I suppose we’re susceptible to award fatigue this time of year. All of the shows and the speech-making and tux-wearing and glad-handing and back-slapping can get a little much, especially when bowl season is already upon us.
It can almost make you turn into one of those cynical iconoclasts, the type who refuse to attend such functions for all their self-congratulation. I have been close to so afflicted at times.
But, then… nahhh. See, I’m a sucker for a gratuitous grip-n-grin shot. I even do them with friends. Which made my duties the past couple of weeks a pleasure.
I have to say, the six young men the FWAA honored earlier this month at the Bronko Nagurski Trophy gala in Charlotte both surprised me and altered my thinking about awards shows. They all not only seemed to enjoy their honor with a sense of humility, but they also appeared to genuinely enjoy the experience.
And I feel like I made some new friends. At one time or another, I was able to have a conversation with all of the Nagurski finalists as well as Virginia Military’s Greg Sanders (the Defender of the Nation Award recipient) during the two days of various functions in Charlotte.
Though it was the end of a long and grueling regular season, I think Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Houston’s Ed Oliver, Iowa’s Josey Jewell and the Nagurski winner, North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, all got a real kick out of both meeting new people and each other. They even managed to make the best of spending a disproportionate amount of time in formal attire.
When you meet those who have the stuff to excel in any walk of life, it’s always fun to see what makes them tick. That’s how a simple question to Jewell about his major at Iowa resulted in a comprehensive explanation of a business plan he has in the works for a new way to graze cattle. It periodically moves them onto fresh ground with the use of global positioning satellite tracking. You’ll just have to trust me on this, it was actually fascinating.
A couple of nights later, I represented the FWAA at the National Football Foundation dinner in New York and found myself at one point standing in a line between Jerry Jones and Steve Spurrier as dozens of us waited to be introduced to the assembled multitudes at the Midtown Hilton ballroom. Talk about, “Which of these is not like the others?”
Ready or not, the postseason honors are coming fast and furious now. Houston’s Oliver, a mere sophomore, did find himself the winner of the Outland Trophy, which we helped announce last week at the Home Depot College Awards on ESPN. He’ll be formally honored on Jan. 10 in Omaha at the presentation banquet.
Outgoing Central Florida head coach Scott Frost, who’s headed to Nebraska, his alma mater, after the Knights’ Peach Bowl match against Auburn, was just announced as our FWAA Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. I’ll have the pleasure of presenting him with that trophy in Atlanta on Jan. 6.
You may already have perused the FWAA 2017 All-America Team, released on Monday. And this year’s Orange Bowl Courage Award winner will be announced late this year, on Dec. 29.
Of course, we’re all looking forward to the FWAA Awards Breakfast on Jan. 8 in Atlanta when I’ll help hand out the Bert McGrane Award, the Steve Ellis Beat Writer of the Year Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Volney Meece Scholarship.
And I’m personally very much anticipating the introduction then of your new FWAA president for 2018, Stef Loh from The Seattle Times. She’s not just one of my favorite people in this business, she’s a terrific writer and reporter who’ll represent this office with honor.
More about all that in my final missive in a few weeks. Until then, let’s go bowling! And if I come up to you somewhere these next few weeks and arbitrarily demand a grip-n-grin shot, look, just humor me.