Joe Percival was speechless. The recent St. Anthony's High School graduate was caught off guard late Wednesday when he learned he was selected as the first recipient of the Marcus A. Henry Award, presented by Newsday to Long Island's top high school student-citizen-athlete.
The award is named for Newsday sports reporter Marcus A. Henry, a man who loved sports, but was also a community leader and a dedicated journalist. He died April 1.
"I don't really know what to say," said Percival, 18. "This is truly an unexpected honor . . . The things I do outside the school in the community I do for love and they are part of God's work. I don't do it for the recognition."
Percival, who will attend Princeton and play football in the fall, exemplified the qualities of Henry, who was deeply involved in community affairs and with his church.
"I have heard so many wonderful things about Marcus Henry, in particular, his desire to serve humanity," said Brother Gary Cregan, principal at St. Anthony's High School. "I also agree that Joe Percival of St. Anthony's is similiar in many respects. The only way to describe Joe Percival is to use a religious term. Joe Percival is a saint, someone that exercises heroic virtue. In four years I've observed the kind of heroic virtue that you would not expect a young man to have. But he has courage beyond imagination. His mom is very sick and he has had to raise himself and raise his younger brother and never once does he ever look anywhere but forward and towards God. It's such an honor for him to be the first recipient of this award."
Percival, a first team Newsday All-Long Island football selection, was a powerful presence at defensive end as the Friars marched to the CHSFL title. In the spring, he excelled in track, taking first place in the CHSAA league championships in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 meters.
Percival made the school's National Honor Society and plays the piano in the St. Anthony's band. He also is the youth minister for Bread of Life Church in Wyandanch, where he helps organize the soup kitchen.
He will receive the award Saturday morning at St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington.
"It's pretty amazing," he said.