home until they found a loving family who could provide for them. Despite having three biological children of their own, the family provided a stable home for the Torres children for two years.

After the two years, Torres’ younger sister was adopted, while the others were sent to an orphanage for a year until they were taken in by the Davis family. The Davis family already had four adopted children, but wanted three more. It was a perfect fit. After almost 10 years together, they were officially adopted in November of 2004.

Now in his third year at Montclair State University, Torres is the first person in his family to reach the college level and is proud to pave the way for the rest of his siblings. In his basketball career, he has appeared in 51 games for the Red Hawks and holds the single-season record for three-point field goals with 57 set in 2006. In his spare time away from basketball, Torres volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and tutors middle school children. He is currently the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

During the 2006-07 academic year, Torres was featured as one of the 12 persons in the “Real Men of MSU” calendar was designed to educate the community by representing positive male role models who respect and support women and are willing to take a stand regarding violence against women. The program is sponsored by the Center for Non-Violence and Prevention Programs at Montclair State University.

The 2007 calendar year marked the twentieth anniversary of National Student-Athlete Day created by the NCAS. The special day was designed to honor student-athletes who had achieved excellence in academics and athletics, while also making significant contributions to their communities.

Student-athletes who are honored have achieved at least a 3.0 GPA are leaders on their teams and in their communities. In addition, national Giant Steps Awards are given in categories such as courageous student-athletes, civic leaders, coach, barrier breakers and more.

Since its inception, over 2,554,692 high school and college student-athletes have been recognized. In 2007 over 310,000 award certificates were given out. National student-athlete day has truly become “ America’s Day” to celebrate the achievements of student-athletes and sports as a whole.