Jacksonville State junior wide receiver and Austin high school alum Josh Pearson has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship Award. Pearson received this award on May 31 at the Conference's annual Honors Brunch in Nashville.
The award is given annually to an Ohio Valley Conference male or female student-athlete of junior or senior standing who best exemplifies the characteristics of the late Morehead State student-athlete, coach and administrator Steve Hamilton. Criteria include significant athletics performance along with good sportsmanship and citizenship. The award is voted on by the Conference's athletics directors and sports information directors.
The Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship Award is being awarded for the 21st time in 2019. Pearson is the second Jacksonville State student-athlete to earn the honor.
Hamilton competed on OVC Championship teams in each baseball, basketball and track while at Morehead State. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1958 and a master's degree also from Morehead State in 1963. He went on to have an 11-year major-league pitching career and coached in the minor leagues before returning to MSU in 1976 to become head baseball coach. He held that position for 13 years and compiled a 305-275 record while leading the Eagles to five divisional championships and two OVC titles. He was named Morehead State's Director of Athletics in July 1988 and served in that position until his death in 1997. As the A.D., Hamilton led the program to success on the field, in facilities and in the classroom. During his tenure, a weight room was built, an academic counselor for athletes was added, graduation rates of student-athletes improved and the University won the OVC Academic Achievement Banner four times. Hamilton is the only individual to play in the NCAA Basketball Championship, a Major League Baseball World Series (New York Yankees) and a National Basketball Association Championship Series (Minnesota Lakers).
On the field Pearson earned first-team All-American honors after catching 67 passes for 1,223 yards and 17 touchdowns. The 17 touchdowns established a new Jacksonville State single-season record, were just two away from the OVC all-time record and led all Division I (FBS or FCS) players. His performance helped Jacksonville State to a 9-4 overall and 7-1 OVC record as the Gamecocks won its fifth-consecutive OVC Championship.
Pearson became the first player in school history to open the season with three-straight 100-yard receiving games and he would go on to tie the school record with five total games of 100 or more receiving yards. Pearson was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Pearson has been extremely active in both the Jacksonville State community and his hometown on Decatur, Alabama. He is a Huddle Leader for the JSU football program, leading groups of players that go out into the community and volunteer. That includes various service opportunities on campus and in the community.
In Pearson's own time, on top of what he does as part of the football team's service opportunities, he is constantly going to elementary schools at least once a week to read to students, help teachers with classroom needs, assist with activities in physical education classes and also to mentor kids or play games with them during recess. He visits the schools so regularly, teachers in the community have his phone number and know they can contact him when they need additional help.
Pearson and his teammates were also heavily involved in the campus and community cleanup following a EF-3 tornado that hit in March 2018. The tornado destroyed the JSU School of Business building, so Pearson was involved in helping paint the walls of a former elementary school to help get it ready to house the business school temporarily. Pearson has also been involved with Rainbow Omega, a facility for adults with special needs, interacting with residents and helping them with daily tasks.
When back in his hometown, he volunteers daily at the St. Paul's Boys and Girls Club, the United Pentecostal Jubilee House of Prayer and with the Little Buddy program at Austin High School and also helps with local sports teams practices as well as training youth athletes. When he was in high school he was presented the Presidential Award for Community Service.