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NFF Concludes Momentous 57th Annual Awards Dinner

25th William V. Campbell Trophy winner David Helton, global humanitarian Dr. Tom Catena, and Hall of Famers Sterling Sharpe, Shane Conlan and LaDainian Tomlinson headlined the night’s honorees.

By NFF Correspondent Josh Yonis

NEW YORK (Dec. 10, 2014) – The fabled Waldorf Astoria Grand Ballroom in New York City witnessed an all-star cast of history’s greatest football players at the 57th Annual National Football Foundation (NFF) Awards Dinner tonight.

A star-studded College Football Hall of Fame class headlined the event, and 17 of the game’s current student-athletes collected $313,000 in postgraduate scholarships. The festivities culminated with the announcement of Duke’s David Helton as the recipient of the 25th William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments, as the top scholar-athlete in the nation and the induction of the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class featuring Sterling Sharpe, Shane Conlan andLaDainian Tomlinson.

With more than 75 current collegiate head coaches and 40 returning members of the College Football Hall of Fame in attendance, the fabled spectacle lived up to historic expectations. ESPN’sRece Davis emceed the event and NFF Board Member and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Joneshad the honor of introducing all of the great college football coaches in attendance.

“One of the best nights ever,” NFF President Steve Hatchell said. “Those in the room tonight care deeply about the game, and the event captured why football matters. This sport transforms lives, opens doors and instills the characteristics in our young people that make our country great. When you listen to the accomplishments of the night’s honorees, one knows that the future of our sport remains bright.”

The 2014 Hall of Fame class headlined the event. This year’s class included 14 All-Americans, two unanimous First-Team All-Americans, three multi-year First-Team All-Americans, four conference player of the year honorees, four NFF National Scholar-Athletes, and winners of the Butkus Award, the Davey O’Brien Award and the Doak Walker Award. Also inducted were two head coaches with outstanding resumes.

The 2014 class was introduced by NFF Board Members Archie Griffin, a Hall of Fame running back from Ohio State, and Grant Teaff, AFCA Executive Director and Hall of Fame Coach, and includedDre Bly (North Carolina), Tony Boselli (Southern California), Dave Butz (Purdue), Shane Conlan(Penn State), Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech), John Huard (Maine), Darrin Nelson (Stanford), Willie Roaf (Louisiana Tech), John Sciarra (UCLA), Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina.), Leonard Smith(McNeese State), the late Derrick Thomas (Alabama), LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU), Wesley Walls(Mississippi), and coaches Mike Bellotti (Chico State [Calif.], Oregon) and Jerry Moore (North Texas, Texas Tech, Appalachian State). Ronnie Lott, an NFF Board Member and Hall of Fame inductee from Southern California, presented the honorees with their plaques. NFF Board Member and Hall of Fame inductee from Navy, Roger Staubach, conducted the Official Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony.

The 14 players and two coaches bring the total number of players in the Hall of Fame to 948 and the number of coaches in the Hall to 207. Wesley Walls delivered the response on behalf of the class, who returned to the Waldorf stage after speaking on behalf of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class in 1988.

“This unexpected recognition is a gift that we are deeply honored by,” Walls said. “I want to take this time to personally congratulate each member of this class. I am honored to share this stage with you tonight…It can be said that with our induction into the College Football Hall of Fame we have reached our full potential: the pinnacle of success in college football. But as each of us look back over our lives, we realize that we achieved none of this success on our own, but instead we are here tonight because so many helped us along the way. Tonight we stand here together alongside you.”

Joining the Hall of Famers on stage was the 2014 National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments, comprised of 17 of the most talented and brightest football players in the nation. Bestowal of the awards was done by Kathleen Murphy, NFF Board Member and President of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Duke linebacker David Helton led the group vying for the covetedWilliam V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments and awarded to the nation’s top scholar-athlete.

The trophy, presented by NFF Chairman Emeritus and Chairman of HealthSouth Jon F. Hanson, was awarded to Helton, a First Team Academic All-America and First Team All-ACC selection who carries a 3.64 GPA in psychology. Expected to graduate in May 2015, he will receive a total postgraduate scholarship of $25,000.

“I truly am humbled and grateful to even be in the presence of these men,” Helton said upon receiving the award. “My parents always told me throughout my life it takes a village to raise you. Now, more than ever, I know what they meant by that statement. When I look at this award and honor, I don’t see a trophy or individual success. I see the culmination of people that have invested in me and helped raise me into being the best that I can be.”

Other members of the 2014 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class included Terry Baggett (Army),Austin Damaschke (Concordia [Wis.]), Austin Hasquet (Northern Arizona), Nate Leonard (Texas at San Antonio), Mike Mancini (Trinity [Conn.]), Charles Moore (Tarleton State [Texas]), Mark Murphy (Indiana), Jordan Richards (Stanford), Kevin Rodgers (Henderson State [Ark.]), Mike Sadler (Michigan State), Caleb Schaffitzel (Missouri State), Tyler Varga (Yale), Brandon Vitabile(Northwestern) and Zach Zenner (South Dakota State). Each scholar-athlete received an $18,000 scholarship at the event. The class received their plaques from Chris Howard, the recipient of the inaugural William V. Campbell Trophy in 1990 and the current President at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

The NFF awarded the Gold Medal, the organization’s highest and most prestigious award, to a pair of outstanding individuals. NFF Board Member and TV personality Jack Ford presented the award to global humanitarian Dr. Tom Catena. Catena, a former All-American nose guard at Brown University, established the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan along with Bishop Macram Gassis. As medical director and sole physician, Catena refused to evacuate during a severe malaria outbreak, stating that as the only doctor in the only hospital in the region, he could not leave in good conscience. Catena expanded upon his work in Sudan during his acceptance speech.

“I am completely humbled by this honor,” Catena said. “Back in June 2011, where I work in the Nuba Mountains became engulfed in a civil war and the mission group I worked for told me I had to evacuate. I wrote back to them and I said ‘I can’t go.’ I thought ‘is this the message me as a missionary is sending to these people?’ Because what they were in a sense saying was my life was worth more than these people here. That’s a bunch of nonsense, their lives are equal as my life is…Certainly as a medical missionary, I felt very strongly that I had no more right to life than these people did.”

NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell presented NFF Vice Chairman George Weiss with the award. Weiss began his tenure with the National Football Foundation in 1969 first as an Associate Legal Counsel and then General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. During his 45 years with the organization, Weiss has helped negotiate the location of all of the sites of the College Football Hall of Fame and has been a key part of many of the organization’s premier initiatives. He reflected on his career with the NFF in his acceptance speech.

“The greatest human endeavor I know of is service,” said Weiss. “The National Football Foundation is a truly great institution, one that upholds and represents the dignity and highest values of our game…Thanks to football. Thanks to everyone who has ever played and everyone who plays now. Thanks to all who celebrate the game and know the meaning of its greatness. What an honor it has been to serve this great game and the National Football Foundation, which is [the game’s] greatest and most consistent standard-bearer.”

Rece Davis introduced the major award winners, with NFF Board Member and Entergy Corporation Executive V.P. & Chief Administrative Officer Rod West presenting them with their plaques. Duke Athletics Director Kevin White accepted the John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration. White spearheaded the launch of a $250 million athletics initiative in 2012, with $100 million earmarked for the renovation of Wallace Wade Stadium and the addition of Pascal Field House. Since White’s arrival, Duke has captured six NCAA Championships and 15 ACC titles, while 75 Blue Devil teams advanced to NCAA postseason competition.

Davis also presented the Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting to the former Voice of the Michigan Wolverines Frank Beckmann and the Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award to founder of Host Communications Jim Host. NFF Board Member and Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank presented the NFF Legacy Award to Mike McNeely, a walk-on at the University of Florida who is headed to medical school.

Vice President of Content and Brand Development and on-air host of Campus Insiders Bonnie Bernstein hosted the NFF Awards press conference in the morning. All of the major award winners, the 2014 Hall of Famers and the 2014 National Scholar-Athletes were in attendance. Click here for quotes from the Hall of Famers and here for the National Scholar-Athletes. College Football Hall of Famer and 1996 William V. Campbell Trophy recipient, Danny Wuerffel, announced the winner of the 2014 Wuerffel Trophy Winner, which is given to the college football player who best exhibits exemplary community service. Don McPherson, a Hall of Fame inductee from Syracuse, emceed the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon, presented by Under Armour, where the five NFF National High School Scholar-Athletes and the winners of the 2014 Chapter Leadership Awards were honored.

George Sechrist, of the Business Media Group (BMG) based in Indianapolis, produced the event for the second time. Daniel Rodriguez returned to sing the National Anthem and God Bless America, while Columbia University Team Chaplain Father Thomas Valenti gave the invocation.

ESPN3.com carried the event live while Volar Video and LiveU streamed the event live to the NFF’s website. Sponsors for the day’s events included Allstate Sugar Bowl, EventaGlobal, Fidelity Investments, HealthSouth, Herff Jones, iSix, New York Athletic Club, The Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Spielman Koenigsberg & Parker, The Sports Business Journal, Under Armour, UPS, Volar Video and LiveU, XOS Digital.

NFF 2014 dinner

25th William V. Campbell Trophy winner David Helton, global humanitarian Dr. Tom Catena, and Hall of Famers Sterling Sharpe, Shane Conlan and LaDainian Tomlinson headlined the night’s honorees at the famed Waldorf Astoria Grand Ballroom in New York City.

About the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF High School Showcases, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF Faculty Salute Initiative presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, and scholarships of more than $1.3 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF also collaborates with the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) to release the FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll; awards the William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments and prominently displayed at its official home inside the New York Athletic Club; and bestows several other major awards at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner. NFF corporate partners include the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the Sports Business Journal and Under Armour. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org.

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