It’s hard to say what’s more memorable about Jefferson senior Patrick O’Connor receiving the highest honor given by the Virginia High School League: Winning the award itself, or what he was up to when he found out that he had won it.
Within the span of about a minute late last month, O’Connor 1) learned that he would be the recipient of the Allstate Foundation/VHSL Achievement Award award for boys from Virginia AAA schools and 2) got a prom date.
O’Connor was wearing a toga, clutching a dozen pink roses and waiting in the school cafeteria for a certain girl to return from a scavenger hunt on campus when Jefferson Athletic Director Shawn DeRose informed him of the honor. At about that same time, O’Connor’s would-be date entered the cafeteria. She said yes to his prom invitation.
“It was a good day,” O’Connor said.
The VHSL publicly announced him as the winner Thursday. O’Connor will collect the honor at a banquet in Charlottesville on Monday along with nine other state winners in other categories. Each will receive a $1,500 scholarship. (O’Connor is not likely to wear a toga to that event. That was special attire he had donned for his prom pitch).
The VHSL award honors a student who excels academically and athletically. O’Connor, the son of Lori and Sean O’Connor, is a National Honor Society member who plans to study chemistry and economics at Davidson. As a running back/defensive end he helped lead the Colonials to a playoff berth last season by rushing for 1,262 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also finished as runner-up in the 195-pound class at the state wrestling championship after a fourth-place finish as a junior at 189. He captained both the football and wrestling teams.
“Wrestling, as much of a team sport as it is, is really me on the mat. If you lose it’s on me and if you win it’s on me,” said O’Connor, who lettered four years in that sport and three in football. “Football is the exact opposite. Every play depends on 10 other guys. Getting second in the state was great, but it’s the relationships with the guys on the team that I’ll remember most.”
Bonner, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is a National Honor Society member who will attend Virginia on an academic scholarship.