Coach Tom Boatright Chosen 2017 Outstanding African-American of the Year

Coach Tom Boatright Chosen 2017 Outstanding African-American of the Year

The city of Aurora’s African-American Heritage Advisory Board will host its 13th Annual Heritage Dinner on Friday, Feb. 24, at Gaslite Manor, 2485 Church Road, in Aurora. Social hour begins at 6 p.m. and dinner begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at

The crowning event of Black History Month, this annual celebration will focus on young achievers who are succeeding at school and in the community; and fete AAHAB’s 2017 Outstanding African-American of the Year, Coach Tom Boatright.

Coach Tom Boatright and grandson Ryan Boatright who was integral in winning the NCAA National Championship title for the University of Connecticut in 2014. (CREDIT: City of Aurora news release)

For nearly three decades, his name has been synonymous with excellence in athletics as the founder and director of the nationally-acclaimed Aurora Flyers Track Club. Coach Tom Boatright has dedicated more than three decades helping students from the area achieve their dreams, including his grandson, NCAA national basketball champion Ryan Boatright and 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Morolake Akinosun.

“I’m so thankful that Coach Boatright was, and is, a part of my life,” said Akinosun. “He helped mold me into the type of athlete that could train hard, take criticism and perform under pressure. He believed in me and saw a greatness in me that at times I did not think was even possible. I don’t think I would be shining this bright if it were not for him.”

A graduate of East Aurora High School, Tom Boatright played on the East Aurora High School varsity football, basketball and track teams. As a senior, he was named Aurora’s “Athlete of The Year.” Upon graduation, he attended Northeastern State College in Oklahoma on a full football scholarship, where he led the nation in punt returns as a freshman running back.

Boatright played semi-pro football for the Rockford Rams and was offered an opportunity to tryout with the Chicago Bears. He was on the 1975 rookie roster with Walter Payton, but did not make the team. That pivotal moment returned him home to Aurora and led to the opportunity to impact the lives of local youth by coaching basketball and track at various schools throughout Aurora.

In 1988, he started the Aurora Flyers Track Club with ten athletes. Today, the Flyers are a nationally-ranked track and field club with over 100 athletes currently on the roster. With their theme “It’s Fly Time,” the students who participate in the Flyers have competed at Jr. National Olympics with many earning national titles in their respective events.

In addition to Ryan Boatright and Morolake Akinosun, hundreds of other students have achieved local, regional and national success over the years; and scores of his athletes have gone on to graduate from colleges all over the country.

“We are so honored to recognize Coach Boatright this year. It is certainly long overdue,” said Patricia Holt, AAHAB chairwoman. “He has given so much of himself to the youth of this community and it shows in their daily lives, from the academic achievers to the Olympic gold medalist. Across the board, Coach Boatright has inspired our youth to aim for excellence in every area of endeavor.”

During the event, AAHAB will also award high school students with the Henry Cowherd Scholarship named in honor of longtime community leader and 2008 Outstanding African-American of the Year, Henry Cowherd.

Tickets are $50 each, with a portion going to the Henry Cowherd Scholarship Fund. Tickets can be purchased online at, by calling 630-256-3402 or emailing

SOURCE: City of Aurora news release


Located 35 miles west of Chicago, Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois with a population of 200,456.  Aurora is known as the “City of Lights” because it was one of the first in the nation to illuminate its streets with electric lights.  Situated along the Fox River and the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (Interstate 88), the city extends 46 square miles encompassing Kane, DuPage, Kendall and Will counties.  Aurora also is home to six public school districts and seven townships.  For the latest news, access to an archive of past news releases or to follow the city on Facebook or Twitter, visit the city’s website at