Eighth-grader Joey Greco was surprised when Air Force serviceman Brian Maloney recognized him during a winter pep rally at Clayton Middle School.
Maloney, who was an assistant coach during the fall football season, presented Greco with the Wooden Eagle Award for his hard work and dedication.
“I felt honored and really, really good because he took his time to make [the eagle award] for me, and he was thinking about me,” Greco said. “It was a big surprise. I didn’t know at all.”
Maloney, who has a daughter at Clayton Middle, left to serve in South Korea. During the presentation, he explained why he decided to honor Greco.
“I will tell you what this kid has,” Maloney said. “When I told him to run the hill, he didn’t quit. He never quit. He never cut himself short. He said, ‘You know what, I’m making a change.’”
Maloney added that he hopes the award will continue.
“Pass it on and explain to [others] what it means,” he told the student body. “Dedication. Don’t quit. Everything you guys do from this point in your life, you earn it.”
The award is a carved wooden eagle embedded with a 334th Fighting Eagles challenge coin, which states, “Once an eagle, always an eagle.”