For more than 30 minutes, they posed for photos with each other, and with family members, teammates, coaches, school principals and Van Jakes, a former NFL player who is a McDonald’s owner/operator in DeKalb County.
They had done several interviews for newspapers, television, radio and the internet.
During a quick break, Southwest DeKalb senior William Goodwin surveyed the scene at the McDonald’s on Panola Road and sighed, “Man, that’s a lot of interviews.”
And it’s only the beginning.
Goodwin and Miller Grove senior Tony Parker, were the center of attention at an awards ceremony March 14 at Jakes’ restaurant, recognizing the pair as McDonald’s All-Americans. After four years as high school basketball rivals, the pair will be teammates March 28 in Chicago as participants in the 35th annual McDonald’s All-American game.
They are the first two McDonald’s all-Americans to face each other in a Georgia state championship game. Miller Grove defeated Southwest DeKalb on March 9 for the Class AAAA title. It is also believed to be the first time two players from DeKalb have been chosen to play in the prestigious game in the same year.
“I know it’s going to be fun,” said Goodwin, who has signed a scholarship to play at the University of Memphis. “All those years playing against each other, and now we’re going to be teammates.”
The two have known each other since they were 10 or 11 years old, and played briefly on AAU teams together through the years.
“When we played AAU together, we didn’t practice together,” Goodwin said. “Now we have a whole week of practice together and we’ll play against the best talent in the country. It’s an incredible honor and a great thing for our community.”
Other Atlanta-area McDonald’s all-Americans include current NBA players Dwight Howard, Shareef Abdur-Raheem, Derrick Favors and Josh Smith.
“It’s a great honor,” Parker said. “I’ve worked all my life to prepare for this game. For us to be in the same county and to be chosen for this game lets you know how strong basketball is here.”
Parker won four state titles at Miller Grove and finished his senior season averaging 17.4 points and 11 rebounds per game. He has several scholarship offers, including Ohio State, Duke, UCLA, Connecticut, Memphis, Georgetown and Georgia.
Goodwin led the Panthers to their first state championship appearance and led the county in several categories as a senior. He led the county in scoring (22 points per game) and field goal shooting (73 percent), while averaging a second-best 12.2 rebounds per game.
The selection of all-American is another step in a journey Goodwin figured he would not be making several years ago.
“Three years ago I never imagined I would get this award,” Goodwin said. “Five years ago I was strictly a football player.”
Both Goodwin and Parker are known on and off the court as humble, and both thanked God for the opportunities before them. Both of their high school coaches said their character was a key component to their success.
“They led their teams on and off the court and I’m proud to know both,” said Miller Grove coach Sharman White.
“As good as they are as basketball players, they’re much better people. It couldn’t happen to two better guys,” said Southwest coach Dwayne McKinney.
Being selected an all-American has left both players with gratitude and some wisdom for those who might follow in their footsteps.
“I always say, hard work pays off but pain is temporary,” Goodwin said. “So many people give up on their dreams because things get too hard. But it’s worth it in the end.”
Said Parker: “Stay focused, work hard and put yourself around great people. And don’t change for anybody.”