Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Phoenix Hanks earns a rare opportunity

Medical Lake High School student one of 25 in nation to vie for U.S. Army, NFL Hall-of-Fame money


April 26, 2018

Paul Delaney

Phoenix Hanks will travel to Canton, Ohio later this summer to see if he wins scholarship. He hopes to also continue the football career he started at Medical Lake by walking on in the future at Eastern Washington University.

One might wonder how Phoenix Hanks Jr. caught the eye of the U.S. Army and the Pro Football Hall of Fame and became one of 25 finalists across the nation to compete for a $2,500 college scholarship?

The answer ought to be simple. Just look at the Medical Lake High School senior's resume and background paper that prints out to eight pages and then look at the dozens and dozens of his accomplishments and involvements.

Or you can get the "Cliff Notes" version with a live interview. That is if you can catch up to him between high school and college classes in Running Start where he will earn a pair of diplomas later this spring.

Win the big prize or not, on Aug. 4 when he and 24 other outstanding student-athletes visit Canton, Ohio to participate in various activities surrounding the enshrinement of the Hall of Fame Class of 2018, Hanks will have hob-knobbed with the new inductees.They include Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Randy Moss plus, Green Bay Packers offensive lineman, Sandpoint, Idaho's Jerry Kramer.

Just two nominees, Hanks and Ryder Meyer from Fairfield, Mont. near Great Falls are from the West and they will attend the Aug. 2 Hall of Fame game between Chicago and Baltimore.

And earlier, on Friday, May 4, Hanks will meet current hall member, receiver James Lofton, in a special ceremony and assembly in front of fellow Medical Lake students.

Hanks' path to this honor began while he was participating on the Cheney High School swim team. Cheney brings a number of Medical Lake athletes into their program and they compete in regular matches, trying to earn berths to state.

Coach Jennifer Hochwalt got an email from the local Army recruiter regarding the opportunity of a scholarship. The original idea was to nominate a Cheney student but Hochwalt thought Hanks might be a better fit.

Hanks said he did not think it was going to be a big deal, until he started to further his application. "Then I realized it was a little bit bigger," he said. "I was really humbled that I would be a part of that."

He received the call when competing at state back in February and the celebration was on, followed by all kinds of questions from his teammates, such as who was his favorite NFL hall of famer.

That would be Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks, Hanks said.

The finalists were selected on a variety of criteria, including athletics where Hanks played varsity football two years for the Cardinals, swam and also lettered in track and field.

Born in Roseville, Calif. to Phoenix Hanks Sr. and Melynda Hanks, both active duty military, Phoenix Jr. has seen much of the world during his father's 22-year career that started in the U.S. Army and concluded in the U.S. Air Force. Mom did eight years in the USAF. The 17-year-old has three siblings, Vanessa, 18, Trynity, 11 and Maxlynn, 5.

One of Hanks' strengths in the competition was his participation in the Medical Lake High School Junior ROTC program. That group's community service efforts earned them a Congressional Commendation from 5th District Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

"It's academics, athletics and volunteerism what they're looking for," Hanks said, who carries a 3.83 GPA into school next fall at Eastern Washington University where he will double-major in engineering and pre-med with a final goal of becoming a doctor.

Somewhere along the line, Hanks wants to see if he can survive college and then prosper as a walk-on in 2019 for the EWU football team. After graduation he wants to apply to become a Navy SEAL and hopefully put some of his swimming skills to work.

"I've got a pretty busy schedule in front of me the next 10 years," Hanks said.

It certainly is a tough road ahead, but Hanks has had a notable hard knock in his past that might serve to add a hard edge to a gentlemanly and well-spoken persona.

Hanks played flag and touch football growing up, but lived in England for nine years and never had the opportunity to play the sport for his school. The closest he came was rugby.

Sometimes referred to as tackle football without pads, Hanks said the experience was fun, but not without its moments.

"One time I broke my nose during a game and they just popped it back into place," Hanks said, without even a flinch. That was in seventh-grade and he was told to "Keep playing, keep playing, there was blood everywhere."

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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