Payton Alexander wins the Dr. Leroy Walker Champions of Character award – Maroon

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Andrew Wellmann, Staff Writer and Photographer
Andrew Wellmann
Payton Alexander prepares to bat at practice on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. This year Alexander received the Dr. Leroy Walker Champions of Character Award.
Loyola baseball player Payton Alexander was named the Dr. Leroy Walker Champion of Character, a national award given to the athlete who best lives out the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership.
The Champions of Character award is one of the highest honors a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics athlete can receive. The award is named after Leroy Walker, a former NAIA president and the first Black president emeritus of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“To be considered for a national award was something I didn’t really think was really achievable, and it was really cool to see my hard work and dedication be recognized by the conference.”
After learning the news that he had won the award, Alexander said he was surprised.
“I remember getting ready for class and then got a text from coach Kennedy saying that I had actually just won the award,” Alexander said. “I was really shocked and didn’t know what to say. As soon as that happened, Loyola posted about it and my phone just started blowing up, and I was really overwhelmed, but it was so cool to be honored that way.”
To be nominated for the award the athlete must have a grade point average of 3.00 or higher and have a class standing of junior or higher. Last year, Alexander earned a 3.82 GPA in addition to posting a .387 batting average and scoring a school record of 61 runs.
Alexander said he has had to balance academics with sports many times over his Loyola career.
“I had my final thesis presentation to the entire biology department, and we’re on the bus on the way to play a game against Middle Georgia,” he said. “So everyone is playing music on the bus while I am in the bus bathroom in the back giving my presentation for my thesis. It can be hard to manage but I love it. It keeps my priorities straight.”
Alexander’s dedication doesn’t go unnoticed in the classroom.
“I can say without hesitation that he ranks in the top one percent of students that I have taught in 20 years,” biology professor Rosalie Anderson told Wolf Pack Athletics. “His values, humility, talents, determination, sense of responsibility, and work ethic have made Payton a champion in the classroom and on the field.”
Head baseball coach Jeremy Kennedy also praised Alexander.
“Payton is a team leader, hard worker, respected, and one of our best players. It’s a big deal to have an older experienced guy who does things the right way,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy added that Alexander is dedicated and “willing to make the sacrifices necessary to earn success.”
“He cares about his teammates. He cares about this program. He leads by example,” Kennedy said.
“I am not the most vocal leader. I love leading by example and that’s just doing everything right,” Alexander said. “That’s showing up to your class, getting your homework done, doing all your assignments, and doing well on your exams.”
Even when he’s feeling sluggish for a morning workout, Alexander said he always gives it his all.
Alexander said he admires Walker’s legacy.
“He took a huge leap of faith to lead such an elite group of athletes and to set up the way they handle their business on and off the field, and I think it’s a great example of what I try to do,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage and discipline to stay on top of my studies and make sure that I’m handling my business inside the classroom too because as important as baseball is to me, academics is really second to none.”
After his college career at Loyola, Alexander plans to attend medical school and continue his academic success, but for now, he is enjoying his time playing for and studying at Loyola.
“I’m truly blessed and honored to even be in the same sentence, let alone win that award for everything that Dr. Walker has done,” Alexander said.
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