Nine finalists named for 2019 FWAA Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award Reply

Winner to be announced on Dec. 20

DALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America, in conjunction with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, announced nine finalists for the 2019 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award on Tuesday. Among the finalists are three previous finalists and three of the four head coaches competing in the College Football Playoff.

In alphabetical order the finalists are: Ryan Day, Ohio State; Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State; Sonny Dykes, SMU; P.J. Fleck, Minnesota; Bryan Harsin, Boise State; Mike Norvell, Memphis; Ed Orgeron, LSU; Matt Rhule, Baylor; and Dabo Swinney, Clemson.

Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award

This is the third consecutive season for Swinney to be a finalist and the fifth time overall (also 2015 and ’11). Fleck was a finalist in 2016 at Western Michigan and Harsin was a finalist in 2014 at Boise State. The 2019 recipient will be announced on Friday, Dec. 20.

“These nine coaches have had outstanding seasons,” 2019 FWAA President Matt Fortuna said. “We could not be happier to present this award next month in New Orleans, as each individual exemplifies the values embodied by the award’s namesake, Eddie Robinson.”

The official presentation reception will be on Jan. 11, 2020, in New Orleans where the winning coach will be handed the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year bust during a reception hosted by the Allstate Sugar Bowl in conjunction with the College Football Playoff National Championship.

“The Allstate Sugar Bowl is proud each year to recognize the top college football coach in the nation while at the same time honoring the great accomplishments of a Louisiana legend, Coach Eddie Robinson,” said Monique Morial, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “And we’re excited that this year we will be recognizing the winner right here in New Orleans as part of the College Football Playoff National Championship festivities that we’re hosting in January.”

The nine finalists have been placed on a ballot which has been sent to the entire FWAA membership. Ballots will be accepted through 5 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 13.

The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. The FWAA coaching award is named after the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.

The 2019 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalists:

Ryan Day, Ohio State: Day was the media’s choice for Big Ten Coach of the Year. The last time Ohio State had a coach named Big Ten Coach of the Year was 1979, the year Day was born. The 40-year drought ended last week as the first-year coach guided Ohio State to a 13-0 season with a Big Ten Championship win and a berth into the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes dominated the Big Ten this season powered by the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense (48.7), No. 5 total offense (531.0), No. 2 total defense (247.6) and No. 2 (tied) scoring defense (12.5).

Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State: In Drinkwitz’s one season at the helm, Appalachian State (12-1) won its fourth straight Sun Belt Conference title and made history as the first 12-win Sun Belt team and earned the highest national ranking in school and conference history. The No. 20 Mountaineers became the first Sun Belt team to beat two Power Five teams (North Carolina and South Carolina, both on the road) in the same season. Drinkwitz has accepted the same position at Missouri.

Sonny Dykes, SMU: In his second year with the Mustangs, Dykes led SMU to its first 10-win season (10-2) since 1984 and its first perfect home season (6-0) since 1968. The Mustangs are No. 6 nationally in scoring offense (43.0, currently a school record), No. 9 in total offense (495.3, currently a school record) and No. 12 in passing offense (309.3, second all-time at the school), while the defense set school records with 50 sacks (second nationally, one behind Ohio State) and 105 tackles for loss (fourth nationally, 8.75 per game).

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota: The Gophers won 10 games (10-2) in the regular season for the first time since 1905 and won seven Big Ten games for the first time in school history. Minnesota’s 31-26 home win over Penn State was its first against a top five opponent since 1999 and its first home win against a top five team since 1977. The Gophers reached as high as No. 7 in the AP poll, their highest ranking since 1962. Fleck was the coaches’ selection as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, marking the third time in the last seven seasons, Fleck has earned a conference coach of the year nod.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State: Harsin has led the Broncos to a 12-1 record and a second conference title in three seasons following a 31-10 win over Hawaii in the Mountain West Championship Game. The 12 wins are the most in a season for Boise State since Harsin’s first season in 2014 and the Broncos went a perfect 8-0 in Mountain West play for the first time since joining the conference in 2011. Boise State reached as high as No. 19 in the CFP rankings.

Mike Norvell, Memphis: Norvell has Memphis headed to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl as the Group of 5 representative after the Tigers (12-1) captured their first outright conference championship in 50 years. Memphis is No. 17 in the final CFP rankings following a regular season that saw the Tigers in the top 10 in scoring offense (No. 8, 40.5) and post 87 plays gaining 20-plus yards (tied for 6th nationally). Norvell has accepted the same position at Florida State.

Ed Orgeron, LSU: Orgeron has the Tigers at 13-0 for just the second time in school history and taking their SEC Championship into their first College Football Playoff game as the top-ranked team to face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. LSU defeated five top-10 teams in the regular season – Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and then Georgia last week in the SEC Championship Game – behind the play of record-setting quarterback Joe Burrow, and is only the second team (Notre Dame, 1943) to do that prior to its bowl game. The Tigers have won 14 straight dating back to last year’s Fiesta Bowl and have scored in 49 of 52 quarters this season.

Matt Rhule, Baylor: The Bears (11-2) reached their first Big 12 Championship Game before falling to CFP No. 4-ranked Oklahoma and will play in the 2020 Allstate Sugar Bowl against Georgia. Defense guided Baylor’s fortunes as the Bears forced at least two takeaways in nine of their 13 games, including 16 interceptions in their last 10 games and at least one takeaway in their last 15 overall. The Bears have a school-record 43.0 sacks through 13 games after totaling only 25 in 2018. Baylor was 1-11 two years ago and 7-6 last season.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: The Tigers became the first school to win five straight conference championship games last week with a 62-17 dismantling of Virginia in the ACC Championship Game, Clemson’s sixth under Swinney and 19th ACC title overall. Clemson is near the top of every major statistical category, leading the country in total defense (244.7) and scoring defense (10.6) while also posting the No. 3 total offense (547.7) and No. 4 scoring offense (46.5). The Tigers held eight of 13 opponents to 10 points or less while scoring 40 or more points 10 times and 50-plus seven times.

The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses college football’s most prestigious awards. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 50 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 85-year history. The 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring the Baylor Bears from the Big 12 and the Georgia Bulldogs from the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2020. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, scholarships and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year and has injected over $2.5 billion into the local economy over the last decade. For more information, visit AllstateSugarBowl.org.

The Football Writers Association of America, founded in 1941, consists of 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

Eddie Robinson Award
Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award | All-time winners, finalists

Ohio State’s Young wins 2019 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Reply

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ohio State defensive end Chase Young was named the recipient of the 2019 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday night before a sold-out banquet crowd of 1,200 people at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Young, a team captain and a 6-5, 265-pound junior from Upper Marlboro, Md., accepted the award given to the best defensive player in college football by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. He becomes Ohio State’s second winner, joining linebacker James Laurinaitis in 2006. Laurinaitis was a finalist again in ’07 and Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer was also a finalist in 1997.

The nation’s sack leader (16.5, 1.5 per game) also leads in sack yardage (117 yards) at the helm of a defense that finished the regular season as the country’s top unit, giving up just 232.2 yards per game. The 16.5 sacks is the Ohio State record for a single season and the most by a Big Ten player in 21 seasons.

“I think he embodies everything on and off the field what this award embraces,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “In college football, not many people dominated play the way Chase has played this year.” Day was the keynote speaker at the banquet.

Young has produced one of the most dominant individual defensive seasons. He is second in the nation with 21.0 tackles for loss, and his 129 yards lost on those plays are also second. The Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year is tied for fourth with 1.91 TFL’s per game, having added another 1.5 to his total in Saturday’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

His combined 246 yards lost on his sacks and TFL’s are more than any other player in the nation. He has forced six fumbles that are second in the nation, only one off the national leader. He has made 43 total tackles, has four quarterback hurries and one blocked kick.

Young was the Bronko Nagurski Trophy’s National Player of the Week for the weekend of Oct. 26 following the best game of his season when he tied career highs with four sacks and five tackles for loss in Ohio State’s 38-7 win over Wisconsin. He also two forced fumbles in the game.

Young has 30.5 career sacks and needs 5.5 more to tie Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel for the school record as the Buckeyes head into the College Football Playoff and a Dec. 28 semifinal matchup against Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Paced by Young, Ohio State is three sacks away from its single-season team record of 52 set in 2000. Young and Vrabel are the only Ohio State players in program history to have 10 or more sacks in multiple seasons.

The FWAA All-America Committee made Young the selection as this year’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner. Young was selected from a list of finalists that included Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr, all of whom were in hand in Charlotte tonight.

In addition to the 2019 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner’s announcement, the banquet, presented by LendingTree, celebrated UCLA’s Jerry Robinson as the recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award.

The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA joined with the CTC and named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses college football’s most prestigious awards. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 24 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

The Football Writers Association of America, founded in 1941, consists of 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1991 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. Since 1991, the club has raised more than $2,000,000 to benefit area high school and collegiate athletics. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or jrocco@touchdownclub.com). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.

LendingTree, Inc.
LendingTree is the nation’s leading online marketplace that connects consumers with the choices they need to be confident in their financial decisions. LendingTree empowers consumers to shop for financial services the same way they would shop for airline tickets or hotel stays, by comparing multiple offers from a nationwide network of over 500 partners in one simple search and choosing the option that best fits their financial needs. Services include mortgage loans, mortgage refinances, auto loans, personal loans, business loans, student refinances, credit cards, insurance and more. Through the My LendingTree platform, consumers receive free credit scores, credit monitoring and recommendations to improve credit health. My LendingTree proactively compares consumers’ credit accounts against offers on our network and notifies consumers when there is an opportunity to save money. In short, LendingTree’s purpose is to help simplify financial decisions for life’s meaningful moments through choice, education and support.

Related links:
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (All-Time Winners, Finalists and Players of the Week)
Download the 25th Anniversary Bronko Nagurski Trophy logo

Oregon’s Sewell wins 2019 Outland Trophy Reply

ATLANTA — Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell was named the recipient of the 74th Outland Trophy on Thursday night during The Home Depot College Football Awards from the College Football Hall of Fame.

The 2019 Outland Trophy, presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense. NFID is presenting the trophy to help increase awareness about the importance of influenza (flu) prevention. Getting vaccinated each year is your best first line of defense against flu.

Sewell is the first Outland Trophy winner from Oregon and the third consecutive sophomore to receive the prestigious award. Sewell is just the eighth winner from a Pac-12 school and the third since 2000. He was selected by the All-America Committee of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) from three finalists, including Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz. The Ducks had two previous finalists in Jake Fisher (OT, 2014) and Haloti Ngata (DT, 2005).

The official presentation to the winner will be made at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Outland Trophy Award Dinner sponsored by Werner Enterprises on Jan. 15, 2020 in Omaha, Neb.

The 6-6, 325-pound true sophomore originally from Malaeimi, American Samoa and then Desert Hills High School in St. George, Utah, showed his dominance at left tackle early in the season. He was the Outland Trophy Offensive Player of the Month for September as the Ducks became the Pac-12’s third-leading offense (26th nationally) behind quarterback Justin Herbert. In 466 pass-blocking snaps this season, Sewell allowed just seven quarterback pressures and no sacks. He had eight games without allowing a pressure, hit and hurry on the quarterback.

Sewell is the top-graded offensive lineman at any position by Pro Football Focus, which gave him a national-best 95.5 run-blocking grade and a 92.2 in pass-blocking, second nationally. The Pac-12 named him its Offensive Lineman of the Week award four times.

Oregon (11-2) is 16-3 over the last two seasons with Sewell in the starting lineup and heads to its fourth Rose Bowl appearance since 2010 and eighth overall on Jan. 1, 2020, where it will take on Wisconsin.

Former University of Pittsburgh tackle Mark May, the 1980 Outland Trophy winner, has served as the 2019 Outland Trophy #FightFlu ambassador on behalf of NFID. May is making media appearances on behalf of the NFID #FightFlu public awareness campaign to remind everyone age six months and older to get vaccinated annually against flu.

The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Founded in 1973, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan. Visit nfid.org for more information.

About the Football Writers Association of America
Founded in 1941, the non-profit Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) consists of more than 1,300 members, including journalists, broadcasters, publicists and key executives in all areas of college football. Led by current President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times, longtime Executive Director Steve Richardson, and a board of veteran journalists, the association continues to grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. Visit footballwriters.com for more information about the FWAA and its award programs.

Media Contacts
Doug Drotman (doug@drotmanpr.com or 631-462-1198)
Steve Richardson (tiger@fwaa.com or 214-870-6516)
Diana Olson (dolson@nfid.org or 301-656-0003, Ext. 140)

On the web
OutlandTrophy.com, FootballWriters.com, nfid.org/flu

Twitter
@NFIDvaccines, @OutlandTrophy, @TheFWAA, @Mark_May, #FightFlu

Related links:
• All-Time Outland Trophy winners, finalists
Download high-resolution Outland Trophy logo for editorial use

Wally Hall will receive 2020 Bert McGrane Award Reply

By Bob Holt
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Wally Hall is in his 40th consecutive year writing about sports as a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat and Democrat-Gazette.

“Whenever anything big happens in sports in Arkansas, everybody waits to see what Wally says. I can’t say that for any other state in the nation,” said Ron Higgins, who has covered the SEC for several newspapers and is now editor of Tiger Rag, a magazine and website that focuses on LSU sports. “In Arkansas, when you say, ‘Wally,’ people don’t ask, ‘Wally who?’ They know it’s Wally Hall.”

Hall, who was born in Searcy and grew up in Little Rock, has covered all sports since becoming a columnist in 1979, but college football has been a focal point.

Wally Hall, winner of the 2020 Bert McGrane Award, the FWAA’s highest honor. (Photo by Melissa Macatee.)

A member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) for 33 years, including serving as president in 2003, Hall is being recognized by the organization with its highest honor.

Hall will receive the Bert McGrane Award at the FWAA Awards Breakfast on Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans before the College Football Playoff Championship Game is played in the Superdome.

“This is our lifetime achievement award,” said Steve Richardson, the FWAA Executive Director. “It’s the Football Writers’ Hall of Fame.”

The McGrane Award is presented in recognition of contributions to the FWAA and college football with the recipients being displayed in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

McGrane was a sports writer and editor at the Des Moines Register for 45 years and served as the FWAA’s Executive Director from the early 1940s until 1973.

“Wally is an iconic figure in college football writers’ circles for his longevity and the fact he’s been so passionate about all college sports for so many years,” said Richardson, also a McGrane recipient. “Recognizing him with the McGrane Award is really a no-brainer. He has been very supportive of the FWAA. He’s fought for his newspaper and for writers everywhere as far as coverage and access.”

The McGrane Award has been presented annually since 1974 and is a Who’s Who of sports writers, with past winners including Paul Zimmerman, Furman Bisher, Blackie Sherrod, Edwin Pope, Tony Barnhart and Ivan Maisel.

“Looking at the list of past winners of this award puts me in awe,” Hall said. “I do share one thing in common with everyone who has won this award — a passion for college football.”

Hall is the third Arkansan to win the McGrane Award along with Orville Henry and Charlie Fiss.

Henry, who wrote for the Arkansas Gazette and later the Democrat and Democrat-Gazette and Donrey Media Group, won in 2002.

Fiss, a Springdale native and longtime vice president of communications for the Cotton Bowl, was the award’s recipient in 2017.

“Wally has done it all in his career as a reporter, columnist and editor,” Fiss said. “He has developed an extraordinary following in Arkansas by earning the trust and loyalty of his readers.

“People want to know what Wally is thinking when it comes to the world of sports, and particularly the news of the day about the Razorbacks. I’m one of those readers. His column is like a magnet for me because it’s the first thing I turn to when picking up the newspaper or going online.

“The impact he has made as a journalist and his contributions to the profession are immense The Bert McGrane Award is one of the highest honors a journalist could ever receive and it’s gratifying to see the FWAA recognize Wally in such a special and meaningful way.”

Herb Vincent, the SEC’s associate commissioner of communications, is a North Little Rock native and graduate of Little Rock Catholic High School.

“I grew up reading Wally,” Vincent said. “Even after I left Little Rock, my dad knew that I liked to read him so much that he’d clip out his columns and send them to me in the days before the Internet.

“Then even after the Internet, he kept mailing them to me. It became a tradition where I’d get a package in the mail every week with Wally’s columns.

“My dad would write comments with the columns — and sometimes he didn’t agree with Wally. But he always read Wally, just like I have and so many other people have all these years. Reading Wally always helped me keep up with what was going on back home.”

Along with being a columnist, Hall added the sports editor’s duties in 1981.

“Wally’s a throwback to the old days when the sports editor was the columnist as well as running the department,” Richardson said. “He’s maintained a unique standing in the industry.

“Think of all the coaches Wally has covered at Arkansas. In this day and age someone who has the history and knowledge of the Arkansas program and sports in his state in general like Wally does is very hard to find.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge and has strong opinions. I don’t think anyone has to wonder how Wally feels about a topic he’s writing about. You know how he feels after you read his column.”

Vincent said Hall’s reputation and influence have extended well beyond Arkansas.

“Wally is really a legend in the sports writing industry,” Vincent said. “People across the country know Wally. He’s obviously got a great perspective on the world of sports.

“Wally writes with passion and he writes with an educated point of view. He writes with humor.

“Wally’s always had a great perspective on Arkansas sports through the good and the bad, through the winning and losing. He’s consistently been a sportswriter’s sportswriter.

“Wally knows his audience. He knows who he’s writing for. He’s been around sports for so long now that he knows what people want to know and he addresses that.”

Hall often has had to file his column within minutes — sometimes seconds — of a game ending to make deadline.

“Wally has so much impact with what he writes — and he writes faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,” Higgins said. “He’s given so much not just to the business of journalism in general, but to the Football Writers Association in particular. He’s always been a great advocate for our organization.

“He’s always concerned about how press boxes are run and the media operations part of our business.”

Higgins, then with the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, was covering the Arkansas-Michigan game at the 1998 Citrus Bowl.

“Somebody announced they’d be closing the press box an hour after the game,” Higgins said. “Wally went ballistic, and they said we could stay as long as we needed.

“That’s Wally. He’s never afraid to stand up for what he believes, never afraid to take a stand.

“Wally embodies what a good columnist should be about — ‘I don’t care if you like me or not, but you can respect me.’ That’s probably the essence of Wally right there.”

Hall, who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, has said he has no plans to retire.

“Through all the changes newspapers and journalism have gone through, Wally has stood the test of time,” Richardson said. “I think that’s one of his greatest attributes. He probably has a better feel for what’s going on in Arkansas than anyone else through all these years.”

The best defense wins championships and helps fight the flu

By Bob Herzog

Even in this age of offense-driven football at all levels, many coaches still embrace the adage that “defense wins championships.” That saying could easily apply to influenza (better known as flu) prevention.

“The first line of defense against the flu is for everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated annually,” said Marla Dalton, CAE executive director and CEO of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). NFID wants everyone to know that flu can be serious—even for healthy people, flu-related complications can result in hospitalization and even death. Unfortunately, flu vaccination rates in the United States continue to fall short of public health goals, both for football players and the public at large.

To promote the importance of flu prevention, NFID is in the second year of a sponsorship of the Outland Trophy, awarded each season to the nation’s best college football interior lineman. The NFID and the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) have joined forces in a national campaign (#FightFlu) to remind football fans and players to get vaccinated every year. They have even recruited former Outland Trophy winners Joe Thomas (Wisconsin, 2006), Barrett Jones (Alabama, 2011) and Mark May (Pittsburgh, 1980) for a public service campaign to remind football fans of the importance of annual flu shots.

“We provide free flu shots for the varsity football team and coaching staff. But it’s hard to get 90 men to come in to get a shot,” said University of Rhode Island (URI) head athletic trainer Andy Llaguno. “Why? Because they are scared of the needle! They’ll say, ‘No, I don’t want any part of it.’ We highly encourage them to do it, but participation has not been as good as we’d like it.”

Llaguno attributed college football players’ reluctance to get flu shots, despite medical evidence that it most definitely helps, to common myths about the flu shot. According to Llaguno, “Some of them think they will get the flu from the shot. The other thing is that they’re just scared of needles.”

Mark May, the 1980 Outland Trophy recipient from Pitt, shown here getting his annual flu shot, will be the 2019 spokesperson for the Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Flu vaccines are made with flu viruses that are either weakened or killed, and only broken up parts of the killed virus are included in the vaccine. Therefore, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. And for those who are afraid of needles, flu vaccine is available as a nasal spray. The pain associated with flu is much worse than the pain of a needle.

Llaguno worked with the football programs at Penn State, Boston College and West Virginia before coming to URI and said, “It was absolutely very similar there. The difference is that at a place like Penn State, the coaching staff does have a little more influence to make sure the players get the shots.”

If football players studied the history of the flu as much as they study their playbooks, getting vaccinated would be a no-brainer.

A lengthy 2018 story in The Athletic detailed how a world-wide flu pandemic struck in 1918, during World War I, decades before a flu vaccine became available. Roughly one-third of the world’s population was infected and an estimated 50 million people died from the flu.

So even though the declared co-national champions Michigan and Pittsburgh played only five games because of the war and quarantines related to the flu scare, sports historian S.W. Pope told The Athletic that the 1918 season, “effectively helped transform the game of college football. It became a national sport.”

Joe Thomas, the 2006 Outland Trophy recipient from Wisconsin, shown here getting his annual flu shot, was the 2018 spokesperson for the Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Thanks to flu vaccines that have been publicly available in the United States for more than 50 years, flu vaccination has prevented millions of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

But NFID reminds us that the flu is still a serious illness, and vaccines don’t work if they sit on the shelf. Though the very young and very old are most vulnerable, even healthy football players and coaches are at risk. The acronym, FACTS (Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness, and Sudden Onset), helps remind people of the symptoms of flu.

NFID supports the ‘Take 3’ approach to flu prevention recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 1) Get a flu vaccine each year, 2) practice healthy habits—cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick; and 3) take flu antiviral drugs if prescribed.

Limiting contact with others, however, is exactly the opposite of what football players do. So football and the flu continue to converge. In September of 2009, more than 40 University of Wisconsin football players showed flu-like symptoms the week leading up to the Badgers’ game against Fresno State. They all suited up for a double-overtime victory, but one starter played only briefly before leaving the game with an illness. It was later reported that some of the team got infected by a rare swine flu virus. All recovered within a week, according to news reports.

That fall, football teams at Washington State, the University of Mississippi, Tulane and Duke also were hit hard by the flu, further raising awareness of flu and its symptoms and treatment.

The Ravens defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, staying at a hotel in Providence instead of Boston, which had declared a state of emergency because of the flu outbreak which affected some Patriots’ players that week.

You would think such incidents would make it an easy sell for athletic trainers to convince football players to get vaccinated against flu. But in many instances, that is not the case.

“Even these big, tough guys are still afraid of needles,” Llaguno said of his Rhode Island Rams. “In some ways it’s comical, but it’s not funny that we haven’t gotten the participation that we want. It is getting better though. We started with a dozen players, got it up to a couple of dozen last year, and we’re hoping for more than 60 percent this year.”

After all, the best way offense in combatting the disease is a good defense.

(Bob Herzog retired from Newsday in 2018 after a 46-year career as a sportswriter and editor. He lives in Rhode Island, where he teaches at URI.)

Viti named 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award recipient

Armed Forces Merit Award

FORT WORTH, Texas — Army West Point coach and military veteran Mike Viti has been selected as the eighth recipient of Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm of the sport of football.”

Brant Ringler, executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and Matt Fortuna, FWAA president, announced Monday during a teleconference that Viti was selected from a list of 38 nominations (33 individuals and five programs) as the 2019 recipient by a seven-person committee made up of FWAA members and Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl officials.

Mike Viti

“Coach Viti has distinguished himself as a collegiate football player, an Army veteran and now as a coach,” said Ringler. “More importantly, Coach Viti has given of himself with his work with Legacies Alive in support of families of our nation’s fallen heroes.”

Fortuna added, “Coach Viti joins a list of remarkable individuals and programs that have been recipients of the Armed Forces Merit Award. He has been successful in each phase of his life as a player and coach at Army West Point, along with his service in the military and his support of Legacies Alive. With so many deserving individuals and programs, it is difficult to honor only one recipient annually.”

Viti, who is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Army West Point football, co-founded Legacies Alive (LA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The mission of the Legacies Alive is to strengthen and support the Gold Star families of our nation’s fallen heroes and brings national awareness to the life and character of all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Viti oversees the strategic and executive direction of the organization.

“Legacies Alive has allowed me to passionately honor the sacrifice and service of my heroes,” said Viti. “The interactions I have had with their Gold Star Families are some of the most powerful and influential experiences I have had in my life. It has inspired me to continue to connect our mission with more Americans so that our country’s sons and daughters forever connect the freedoms and liberties they are afforded, with the sacrifice and service our fallen and their families.”

As a student-athlete at Army West Point (2004-2007), Viti earned four varsity letters and was a team captain. As a fullback used primarily as a blocker, he carried the ball 91 times during his career for 321 yards and three scores while catching 30 passes for 198 yards. Viti also served as a Regimental Commander during his senior year.

Following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in 2008, Viti was stationed in Oklahoma and Colorado after being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served with the 4th Infantry Division as well as the 214th Fires Brigade. He served in combat in Afghanistan where he was a platoon leader in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Viti has earned a bronze star and a combat action badge.

After retiring from the military as a captain, Viti embarked on Mike’s Hike For Heroes, a cross country trek where he walked one kilometer for every service member killed in action in the global war on terror. He concluded the walk covering 7,100 kilometers or 4,400 miles beginning in Washington and wrapping up at the Army-Navy Game presented by USAA in Baltimore, Md.

Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard was named last November as the seventh recipient. A 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player. He currently serves on the selection committee for the College Football Playoffs.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas, Austin was the initial recipient in 2012. Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in 2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University in 2016.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games, the FCS opening-weekend game, 16 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event, an esports event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 375-plus hours of live programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and Tampa, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans. For more information, visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages.

The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA, http://www.sportswriters.net) consists of the men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. Founded in 1941, the membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards and an All-America team. Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest. Behind the leadership of President Matt Fortuna of The Athletic, Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists, the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. There are now over 1,400 members.

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Armed Forces Merit Award 2019 finalists revealed

FORT WORTH, Texas — Five individuals have been named as finalists for the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Armed Forces Merit Award

The announcement of the 2019 recipient will be made via a 10 a.m. (CT) teleconference next Monday (November 11) on Veteran’s Day by Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Executive Director Brant Ringler and FWAA President Matt Fortuna.

Two of the five individuals for the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA were also finalists in 2018 when Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard was announced last November as the seventh recipient.

U.S. Air Force Academy Coach Troy Calhoun and wide receiver Casey Stewart of Shenandoah University lead the list of five individuals named as 2019 finalists after each advanced to the final round of voting in 2018. Calhoun is an Air Force veterans and Steward is a National Guard reservist.

Others 2019 Armed Forces Mert Award finalists are defensive lineman and Marine veteran Alexander Findura of Bloomsburg College of Pennsylvania, defensive lineman and Navy veteran Damian Jackson of the University of Nebraska and Army West Point fullback coach and Army veteran Mike Viti.

The Armed Forces Merit Award’s selection committee is made up of five FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. A total of 33 individuals and five programs were nominated for the 2019 award that was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm of college football.”

Dr. Howard, a 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player. He currently serves on the selection committee for the College Football Playoffs.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas, Austin was the initial recipient in 2012. Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in 2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University in 2016.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA – 2019 finalists

Troy Calhoun

Troy Calhoun is the only coach that knows want it takes to play football at a service academy and then make the transition from the professional level to oversee a program at the Football Bowl Subdivsion level. In 12-plus seasons at Air Force after playing at the academy for four seasons (1985-1988) and then coaching in the National Football League with the Denver Broncos (2003-2005) and Houston Texans (2006), Calhoun is currently fourth in service academy football coaching wins (93) behind Fisher DeBerry (169, 23, seasons, 1984-2006 at Air Force), Earl Blaik (121, 18, 1941-1958 at Army West Point) and Ben Martin (96, 20, 1958-1977 at Air Force).

 

Alexander Findura

Alexander Findura is a junior defensive lineman at Bloomsburg University where he currently leads the team in tackles for losses (11) and is second in solo tackles (26) and third in total tackles (44). In 27 career games, he has amassed 70 total tackles (34 solos) with 17.5 tackles for losses. Findura started his collegiate career at Georgia State where he was redshirted as a freshman in 2011. With a family history of military service (father in the Navy and grandfather an Army veteran), Findura joined the Marines is the summer of 2012.

 

 

Damian Jackson

Damian Jackson has played in only one game at the University of Nebraska but has served as a valuable member of the team. Jackson served as a member of the Navy SEALs for four years after graduating from Shadow Ridge High School in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2010. He was not a member of the football team in high school but did participate in baseball and soccer. In an April 2018 article in Bleacher Report, Adam Kramer quoted then-new Nebraska coach Scott Frost as saying, “I hope he plays a lot, and we’ll let those pieces fall where they may. But I know how valuable he’s going to be regardless of how many snaps he gets. I love having him on this team.”

 

Casey Stewart

Casey Stewart lives a double life. He is a student-athlete at Shenandoah University where he is a co-captain on the Hornet football team, and at the same time, he’s a soldier in the National Guard. As a senior wide receiver, he has caught 46 passes this season for 752 yards and five touchdowns. He currently ranks fourth on Shenandoah’s career reception list with 133 catches and is second in both receiving yards (2,110, 17.0-yard average per catch) and touchdown receptions (26). He earned all-league honors as a junior.

 

 

Mike Viti

Mike Viti, who is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Army West Point football program and fifth overall on staff, co-founded Legacies Alive (LA), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen and support the Gold Star families of our nation’s fallen heroes and brings national awareness to the life and character of all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Viti oversees the strategic and executive director of the organization.

2019 Armed Forces Merit Award nominations announced

Armed Forces Merit Award

FORT WORTH, Texas — A total of 33 individuals and five programs have been nominated for the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Of the 33 individuals nominated for the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA, 12 are currently playing college football this season, 14 being college coaches, five being college/university administrators and two referees.

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm of college football.”

The recipient of the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA will be announced the week of November 3 or 10 as the selection committee of five FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

Robert Morris president and Air Force veteran Dr. Chris Howard was the 2018 recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award. A 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player.

Dr. Howard, a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, was inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame and a recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their collegiate athletic careers.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas was the initial recipient in 2012. Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in 2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University in 2016.

Boyer (long snapper), McCoy (defensive lineman), Rodriquez (wide receiver) and Robertson (defensive back) served in the Army before playing collegiate football. After his military service with the Marine Corp, Rhodes played four seasons at Middle Tennessee, including an appearance in the 2013 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl with the Blue Raiders.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA — 2019 Nominations

Programs

  • Athletes of Valor, Alex Stone, Founder & CEO, Athletes of Valor (U. S. Marines)
  • Battlefields to Ballfields, Mike Pereira, CEO/President/Director
  • National Association of College Directors of Athletics, Wounded Warrior Project
  • University of South Carolina’s “Seats for Soldiers” program and other initiatives
  • University of Tennessee, POW/MIA Chair of Honor

Active Players

  • Cornelius Andrews, Union College, WR, 5-7, 148, Soph., Stockbridge, GA.
  • Dromynique Chestnut, Azusa Pacific, DB, 5-9, 180, Sen., Twentynine Palms, Calif.
  • Alexander Findura, Bloomsburg, DL, 6-6, 255, Jun., Woodland, Ga. (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Rashaud Freeman, Webber International, LB, 6-0, 225, Soph, Jacksonville, Fla. (U. S. Army)
  • Joshua Griffin, Colorado State, RB, 5-10, 208, Jun., Houston, Tex.
  • Rasheed Holloway, Union College, WR, 6-0, 198, Soph., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Damian Jackson, Nebraska, DL, 6-2, 275, Soph. Las Vegas, Nev. (U. S. Navy)
  • Kenwon Mack, Union College, CB, 5-9, 165, Frosh, Detroit, Mich.
  • Ty Morrow, Texas Tech, OL, 6-4, 275, Sen., Canadian, Tex. (U. S. Navy)
  • Collin O’Donnell, Bluefield College, DL, 6-0, 250, Frosh, North Tonawanda, N.Y.
  • Josh Schenck, Oklahoma, LB, 5-11, 210, Jun.., Knightdale, N.C. (ROTC Cadet)
  • Casey Stewart, Shenandoah, WR, 6-4, 200, Sen., Front Royal, Va. (National Guard)

Football Staff

  • Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jake Campbell, Assistant Backfield, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Lt. Col. Robert Green, Defensive Assistant, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Brian Knorr, Assistant Head Coach/Co-Def. Coordinator/Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Steed Lobotzke, Offensive Line, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Ben Miller, Running Backs/Special Teams Coordinator, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Capt. Ross Pospisil, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marines Corps)
    John Rudzinski, Defensive Coordinator, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Trent Steelman, Quarterbacks/B-Backs Coach, Jacksonville, University (U. S. Army)
  • Mike Thiessen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Mike Viti, Assistant Football Coach/Fullback, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Charlton Warren, Cornerbacks, Georgia (U. S. Air Force)
  • Mick Yokitis, Wide Receivers, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • Jake Zweig, Director of Man Development, Illinois, (U. S. Navy) Football Support Staff
  • Jordan Simmons, Strength & Conditioning, Nevada (U. S. Army)
  • Rusty Whitt, Strength & Conditioning, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army) Staffing
  • Jim Knowlton, Director of Athletics, University of California (U. S. Army)
  • LTC John Nawoichyk, Assistant AD/Military Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Steve Senn, Director of Recruiting and Player Personnel, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)

Referees

  • Raymond Daniel, Official, Mid-American Conference (Army National Guard)
  • Steve Thielen, Official, Mid-American Conference (U. S. Army)

Members: Nominate your daughter or son for the Volney Meece Scholarship

The FWAA is now accepting applications for the 23nd annual Volney Meece Scholarship.

For an application please contact Dave Sittler, 8314 S. Jamestown Ave, Tulsa, OK 74137. His email is davesitt@aol.com and his cell phone is 918-629-3851 (text).

Applications must be received by Dec. 15, 2019.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the FWAA and named for the late Volney Meece, who served 22 years as the FWAA’s Executive Director and was the organization’s President in 1971.

The $1,000 annual grant for four years is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member. Since the program started in 1997, the FWAA has distributed more than $90,000 in scholarship money to deserving children of FWAA members.

The winner will be announced at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast at the media hotel in conjunction with the College Football Playoff  National Championship Game.

Past winners of the Volney Meece Scholarship
1997  Brett Goering  Topeka, Kan.
1998  Kelly Brooks  Denver, Colo.
1999  James Butz  Schaumberg, Ill.
2000  Sara Barnhart  Atlanta, Ga.
2001  Patrick Davis  Coventry, Conn.
2002  Jacqueline O’Toole  Gaithersburg, Md.
2003  Garrett Holtz  Denver, Colo.
2004  Katie Hersom  Oklahoma City, Okla.
2005  Katie Wieberg  Lawson, Mo.
2006  Kaylynn Monroe  Winter Park, Fla.
2007  Nate Kerkhoff  Overland Park, Kan.
2008  Jack Caywood  Lawrence, Kan.
2009  Haley Dodd  Overland Park, Kan.
2010  Donald Hunt  Philadelphia, Pa.
2011  Alaina Martens  Papillion, Neb.
2012  Emily Alford  Tupelo, Miss.
2013  Sarah Helsley  Edmond, Okla.
2014 Robert Abramson Palos Verde, Calif.
2015 Danielle Hoover Tulsa, Okla.
2016 Dolen Helwagen Pataskala, Ohio
2017 Elizabeth Schroeder Norman, Okla.
2018 Mallory Rosetta Baton Rouge, La.

Nominations sought 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award

FORT WORTH, Texas — Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.

Armed Forces Merit Award

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual or a group with a military background and/or involvement impacting college football.”

Nominations for the 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award will be accepted through October 1. At that time, a selection committee of five FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will review the list of candidates. The 2019 recipient will be announced on Veteran’s Day, November 11.

“We are pleased to join with the Football Writers Association of America to honor an individual with a military background or group that works with our armed services that has an impact within college football,” said Brant Ringler, the Executive Director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson echoed Ringler’s sentiments, adding that the group “has an outstanding list of candidates each year, making it difficult to honor only one recipient when there are several individuals and programs so very deserving of the honor.”

From among 56 nominations considered for the 2018 award, Robert Morris President and Air Force veteran Dr. Chris Howard was selected as the seventh recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award. A 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player by the National Football Foundation.

To nominate an individual or group for the Armed Forces Merit Award, please click on the link below for the nomination form, which should be completed and returned to:

Tim Simmons
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
9655 Yellowstone Road
Longmont, CO 80504

Armed Forces Merit Award Nomination Form.