2021 Best Writing Contest winners announced

The results for the 29th Annual FWAA Best Writing Contest presented by collegepressbox include one writer who claimed two first places and a total of five double placers.

Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com won first place in both Column and Enterprise; Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today took the Game Story category, and Dave Wilson of ESPN.com was tops in Feature.

Other double placers were Travis Hines of the Des Moines Register (second place and an honorable mention); Ryan McGee of ESPN.com (second place and an honorable mention); Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports (third place and an honorable mention); Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com (two honorable mentions), and Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune (two honorable mentions). 

First-place winners will receive game balls from Big Game and collegepressbox.  Finishers 1-3 receive cash prizes and certificates. Honorable mentions receive certificates. The first-place entries will be displayed in The Fifth Down.

Click on each first-place winner’s name below to read their stories. To go to a page with all the first-place stories, CLICK HERE.

GAME

First PlaceGlenn Guilbeau, USA TODAY

Second Place — Travis Hines, Des Moines Register

Third Place — Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times

Honorable Mention — Ryan McGee, ESPN.com; Eric Hansen, South Bend Tribune; Dick Friedman, Harvard Magazine; Michael Lev, Arizona Daily Star/Tucson.com

FEATURE

First Place Dave Wilson, ESPN.com

Second Place — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com

Third Place — David Jones, PennLive.com

Honorable Mention — Nate Mink, Syracuse Post-Standard; Ross Dellenger, Sports Illustrated; David Ubben,The Athletic

COLUMN

First PlaceAlex Scarborough, ESPN.com

Second Place — Ryan McGee, ESPN.com

Third Place — Reese Becker, Fifth Quarter

Honorable Mention — Eric Hansen, South Bend Tribune; Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Pete Thamel, Yahoo Sports

ENTERPRISE

First PlaceAlex Scarborough, ESPN.com

Second Place — Audrey Snyder, The Athletic

Third Place — Pete Thamel, Yahoo Sports

Honorable Mention — Travis Hines, Des Moines Register; Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Matt Fortuna, The Athletic

2021 Best Game Story: Glenn Guilbeau, USA Today Louisiana

By Glenn Guilbeau

USA TODAY Louisiana

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – On Saturday morning, LSU freshman reserve tight end Kole Taylor had one reception for three yards. 

By late Saturday night, Taylor had the most famous shoe in college football – a size 14 Nike Vapor Edge Pro 360, to be exact, that sells for $120 to $140.

It left a deep footprint all over LSU’s 37-34 upset of No. 6 and 22-point favorite Florida in the fog and mist of The Swamp.

Taylor, the No. 9 tight end in the nation from Central High in Grand Junction, Colorado, finally got some decent playing time. This was because starting tight end Arik Gilbert “opted out” for the rest of the season last week after a 55-17 loss to Alabama that dropped LSU to 3-5.

Taylor had two catches for seven yards going into a third-and-10 play in a 34-34 game with under two minutes to play. Freshman quarterback Max Johnson, who started for the first time, completed a short pass to Taylor, who was stopped by safety Tre’vez Johnson and cornerback Marco Wilson six yards short of the first down.

Florida would have nearly a minute and 30 seconds to attempt a drive for a game-winning field goal if LSU elected to punt. But something happened.

“I saw three flags on the ground,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “And I was happy.”

In the process of that tackle, one of Taylor’s Nike Vapor Edge Pro 360s slipped off. Wilson picked it up and threw it more than 20 yards in celebration. Referee James Carter threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. This gave LSU a first down at its 44-yard line with 1:24 to play and another chance.

If Taylor’s laces were tighter, LSU likely would have punted, and Florida could have driven to the winning score. But LSU equipment manager Greg Stringfellow inadvertently took care of that.

More…

2021 Best Feature: Dave Wilson, ESPN.com

By Dave Wilson

ESPN.com

In the late 1990s, at a benefit 30 miles away from his East Texas hometown of Tyler, Earl Campbell sat at a table while the party’s host, a colorful businessman and one of Campbell’s best friends, summoned sheepish onlookers to come say hello to the legend.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Get on over here,” he said. “Earl don’t get up.”

Campbell wasn’t aloof, wasn’t too cool to get up, despite the darkened Wayfarers that made him look cool. “Earl don’t get up” because he couldn’t.

Campbell was once seen as the baddest man on the planet. He left tacklers and pieces of his tearaway jersey on the field behind him. Off the field, he wore Wranglers and giant belt buckles and did Skoal commercials. He was declared an official State Hero in 1981 by the Texas legislature, an honor previously bestowed upon only Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Davy Crockett.

As time went on and he was out of public view, Campbell broke down. At the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he remained in his seat while his fraternity brothers lined up on stage behind the winner. At Texas football games, he was always in a golf cart or riding on a scooter. Fans would pity him, muttering “Poor Earl,” as they tried to reconcile their love of football with Campbell being seen as a cautionary tale of its ravages.

But years later, he would discover through a decades-long medical odyssey, that was only part of the story.

“What happened over time is everybody just thinks I had football injuries,” says Campbell, who turned 65 in March. “They look at me and they think, ‘Oh, poor Earl.’ People really don’t know the truth about it.”

The truth came late to Campbell himself, which is why he hasn’t told this story in much detail before. Yet this year, he is deliberative as he relishes the biggest honor of a football life filled with so many of them. In July, the University of Texas announced it would immediately change the name of the football field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to Campbell-Williams Field to honor Campbell, who won the 1977 Heisman Trophy, and the Longhorns’ other Heisman winner, Ricky Williams (1998).

It is remarkable for several reasons. First, for how it happened: The field was previously named for Joe Jamail, a billionaire attorney and Texas mega-booster who was a close friend of Campbell’s. But amid a conversation about social justice led by Texas players on campus following George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, Jamail’s three sons asked the university to remove their late father’s name and replace it with the names of the two Longhorns legends, replacing a wealthy booster’s name with two of the most prominent Black athletes in school history.

More…

2021 Best Enterprise: Alex Scarborough, ESPN.com

By Alex Scarborough

ESPN.com

Nick Saban was a nobody then. His players’ first impression was that the ex-Houston Oilers assistant was kind of short. Truth be told, they got a Tony Danza vibe because of his deep tan, well-coiffed hair and wide-open shirt collar. But when Saban spoke in that first meeting — when he screamed about financial aid checks and threatened to kick players off the team — he had their attention. Soon, his training program would have them doubled over and dropping like flies.

“It reminded me of the Junction Boys,” said former tight end Vince Marrow. “I watched at least six or seven guys quit. They just couldn’t take it.”

Looking back 30 years on, Saban said he learned two important lessons during his one season at Toledo in 1990: motivation and game management. The latter was the hardest pill to swallow, though, as a mistake cost his team a win and the outright conference title. It’s something he carries with him today — one of those myriad details he pores over during every pregame meeting, before or after receiving scouting reports on the referees.

He learned, quite literally, which way the wind blows.

“We got the ball and went ‘two-minute’ down the field at the end,” Saban recalled of that game against Central Michigan, a 13-12 result on Oct. 20, 1990 — and his first career loss. “It was a one-point game and we lined up to kick a field goal of like 25 yards or something. We had a pretty good kicker, and the ball just got about 5 yards from the crossbar and just stopped in midair.”

He took a deep breath, reliving a loss that still haunts him, and continued.

“A lot of people remember the Bluegrass Miracle when I was at LSU. Well, we had the wind in the fourth quarter, and it was a significant 30 mph wind probably. And when we threw the Hail Mary, they couldn’t judge the ball because it just kept going and going and going, and that’s how we won.

More…

2021 Best Column: Alex Scarborough, ESPN.com

By Alex Scarborough

ESPN.com

For going on 14 years, Alabama has beaten Tennessee every October, and every year coaches and players have enjoyed a traditional postgame cigar. You’ve probably seen the photos that pop up on social media around this time each year. The one of Derrick Henry puffing a stogie with his arm around Nick Saban is particularly memorable, the running back towering over his head coach.

Fans have gotten in on the action, too. Television cameras have often panned into the crowds in the fourth quarter to show plumes of smoke rising from the bleachers. And somewhere, whether in Bryant-Denny Stadium or at his home in town, Jimmy Tom Goostree has been watching it all with a smile on his face.

Jimmy Tom’s father, Jim Goostree, is the reason cigar shops in Tuscaloosa and Knoxville have a run of business the week of the rivalry that’s better known as the Third Saturday in October.

Jim was a longtime trainer at Alabama, but before that he was an assistant trainer at Tennessee. And like his boss, Paul “Bear” Bryant, he hated the Volunteers. So, the story goes, in the fall of 1961, Jim made a bet with the players on the team. Beat Tennessee for the first time in six years, he said, and he’ll dance around the locker room naked.

Whether by talent or precision or the promise of seeing Jim cut a rug, the Crimson Tide beat the Vols 34-3. And true to his word, Jim danced, albeit with a victory cigar pressed between his lips.

Thankfully, the stogie is the only part of the celebration that carried over.

“It’s a sense of pride for all of our family members,” Jimmy Tom said. “It means a lot that Dad is recognized this particular week.”

Bill Oliver was a senior on that 1961 team that started it all, and he remembers the elder Goostree as “a little short fella” and an excellent trainer. He had “a keen mind,” Oliver said, and he understood the rivalry with Tennessee better than almost anyone given his time with the program prior to coming to Alabama. Oliver said Goostree’s history paid off in that “the more knowledge you had, the more you could find out, the more we could smoke cigars.”

“Beating them was the ultimate,” Oliver recalled. “It really was.”

Jim Goostree died in 1999, and Jimmy Tom isn’t sure where all the time went. When he walks into his den, though, he’s reminded of his father. In a glass case, on the top shelf, is a football that’s nearly 50 years old. There are no markings on it to signify its importance, but Jimmy Tom knows.

More…

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll, Week 2 

Week 2: Games Played Through September 11, 2021

TEAMPOINTSFIRST-PLACE VOTESLAST WEEK’S RANK
1.Alabama (2-0)824461
2.Georgia (2-0)78062
3.Oklahoma (2-0)6854
4.Oregon (2-0)67012
5.Clemson (1-1)5926
6.Iowa (2-0)53113
7.Texas A&M (2-0)4905
8.Cincinnati (2-0)4288
9.Ohio State (1-1)4013
10.Penn State (2-0)35910
11.Florida (2-0)32711
12.Notre Dame (2-0)3137
13.UCLA (2-0)22515
14.Iowa State (1-1)819
T-15.Virginia Tech (2-0)76N/A
T-15.Ole Miss (2-0)76N/A

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
Coastal Carolina (40), Wisconsin (38), Michigan (32), Arkansas (32), BYU (15), North Carolina (13), USC (7), UCF (7), Arizona State (6), Stanford (6), Auburn (4), TCU (4), Michigan State (3), Pittsburgh (2), Kentucky (2), Miami-FL (1), Liberty (1), Nevada (1).

Click here to see how individuals voted in this week’s poll.

NOTES:
Alabama and Georgia remained 1-2 in the second regular-season poll, but No. 3 Ohio State tumbled six places to No. 9 after suffering a home defeat to Oregon. The Ducks, No. 12 a week ago, jumped eight spots to No. 4 after notching an impressive 35-28 victory in Columbus.

After Ohio State’s defeat, Oklahoma moved into the third slot after dispatching Western Carolina. Iowa won an instate showdown against Iowa State and moved up seven spots to No. 6. Notre Dame dropped five spots to No. 12 after struggling to beat Toledo.

The rest of the poll had only minor changes, but two teams did drop out–USC and Texas. The Trojans were beaten by Stanford, and Texas lost on the road to Arkansas. Entering the poll for the first time this season are  Virginia Tech and  Ole Miss, tied at No. 15.

The SEC led all conferences with five teams, followed by the Big Ten with three and the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC with two each. The American and Independents had one each.

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE

No. 1 Alabama at  No. 11 Florida
South Carolina at No. 2 Georgia
Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma
Stony Brook at No. 4 Oregon
Georgia Tech at No. 5 Clemson
Kent State at No. 6 Iowa
New Mexico at No. 7 Texas A&M
No, 8 Cincinnati at Indiana
Tulsa at No. 9 Ohio State
Auburn at No. 10 Penn State
Purdue at No. 12 Notre Dame
Fresno State at No.13 UCLA
No. 14 Iowa State at UNLV
No. 15 Virginia Tech at West Virginia
Tulane at No.15 Mississippi 

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Sunday of the 2021 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 7 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 5. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a computer program designed by Sports Systems to compile the rankings, and The JBoy Show is the official Media Partner of the poll.

ABOUT THE FWAA: Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com. 
.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL 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. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll, Week 1

Week 1: Games Played Through September 6, 2021

TEAMPOINTSFIRST-PLACE VOTESLAST WEEK’S RANK
1.Alabama825461
2.Georgia77165
3.Ohio State7164
4.Oklahoma6403
5.Texas A&M5906
6.Clemson5662
7.Notre Dame4568
8.Cincinnati41210
9.Iowa State3567
10.Penn State296N/A
11.Florida29112
12.Oregon24811
13.Iowa243N/A
14.USC20315
15.UCLA202N/A
16.Texas89N/A

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Virginia Tech (39), Ole Miss (31), Wisconsin (20), Utah (18), North Carolina (18), NC State (9), TCU (8), UCF (4), Miami-FL (3), Coastal Carolina (3), Auburn (3), Oklahoma State (2), Boston College (2), Michigan (2), Arizona State (2), Liberty (1), Florida State (1), Nevada (1), Michigan State (1).

Click here to see how individuals voted in this week’s poll.

https://the5thdowndotcom.files.wordpress.com/2021/09/super-16-individual-votes-9-7-21.pdf

NOTES:
No. 1 Alabama remained atop the first-regular season poll after dismantling Miami (FL) last Saturday. Fellow Southeastern Conference power Georgia  jumped four spots to No. 2  after beating previous No. 2-ranked Clemson in a defensive struggle in Charlotte.

Alabama received 46 of the 52 first-place votes, and Georgia picked up the other six. Three of the top five teams in the poll are from the SEC, including No. 5 Texas A&M.  

The other major development was Penn State entering the poll at No. 10 after upsetting Wisconsin in Madison in a key early-season Big Ten matchup. North Carolina, No. 9 a week ago, dropped out of the poll after losing at unranked Virginia Tech.

Wisconsin, LSU (after falling at UCLA) and Miami (FL) also dropped out of the poll. Besides Penn State, other new teams in the poll are Iowa, UCLA and Texas.

The SEC led all conferences with four teams, followed by the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 with three each. The ACC, American and Independents had one apiece.

This Week’s Schedule:
Mercer at No. 1 Alabama
UAB at No. 2 Georgia
No.12 Oregon at No.3 Ohio State 
Western Carolina at No.4 Oklahoma
No. 5 Texas A&M vs. Colorado (Denver)
South Carolina State at No. 6 Clemson
Toledo at No. 7 Notre Dame
Murray State at No. 8 Cincinnati
No. 13 Iowa at No. 9 Iowa State
Ball State at No.10 Penn State
No. 11 Florida at USF
Stanford at No.14 USC
No. 15 UCLA is idle.
No. 16  Texas at Arkansas

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Sunday of the 2021 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 7 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 5. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a computer program designed by Sports Systems to compile the rankings, and The JBoy Show is the official Media Partner of the poll.

ABOUT THE FWAA: Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com. 
.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL 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. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

Outland Trophy history: Offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, Alabama, 2020 recipient

This is the 15th and last in a series on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020. From 1946 to 2005, Outland Trophy winners were profiled in a book by Gene Duffey, Sixty Years of the Outland Trophy. We have now caught up with the last 15 winners.

(Leatherwood was selected 17th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Las Vegas Raiders. He is playing his rookie season in the NFL this fall.)     

By Gene Duffey, Author

In the 2009 movie, The Blind Side, based on Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher, his position is featured, praised and even glorified, as long as you don’t have to play it. It’s the left tackle who must protect the blind side of a right-handed quarterback in the pocket.

Logically, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, who helped the Crimson Tide win the 2020 national championship, played left tackle and won the 75th Outland Trophy.

Coaches knew the importance of the position long before fans did. The movie opened with a replay of Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann being crushed from behind by a blitzing linebacker — from The Blind Side.

You better have a good left tackle if you want your quarterback to be able to walk by the fourth quarter.   

Every offensive line needs an anchor, and that anchor is usually the left tackle,” Alabama’s offensive line coach Kyle Flood (at the time) told the audience at Omaha’s Outland Trophy dinner in a video.

“That guy is the security blanket for the offensive line coach, and the entire offensive line. What you don’t see about (Leatherwood) is his consistent preparation, all the reps he takes in practice and the great example he sets for all the young guys on the team.”

Leatherwood offered a simple explanation for his work ethic in practice. “I was trying to be the best player I can be,” he said.

Flood ran the offensive line at Alabama during Leatherwood’s junior and senior seasons, then followed Steve Sarkisian to Texas in January 2021 to become offensive coordinator for the Longhorns.

Alabama’s offense did more than score points. The Tide steamrolled their opponents in 2020. They averaged 48.5 points a game, second best in the country.  

More…

Outland Trophy history: Offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Oregon, 2019 recipient

This is the 14th in a series on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020. From 1946 to 2005, Outland Trophy winners were profiled in a book by Gene Duffey, Sixty Years of the Outland Trophy. We are catching up with the last 15 winners.

(Offensive tackle Penei Sewell was the first Outland Trophy winner from Oregon and also the initial recipient from American Samoa, a U.S. Territory. He was selected seventh overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2021 NFL Draft and is playing his first year of professional football this fall.)  

By Gene Duffey, Author

American Samoa is a small group of islands in the South Pacific,

4,800 miles southwest of Los Angeles. The population is 55,000, scattered around 75 square miles.

It’s also the birthplace of Penei Sewell, the steamroller offensive tackle who won the Outland Trophy at Oregon in 2019.

There are more links with American Samoa and American college football than you would think.

Jack Thompson, an excellent quarterback at Washington State in the 1970s was nicknamed the “Throwin’ Samoan.” Thompson, also born in American Samoa, set the NCAA record for career passing yards in 1978 before college football turned into a pass-first, run-last game.

Two of Sewell’s uncles played in the NFL. Richard Brown, a linebacker at San Diego State, spent 10 years in the NFL with the Rams, Chargers, Browns and Vikings. Isaac Sopoaga, a defensive tackle at Hawaii, lasted 12 years in the NFL, mostly with the 49ers.

Penei’s father, Gabe, was an assistant high school coach in American Samoa. 

Between Sewell’s size and lineage, he was destined to become a football player — a really good football player.

When Penei was about 5, he remembers former USC safety Troy Polamalu and several of his Pittsburgh Steeler teammates coming to American Samoa to put on a summer camp. A typical kid, Penei, too young to participate, spent most of the time running around, watching the older kids go through the drills at the camp. He became hooked on football.

 “I think that left a lasting impression on Penei and all my sons,” Gabe Sewell told the Salt Lake City Deseret News years later.

Gabriel, the oldest of Gabe’s four sons, walked on at Nevada and played defensive back and linebacker. His senior year, in 2019, he finished fourth on the team in tackles.

Nephi, the second son, played defensive back at Utah. He appeared in three games as a freshman in 2019. Noah, two years younger than Penei, followed him to Oregon and played linebacker.

More…

Nominations sought for 2021 Armed Forces Merit Award

Fort Worth, Texas — Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.

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 have an impact within the realm of college football.”

Nominations for the 2021 Armed Forces Merit Award will be accepted through October 1, when a selection committee of seven FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will review the list of candidates for the 10th annual presentation.

“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 along with adding that “we have an outstanding list of candidates each year and it is difficult to honor only one recipient when there are several individuals and programs that are very deserving of the honor.”

With 41 nominations (38 individuals and three programs) considered for the 2020 award, Bluefield College defensive lineman Collin O’Donnell was selected as the ninth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award. Serving in the U.S Army from 2013-2016, O’Donnell compiled 68 total tackles in his three seasons at Bluefield with four sacks and 10 tackles for losses.

During his military service, O’Donnell was injured in Afghanistan, After two years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital and seven operations to save his foot, he fully rehabilitated and went back home to Buffalo, N.Y., where he began training with the sole intention of playing college football.

After arriving at Bluefield College in the summer of 2018, O’Donnell demonstrated leadership in the Ram football program and performed service to the community. He received numerous awards, highlighted by winning a small business grant that allowed him to open his Coffee and Bake shop called “The Grind” in May 2020.

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, Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University in 2016, Dr. Chris Howard from Robert Morris University in 2018 and Army West Point coach and military service veteran Mike Viti in 2019.

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.

2021 nominations for the 2021 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA should be submitted to Tim Simmons (bfishinc@aol.com, 303/678-8484), the award’s coordinator, by October 1. The nomination link can be found at https://www.armedforcesbowl.com/armed-forces#meritaward-section.

Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA – 2021 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

Active Players

  • Cornelius Andrews, Union College, WR, 5-7, 148, Jun., Stockbridge, Ga.
  • Rashaud Freeman, Webber International, LB, 6-0, 225, Jun, Jacksonville, Fla. (U. S. Army)
  • Kyran Griffin-Isom, Troy University, WR, 6-3, 172, Soph., New Orleans, La. (U. S. Marines)
  • Rasheed Holloway, Union College, WR, 6-0, 198, Jun., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Damian Jackson, Nebraska, DL, 6-2, 275, Jun. Las Vegas, Nev. (U. S. Navy)
  • Kenwon Mack, Union College, CB, 5-9, 165, Soph., Detroit, Mich.

Football Coaching 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)
  • Robert Green, Defense Assistant & Director of Racial Equality, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Brian Knorr, Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Steed Lobotzke, Offensive Line, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Alex Means, Outside Linebackers, 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)
  • Andre Morris, Spurs, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • John Rudzinski, Defensive Coordinator, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Brett Skene, Offensive Assistant, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Trent Steelman, Quarterbacks, Eastern Kentucky University (U. S. Army)
  • Mike Thiessen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Charlton Warren, Defensive Backs, Georgia (U. S. Air Force)
  • Mick Yokitis, Wide Receivers, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)

Football Support Staff

  • CPT Donald Bowers, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marines)
  • Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, Chief of Staff/Football Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • LTC John Nawoichyk, Assistant AD/Military Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Omar Nelson, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • CPT Blake Powers, Admission Support, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Steve Senn, Director of Recruiting, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jordan Simmons, Director of Football Strength & Conditioning/Assistant Head Football Coach, Nevada (U. S. Army)
  • Rusty Whitt, Football Strength & Conditioning Coach, Troy University (U. S. Army)

University Leadership

  • Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy University (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Jim Knowlton, Director of Athletics, University of California (U. S. Army)