A local student athlete who is leaving a lasting impression on her school community has also earned a special award for her efforts on the volleyball court and her character off the court.

Briana McKnight, a junior at Xavier, was recently named a 2019 Touching Hearts Through Athletics award recipient. She’s one of 13 recipients across Arizona to receive the honor this year, which recognizes student athletes of outstanding character, sportsmanship and community service.

The award has its roots in Denver, Colorado, back in 2002 when founder Gary Isaac started serving as a guest coach for a girls’ basketball team. He acquired the name he’s known by – “Coach Grandpa” – after making it up on the fly when he was asked his name by a parent during a practice. And, like his passion for recognizing student athletes who give their all on and off the court, the name stuck. 

Since those early days, Isaac says Touching Hearts Through Athletics has awarded more than 400 athletes at 200 schools across the United States.

Briana fits the mold perfectly.

She has helped lead her team to back-to-back AIA state championships. She has also served as a team captain, driving her teammates to remain focused during their run to a second state title.

She’s the first Xavier student to receive this award, and her coach, Lamar-Renee Bryant, says it’s easy to see why she was chosen. “Briana is an outgoing young lady who works extremely hard,” Bryant said. “She’s a leader on the court, athletically gifted and very thoughtful and kind to her teammates.”  

In addition to chasing state championships, Briana has also worked hard to give back to her community. She put in volunteer hours at Xavier’s summer volleyball camps and she’s also enthusiastic about volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House along with a few of her teammates.  

Briana has committed to play college volleyball at the University of California Santa Barbara after graduating from Xavier in the class of 2020.

Regardless of the results on the court, Briana will always carry the memory of this award, a surprise for the dedicated student athlete.

“I feel so honored and blessed to be recognized with the Touching Hearts Through Athletics Award,” Briana said. “I try to make a difference in the lives of those around me by bringing out their confidence. Confidence has helped me get to where I am today.”