Hard Work Beats Talent, Unless Talent Has Hard Work: Three High Schoolers Gain Scholarships to Alabama A&M

Hard Work Beats Talent, Unless Talent Has Hard Work: Three High Schoolers Gain Scholarships to Alabama A&M

By Micahya Costen

Three high school baseball players, Will Taylor, Omar Kimbrough, and Joseph Dawson, who played together since childhood, have all secured scholarships to attend Alabama A&M University in Huntsville as student-athletes. 

The trio, known for their prowess on the field and in the classroom, were encouraged to excel not only in baseball but also in extracurricular activities.

According to William Taylor, Will's father, the boys began their baseball journey in Little League at around six or seven years old, gradually developing a deeper understanding and passion for the game.

“The goal was for the kids to have an opportunity to start on high school teams and then get college opportunities, Taylor said. “ And not only did they get it, they're going to the same school, all three of them.” 

Taylor also noted that three juniors are set to follow in the footsteps of the seniors’ academic and athletic achievements in the coming year. 

 Will, with a 4.6 GPA, aims to pursue a medical career in college. Following a successful campus visit, both the institution's offerings and the personal attention from the school president have sparked the Taylors' confidence in Will's future studies and career aspirations.

“He's had academic and athletic opportunities and scholarships on both sides, Georgia Tech, Tulane, UAB. Really good, good caliber, quality school, Taylor said. “ Alabama A&M did a heck of a job academically and athletically of just explaining to him where they are and where they're going and what they can do for him.”

Throughout his baseball career, Will has encountered people and coaches who tried to restrict his playing and the positions he could handle. However, instead of holding him back, this has motivated him to improve in all aspects of the game.

“He's been told since he was nine years old what he is not. And everything he was told he has not been, he has accomplished that in baseball,” Taylor said. “There’s been a lot of obstacles in baseball, but he's embraced and worked to defy that.” 

Now a starting shortstop, second, third, a little bit of right field and possibly transitioning positions gearing for college, Will keeps a good head on his shoulders and is on track to taking the life lessons on and off the field with him as he navigates college life.

“ I'm looking forward to him evolving into a great young man, and I'm proud of the honorable and person of character that he's been,” Taylor said. 

Jefferey and Stephanie Kimbrough, parents of Omar Kimbrough are also very proud of the three boys’ success on and off the field.  

Stephanie said that Omar's dad believed he'd be a baseball player since he was a baby. Omar began in the local t-ball league in Columbus (Peach Little League) and later joined the East Cobb Astros for travel ball.

“While we were at East Cobb, we actually traveled and played at Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is,” Stephanie said. “So in, in New York. We've gone up and down the East Coast just playing baseball from New York all the way down and over to Florida.”

The Kimbrough family has invested their time and resources in Omar's journey, demonstrating their full commitment to his success. As the only eighth grader playing catcher on the varsity team during travel, Omar transitioned into a utility player. He showcased his skills at the Alabama A&M event in this role.

“ So he went to the Alabama A& M Showcase and the coach was impressed and said that he'd like to see him come, so we went to the school, did a tour and basically he said, yes, I want you on my team, you're ready to play, and, we'd love to have you as a Bulldog at Alabama A& M,” Stephanie said.

As one of the top team leaders in offense and hitting, Omar batted over 30 RBIs this past season and has maintained his high stats in hitting since his sophomore year. 

Jefferey explained that discipline was one of the things that they instilled in Omar growing up, and it carried him not only through his sport but also through life.

“ Being able to do what it is you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it, even when you don't feel like it. That's the things that drive, drive him on,” Jefferey said. “...They have a saying that hard work beats talent, but I used to tell him, because he’s talented, hard work beats talent unless talent has hard work.”

In addition to his sports talent, the Kimbroughs emphasized Omar's character, especially as a young black man. Omar maintained a high GPA and earned both athletic and academic scholarships to Alabama A&M.

“ He's always said he wanted to play major league baseball. So in order to do that you really have to be disciplined and stay focused on what your end goal has to be,” Stephanie said. “We've always supported him, but he knows we can't do it for him…within our power, we exposed him to as much as we could afford to expose him to, and from there he had to put the work in.

Jefferey noted that the typical MLB player begins at age 26. Omar, at 17, aims to complete his doctorate in physical therapy after majoring in Biology during undergrad, aligning his academic and athletic goals. If all goes as planned, he'll achieve both by the time he's MLB-ready.

Gary Dawson, father of Joseph Dawson, explained how he grew up as the youngest of three siblings and a variety of cousins who were also involved in sports.

Dawson recounted how Joseph approached him and his wife about playing baseball, prompting them to embrace the sport given Columbus's baseball culture. Joseph also stayed active and fit by participating in basketball, tennis, pickleball, and other activities, keeping pace with his older siblings.

“ He always had support with you letting him explore, but having a structure to where school came first, besides going to physical sports and that sort of stuff, and spending a lot of time with him nurturing and growing him in that direction,” Dawson said.

After engaging in a few showcases during travel ball season in the summer, a variety of coaches showed interest in Joseph’s skill and ability. 

“ Once he did the Alabama A&M showcase, I think that's where he honed in as far as liking the program, liking the coach's philosophy, that everybody gets a fair shot regardless of your class rank, what your last name is or who you know,” Dawson said. “ And his philosophy is to play the best player if they're ready.”

Throughout the year, both parties maintained regular communication to exchange film and statistics as the season progressed. Eventually, Alabama A&M emerged as one of his top choices.

 Dawson highlighted how the coaches were impressed not only by his athletic abilities and work ethic but also by his consistent academic performance, maintaining a high GPA throughout high school.

“Our philosophy is that we want you to do the best you can, whatever you attempt to do,” Dawson said. “ Sometimes you don't see the effort that you would want your kid to put in he is a very balanced young man in the sense of knowing when to be all in, knowing when he needs a mental break, a physical break, but still putting in the hard work.”

Dawson reflected on his son's early displays of fearlessness in various situations during his upbringing. He noted how his son remained calm in last-minute tough situations, which often resulted in favorable outcomes.

“That showed me that the kid had poise,” Dawson said. “He was unafraid of the big moments as a little kid and he would rise to the challenge, and that’s what made me proud.”

Joseph, planning to major in Biology with a focus on biomedical engineering, was advised not to solely focus on his dream of playing in the MLB. He learned the importance of having diverse interests and passions beyond baseball, which could also lead to success.

“You always have your brain, which is your biggest asset, so we're going to use that to the max,” Dawson said. 

Dawson instilled in his son the value of determination and staying focused on his goals, and hopes he embraces college life while learning to manage time more effectively on a higher scale.

He encourages all three boys to see failures as opportunities for growth and urges them to remain true to themselves as they navigate this new chapter. He also pointed out that growth happens through challenges and discomfort, not complacency.

“Even though they (challenges) may be physically and mentally draining at a time, through the whole process, that will help you become a better person, player and student-athlete in life,” Dawson said. "Keep your priorities straight, God first, and continue to treat people as you would want them to treat you.

Why this is important to the Black and Hispanic community: The achievements of Will Taylor, Omar Kimbrough, and Joseph Dawson are not just personal victories but are emblematic of the potential for excellence within the Black and Hispanic communities. Their story reinforces the importance of representation, family support, and the breaking of societal barriers, offering a powerful message of hope and possibility.

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