T.C. Williams graduate Dean Muhtadis path to playing football on Saturdays for the University of Maryland was not a direct route from Alexandria to the nearby College Park, MD, campus.
Since leaving T.C.s halls in 2004, through no shortage of Muhtadis own hard work and a little financial help from a hometown group, he attended Christopher Newport University for two years then transferred to Maryland where he walked-on to become a Terrapin football player.
The fruits of his labor helped him see action in six games as a junior in College Park. As a senior this year, Muhtadi played in all 13 games starting as a defensive lineman in three for the 8-5 Terrapins.
It is a success story almost any way you slice it.
The financial help, though, came from the Alexandria Sportsmans Club, a longtime benefactor of Alexandrias young athletes that recently welcomed a new leader in conjunction with the new year as Steve Niswander became its president this January.
The club, founded in 1947, gives out two $2,500 scholarships each year to local athletes heading to college and honors two or three competitors and coaches from Alexandria recreation leagues and high schools at each of the monthly meetings for their sporting exploits, Niswander said.
Weve got all kinds of people who have been recognized, Niswander said. Weve got professional football players, kids attending the Naval Academy, weve got kids that are Navy pilots, people from all kinds of walks of life.
The key components we stress to the kids are commitment and good grades in school those things, coupled with sports breed a good person.
The club raises the funds for the scholarships through an annual golf tournament and
banquet, members dues and donations from local businesses.
The scholarship itself has changed, going from a smaller amount given out each year over four years, but the annual banquet to announce the winner has not and consistently features big time sports figures.
Niswander highlighted former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs (as well as many other Redskins) NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Otto Graham and ESPN anchor Terry Bradshaw, and even the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi as keynote speakers that have appeared at past club banquets.
In 2008, the club donated money to the citys new collegiate summer league team, the Alexandria Aces, and pitched in with man-hours as well; members sold food and drinks for the team at the ballpark.
For the grand opening of T.C. Williams new basketball court, Sportsmans Club members helped out with concessions and giveaways for the spectators, Niswander said.
The Sportsmans Club currently has about 200 members, having had as many as 400 at one point, Niswander said.
One problem weve had is people think were a sort of secret society. A lot of people that dont really know the Alexandria Sportmans Club think were something like a hunting club, Niswander said. And then they think its really hard to join because we meet in the Boat Club and thats not true. Anybody can be a member.
Though the group was originally founded in the Boat Club, it is not limited to Boat Club members and is open to any interested Alexandrians, Niswander said, and he encourages anyone to attend a meeting if he or she is interested in joining.
If you want to join: The Alexandria Sportsmans Club meets on the third Tuesday of every month (except July and August) at 7 p.m. on the first floor of the Old Dominion Boat Club, located at 1 King Street. Membership is $55 for the year and includes a dinner at each of the meetings. Due to the Presidential Inauguration, the January meeting has been scheduled for January 27 for those interested in attending.