Addison Trail honors alumnus with Tradition of Excellence award

Addison Trail counselor Tina Gatses (left) and social studies teacher Mary Kelsay (middle) introduce Addison Trail alumnus Wayne Drehs (class of 1995) as this year’s Tradition of Excellence recipient. Gatses graduated from Addison Trail with Drehs and nominated him for the award, and Kelsay taught Drehs when he was a high school student. Right: Drehs thanks his family, friends and high school teachers for their support and for honoring him with the Tradition of Excellence award.

On Nov. 7, Addison Trail welcomed alumnus Wayne Drehs (class of 1995) as this year’s Tradition of Excellence recipient. Left: Drehs (second from left) is pictured with (from left) Addison Trail counselor and Tradition of Excellence co-chair Tina Gatses (who graduated with Drehs and nominated him for the award), Addison Trail social studies teacher/alumna and Tradition of Excellence co-chair LeVonne Cescolini-Boyer and Addison Trail Principal Michael Bolden. Right: Drehs (center) is pictured with District 88 Superintendent Dr. Scott Helton (left) and Bolden.

On Nov. 7, Addison Trail welcomed alumnus Wayne Drehs (class of 1995) as this year’s Tradition of Excellence recipient.

The Tradition of Excellence award is the highest honor presented by Addison Trail to its graduates. Initiated in 1999, this annual alumni recognition program has honored recipients in professional fields such as medicine, engineering, science, education, art, music and law.

Drehs is a three-time Emmy Award-winning senior feature writer for ESPN, where he has spent the last 17 years writing about everything from lost dogs to lost hockey pucks, American football in the Arctic to international football in Egypt. At ESPN, Drehs’ work has appeared not only on and in “ESPN The Magazine,” but on SportsCenter, Outside the Lines and E:60 as well. His stories also have appeared on ABC’s “World News Tonight,” “Nightline” and “Good Morning America.”

Drehs has covered nearly every major sporting event in America, as well as the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and the 2012 (London), 2014 (Sochi) and 2016 (Rio) Olympics. He is a National Headliner Award and an EPPY Award winner and also has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America and New York Festivals. In 2013, Drehs received the Distinguished Alumni Award from The University of Iowa, where he graduated in 2000. In 2011, Drehs worked with director Alex Gibney on a film called "Catching Hell” for ESPN's 30 for 30 series, and he also appeared in the film. His 2007 piece about the death of Jason Ray, a mascot from The University of North Carolina, led to an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and prompted more than 50,000 Americans to become organ donors. Drehs was the 2009 recipient of the Benny Friedman Fellowship in Sports Journalism through the Knight-Wallace Fellowships at University of Michigan.

Before joining ESPN in 2000, Drehs wrote for Omaha World-Herald, Dallas Morning News and Washington Post. He currently lives in Naperville with his wife, Shana, and their two daughters.

During the induction ceremony, Drehs thanked those present for their support and encouragement. He also recognized the effort educators put forth each and every day to build futures for students. He said although his teachers and coaches might not have realized the impact they had on his life, he wouldn’t be where he is today without their guidance.

Addison Trail social studies teacher Mary Kelsay introduced Drehs (who is one of her former students). She showed photos of Drehs from his high school years and spoke about his journey. Addison Trail Principal Michael Bolden congratulated Drehs on his success and commended him for the Blazer Pride he brings to his alma mater. Drehs was nominated by his high school classmate Tina Gatses, who is a counselor at Addison Trail and co-chair of the Tradition of Excellence Committee. On Nov. 8, Drehs spoke with Addison Trail students and shared with them the importance of pursuing their dreams.

To be considered for the Tradition of Excellence award, nominees must have graduated from Addison Trail more than 10 years ago; distinguished themselves in the academic, artistic, business, professional, entrepreneurial or public service field; demonstrated an ability to serve as an outstanding role model for current Addison Trail students; and performed services and/or accomplishments that have brought credit to their alma mater. To nominate someone for the Tradition of Excellence award, go to