NFF Prepares for Another Historic Annual Awards Dinner

College football’s most important night to attract all-time record crowd.

DALLAS, Nov. 23, 2011 – The National Football Foundation (NFF) highlighted today that its fabled Annual Awards Dinner, which will take place Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, promises to be one of the most memorable in history.

A star-studded class of College Football Hall of Fame inductees headline the event while 16 of the current game’s brightest stars will collect $300,000 in scholarships and vie for the coveted William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, as the nation’s top scholar-athlete. Tickets in the main ballroom have been sold-out for months while an overflow room has been opened to accommodate intense demand with an anticipated record turnout of 1,700-plus.

“Many people have come together to support this year’s event, and their efforts promise to make the event a celebration for the ages. We thank them all.” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “As a bridge between the regular season and the bowl season, the NFF dinner provides a unique setting where we briefly set aside intense rivalries to join together to celebrate our sport. If you’re passionate about college football, there will be no better place to be on December 6.”

Since 1958, when U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower took a break from the election trail to accept the first NFF Gold Medal at the inaugural event, the NFF’s Dinner has proven to be one of our nation’s most magnetic affairs, attracting giants of industry and leaders from all walks of life to the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom to celebrate America’s passion for football. The 2011 banquet marks the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, and the event has become the one night of the year that brings together all of entities of college football, even bitter foes, to celebrate the game.

“The National Football Foundation represents everything right about our great sport, and this night simply features the best and brightest of college football,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “The accomplishments of our 2011 honorees make us all proud while providing us the ultimate vehicle for coming together to celebrate a sport that has given so much to so many.”

With more than 50 current Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches in attendance, the night will feature several well-known football luminaries. ESPN’s Rece Davis will emcee the event, and NFF Board Member and noted philanthropist T. Boone Pickens will provide the welcome address. NFF Board Member and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will introduce the college coaches in attendance.

NFF Board Member and TV personality Jack Ford will present former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates with the Gold Medal while Dr. Archie Roberts, the pioneering heart surgeon and author, will accept the NFF Distinguished American Award from NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell. Roberts returns to the stage having been honored in 1964 as NFF National Scholar-Athlete from Columbia.

NFF Honors Court Chairman Eugene Corrigan will introduce the 2011 Hall of Fame players while NFF Board Member, AFCA Executive Director, and Hall of Fame Coach Grant Teaff will introduce the 2011 Hall of Fame coaches. Ohio State legend and 1986 College Hall of Fame inductee Archie Griffin will present the Hall of Fame plaques while Air Force inductee Fisher DeBerry will deliver the response for the 2011 Hall of Fame Class. NFF Board Chairman and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Archie Manning will conduct the Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony. University of Miami (Fla.) President and NFF Board Member Donna Shalala will bestow the 2011 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments, with assistance from NFF Vice Chairman George Weiss.

Named co-recipients of NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award, CBS Lead Play-by-Play Announcer Verne Lundquist and ESPN/ABC Host & Play-by-Play Announcer Brent Musburger will take the stage in recognition of their role in enhancing the enjoyment of the game for millions of fans. Ted Ruta, the recipient of the Outstanding Football Official Award, and UNC’s Woody Durham, the recipient of the Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting, round out the 2011 NFF Major Awards honorees while Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters will be recognized with an NFF Legacy Award for his support of the NFF and its mission.

The NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon, which will honor the five high school scholar-athletes and the winners of the 2011 chapter leadership awards, will be emceed by Syracuse legend and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Don McPherson with NFF board member and CLC Founder & Chairman Bill Battle and ACC Associate Commissioner Amy Yakola assisting with the presentation of the awards. Longtime Texas sports information legend Bill Little returns for the fifth consecutive year as the moderator of the morning press conference. NFF board member and IMG Worldwide Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne will emcee the presentation of the Ivy League’s Asa Bushnell Cup.

Sponsors involved with the day’s events include DragonFly Athletics, Fidelity Investments, HealthSouth, Herff Jones, I Six, Liberty Mutual, the NASDAQ OMX, Spielman Koenigsberg & Parker, and XOS Digital.

The true highlight of the evening, the induction of the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame Class, provides the ultimate stage for the legends of yesteryear to take their rightful place among the immortals of the game. And this year’s class stands among the greatest of all-time, encompassing six unanimous First Team All-Americans, six consensus First Team All-Americans, eight multi-year First Team All-Americans, four members of national championship teams, one Heisman Trophy winner, five winners of college football major awards, five conference player of the year honorees, eight members of conference championship teams, three Academic All-Americans, and five first-round NFL draft picks.

The 2011 class includes Carlos Alvarez (Florida), Doug English (Texas), Bill Enyart (Oregon State), Eddie George (Ohio State), Marty Lyons (Alabama), Russell Maryland (Miami), Deion Sanders (Florida State), Jake Scott (Georgia), Will Shields (Nebraska), the late Sandy Stephens (Minnesota), Darryl Talley (West Virginia), Clendon Thomas (Oklahoma), Rob Waldrop (Arizona), Gene Washington (Michigan State) and coaches Lloyd Carr (Michigan) and Fisher DeBerry (Air Force).

The 16 members of the 2011 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class begin their sojourn to New York City with “A Night on the Town,” including a trip to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular show; dinner at Mickey Mantle’s on Central Park; and a visit to Rockefeller Center to see the famed Christmas Tree. The 16 finalists, who will each vie as a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, boast an astounding composite 3.81 grade point average, and 14 of the 16 finalists serve as their team captain. Other class accolades (based on 2010 accomplishments) include four All-Americans, 11 All-Conference picks, 14 Academic All-Conference honorees, eight statistical record holders, and one Rhodes Scholar finalist.

Members of the 2011 class of NFF National Scholar-Athletes presented by Fidelity Investments include Drew Butler (Georgia), Kirk Cousins (Michigan State), Micah Davis (Delta State, Miss.), John Dowd (Navy), Yaser Elqutub (Northwestern State), Chris Ganious (South Dakota), Clay Garcia (Colorado School of Mines), Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois), Tysyn Hartman (Kansas State), Chaz Hine (South Florida), Joe Holland (Purdue), Jared Karstetter (Washington State), Andrew Rodriguez (Army), Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M), Patrick Witt (Yale), Michael Zweifel (Dubuque, Iowa). Each receives an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship with the Campbell Trophy honoree claiming a grand total of $25,000. NFF Chairman Emeritus Jon Hanson will have the honor of presenting the Campbell Trophy to the 22nd recipient of the award at the event.

Tony Buemi, of Brandbridge Ltd, will produce the event for the sixth consecutive year, and ESPN personality Rece Davis lent his talents for the voice overs for the Hall of Fame tributes while NFF board member and CBS lead broadcaster Jim Nantz, Dallas-Fort Worth sportscaster Scott Murray and veteran college football voice Dave Barnett joined forces to narrate the tributes for the major award and NFF National Scholar-Athlete videos. Daniel Rodriguez returns to sing the National Anthem and God Bless America.

During the past five decades, The NFF Annual Awards Dinner has produced its share of memorable moments, and the 2011 event promises to add to a rich lineage that continues to celebrate the greatest legends in college football.

Five Years Ago – 2006 – Rutgers fullback and future NFL player Brian Leonard captures the 17th annual William V. Campbell Trophy to headline a gala 49th Awards Dinner. Arizona State All-American and U.S. War Hero Pat Tillman is posthumously presented the NFF Distinguished American Award while Hall of Fame inductees Washington’s Steve Emtman, join legendary coach Bobby Bowden, Air Forces’ Chad Hennings, Nebraska’s Mike Rozier, Virginia Tech’s Bruce Smith, Florida’s Emmitt Smith, and Florida State’s Charlie Ward on a sterling front dais.

10 Years Ago – 2001 – A somber and determined mood characterized the annual NFF Awards Dinner – three months and one day after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York and throughout the United States. Miami (Fla.) OT Joaquin Gonzalez captured the Campbell Trophy for academic achievement and community service as inspirational stories abound at the confluence of college football dignitaries.

15 Years Ago – 1996 – The ceremony featured Hugh Green of Pittsburgh, Charles White of Southern California, and Marc Wilson of BYU, among others, as prime honorees. Danny Wuerffel accepted the 7th Campbell Trophy, becoming the first to claim both the Campbell and the Heisman.

20 Years Ago – 1991 – The stars of the gridiron, stage and screen rose to the occasion as Hall of Fame inductees included popular television movie actor and broadcaster Alex Karras of Iowa, Heisman Trophy winners Steve Owens of Oklahoma and Pat Sullivan of Auburn, and coaching innovator Tommy Prothro. TCU director of athletics Frank Windegger was so impressed by Sullivan’s acceptance speech at the dinner that he hired the star Auburn quarterback a short time later as head coach of the Horned Frogs.

25 Years Ago – 1986 – The dinner featured one of the most illustrious Hall of Fame classes, including Stanford’s John Brodie, representatives of the family of the coach Paul (Bear) Bryant, broadcaster Al DeRogatis of Duke, Mike Ditka of Pittsburgh, Mel Renfro of Oregon, and Steve Spurrier of Florida, among others. Bryant received posthumous induction after his passing in 1983.

30 Years Ago – 1981 – Longtime NFF financial supporter and then-New York Jets’ owner Sonny Werblin received the Distinguished American Award while business titan Justin Dart, who created one of the largest drug store chains in America, which eventually became part of Kraft Foods, accepted the NFF Gold Medal. The NFF home office prepares for a year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary Awards Dinner on Dec. 7, 1982, which would see a return of many of the past honorees, including President Ford, President Nixon, and Bob Hope. The NAIA Division II trophy, sponsored by the foundation, was renamed the Teddy Roosevelt Trophy in honor of the U.S. President who made major changes in college athletics during a national summit in 1906 – resulting in the founding of the NCAA. The Hall of Fame class included Coach ob Devaney and Navy legend and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, who now serves on the NFF Board.

35 Years Ago – 1976 – Captain of Industry Edgar B. Speer, who ascended to the chairmanship of U.S. Steel, accepted the Gold Medal while Gen. James Van Fleet, the commander of the U.S. forces in Korea and an erstwhile Florida head coach, received the Distinguished American Award to highlight one of the foundation’s top banquets, including presentations by Silver Anniversary (1951) Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier of Princeton (NFF president in ’76) and Vin Draddy of Manhattan College and world business fame as the developer of the Izod and Lacoste apparel brands. The Hall of Fame class included Texas A&M legend and Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow and San Francisco fullback Ollie Matson.

40 Years Ago – 1971 – The dinner saw the invocation delivered by his eminence Terence Cardinal Cook of New York, and the immortal Bud Wilkinson of Minnesota and head coach at Oklahoma introduced the newest members of the Hall of Fame at the 14th annual soiree. Then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan (later U.S. President) was the Gold Medal Award winner and accepted the medal from his longtime Hollywood co-star (they both were featured in the 1943 classic “This is the Army”) and 1971 NFF President George Murphy.

45 Years Ago – 1966 – NFF co-founder Earl (Red) Blaik was honored with the Gold Medal after a stellar career as head coach at Army and Dartmouth and then as a business executive. Numerous football, political and entertainment personalities again were featured at the ninth annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria. The Hall of Fame Class featured Jim Crowley of Notre Dame Four Horseman fame, Princeton Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier and Coach Lynn Waldorf.

50 Years Ago – 1961 – The ceremony honored President John F. Kennedy as the Gold Medal recipient, “Mr. Outside” RB Glenn Davis of Army as one of the key Hall of Fame inductees and one of the Foundation’s most outstanding classes of Scholar-Athlete Award winners, including Rutgers All-American Alex Kroll, who would go onto serve on the NFF Board for many years and head the Young & Rubicam Advertising Agency. Oklahoma fullback Claude Reeds, North Carolina halfback Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, and Duke halfback George “One Play” McAfee joined Davis in highlighting a stellar class of Hall of Fame inductees.

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