LUMBERTON — Lumberton High School senior Joshua Sumner is no stranger to adversity.
ACL surgery his sophomore year, hand surgery his junior year and a concussion this fall make up the laundry list of roadblocks Sumner, a three-year varsity football player at LHS, has found in his path.
Nevertheless, Sumner continued to stay the course whether he’s knocking helmets or hitting the books.
Ranked No. 9 in his class of 400 seniors with a 4.48 GPA, Sumner, a 221-pound left guard and long snapper for the Pirates, has earned the Mountaire/Heartland Scholar Athlete of the Month award for December.
The Mountaire/Heartland Scholar Athlete program’s mission is to highlight male and female senior student-athletes within Robeson, Scotland and Bladen counties who carry a 3.0 GPA or higher. Nominees need to also be recognized by their coaches for outstanding sportsmanship and perform with superior ability in athletic competition.
Each monthly winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship and becomes eligible for an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
“It’s very exciting,” Sumner said. “Just the hard work I’ve put in football over the years, and school, especially, it’s all paid off.”
Keeping his priorities straight has helped.
“It’s important to be focused on and off the field,” Sumner said. “But once school was over on Fridays, I knew it was time to focus on football.”
Mike Brill, who recently retired after six years as the Lumberton football head coach, has admired Sumner’s relentless work ethic on the gridiron and in the classroom.
“Though injuries kept knocking Joshua down, he has continued to get back up,” Brill said. “He manages to balance the high expectations I place upon all my players with respect to performance and leadership with the academic expectations of his teachers. Joshua is first and foremost a scholar athlete.”
This past season, Sumner and the Pirates rolled through their non-conference schedule to a 4-1 start before skidding to a 1-5 record the rest of the way, finishing 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference and falling in the first round of the state playoffs to Jack Britt.
Lumberton’s one league win, however, was one of Sumner’s most memorable games as a Pirate — a 42-18 rout of chief rival Purnell Swett at Lumberton’s Alton G. Brooks Stadium. The win snapped Lumberton’s three-year losing streak to the Rams in the Backyard Brawl.
“I was glad we beat Purnell, that was definitely the best part of this year,” Sumner said.
Now, with the football season in the rear-view, Sumner, who said he has a rigorous course schedule, still has plenty to keep busy inside the halls of Lumberton High. Sumner is a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Science Olympiad Team and is a Teacher Cadet. On top of that, he was recently awarded the highest honor in Boy Scouts, Eagle Scout.
“Balancing everything out has been tough,” Sumner said. “But it’s going to help me a lot in college, balancing out my time and putting my priorities in place.”
Next fall, Sumner plans to major in pre-pharmacy at either Clemson University or Presbyterian College.
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or firstname.lastname@example.org