May 13, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Celebrating our legends and creating new ones is this year's focus of the National Football Foundation's Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana.
Olympic Gold Medalist David Boudia, Miss Indiana MerrieBeth Cox and NFL Executive of the Year Ryan Grigson tallied some pretty impressive accomplishments in the last year. Now, they will be the primary honorees at the NFF Honors Dinner "Celebrating Our Legends IX" on Monday, June 10, at the Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms.
Among the speakers and presenters on stage will be Purdue's new football coach Darrell Hazell, emeritus football coach Joe Tiller and athletics director Morgan Burke while Purdue President Mitch Daniels and New Orleans Saints All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees will provide video presentations.
In addition, two young men will be named Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award - one representing Northwest Indiana and the other representing Northeast Indiana.
Seven high school football standouts have been singled out by NFF judges as the finalists from a group of 29 scholar-athletes nominated by their coaches from throughout Northern Indiana. The finalists are Austin Brown of Griffith, Spenser Kersey of Lowell, Jacob Layton of Tri-County, Sam McKay of Lafayette Jeff, Justin Miller of Eastside, Brandon Rooze of Benton Central and Ryan Spesard of Carroll. The two winners who emerge will both be candidates for the inaugural Indiana Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, presented by AdvoCare.
The "competition" is based 40 percent on academics, 40 percent on athletics and 20 percent on citizenship, leadership and character. The state's top scholar-athlete will be announced in Indianapolis in mid-July in conjunction with the North-South All-Star Game and will be a candidate for the Midwest Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.
Boudia accomplished the ultimate dream, winning an Olympic Gold Medal in platform diving last summer in London with a spectacular finish on the final day of the Olympics after earning a Bronze Medal in synchronized diving during the first week of the event. The Noblesville, Ind., product, who earned six NCAA championships and eight Big Ten championships while diving for Purdue, became the star judge on the ABC television series "Splash" this spring. He will be awarded the chapter's Gold Medallion.
Cox, who has been Purdue's Golden Girl for the past five years, capped off a great year as Miss Indiana by advancing to the top 12 in the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas earlier this year. The Roselle, Ill., product came to Purdue as a world class baton twirler and won numerous national championships. She will perform at the Honors Dinner and will receive the "Purdue is Proud of You" Award. She will graduate from Purdue next December after student teaching in Indianapolis this fall.
Grigson, a former Highland High School and Purdue University football player, became the Indianapolis Colts General Manager last year and transformed the Colts into a playoff team through many tough decisions and brilliant acquisitions to earn the honor of NFL Executive of the Year. He will receive the chapter's Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award.
Grigson, a high school all-star at Highland, was a three-year starter on the offensive line and 1994 team captain at Purdue, prior to being drafted sixth by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1995 NFL Draft. He spent the '95 and `96 seasons with the Detroit Lions and had a stint with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 1997.
He became a pro scout for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL in 1998 as well as an assistant coach for McPherson College the same year. Grigson made a stop with the Buffalo Destroyers (AFL) as the team's player personnel coordinator/assistant coach before joining the scouting staff of the St. Louis Rams. He rapidly rose through the NFL scouting and executive ranks with the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles and was named GM of the Colts in January of 2012. During his 13 years in the NFL, he has been part of teams that have made the playoffs on nine occasions, including three trips to the Super Bowl.
The chapter's Distinguished American Award this year goes to Noble Kizer, long-time Lafayette resident, chapter member and son of Noble E. Kizer, one of Purdue's greatest coaches and early athletic directors prior to his death at age 40, nearly 73 years ago. The award is to recognize both Kizers for their outstanding accomplishments and loyalty to our nation.
Also, the chapter will honor Mark Ebelhar, who stepped down last fall after 27 years of volunteer work with West Lafayette Little Gridiron, including the last 15 as head of the program. He helped to coach and guide many young players who eventually went on to play high school and college football. Ebelhar will receive the Bernie Flowers Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award.
This year's Courage Award, which is sponsored by the Lafayette Journal & Courier, will have co-recipients -- six-year-old Cooper Fulmer of Winamac and 18-year-old Patrick Mackey of Lafayette, for their inspirational battles with leukemia that tied together the athletic communities for Winamac and Lafayette Central Catholic high schools in a uniquely emotional manner.
Among this year's presenters will be a new face, Hazell, who became Purdue's head coach in December after leading the Kent State Golden Flashes to an 11-2 record and the school's first national ranking and bowl trip in 40 years, earning the honor as Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year.
The Cinnaminson, N.J., product is a graduate of Muskingum College in Ohio and spent 24 years in 11 different assistant coaching positions at eight colleges or universities, including seven years at Ohio State. Hazell will speak briefly at the Honors Dinner and will help present one of the awards.
In addition, the dinner in West Lafayette will pay tribute to the 28 players and one manager chosen as Region 4 all-stars, all of whom were candidates to compete for positions on the North Squad for the annual North-South All-Star Game this July in Indianapolis.
Table prices are the same as last year for a table of eight ($400 for general public, $320 for NFF chapter members and honorees' families, and $280 for students). Single tickets are $55 for public, $45 for members and $35 for students. VIP Dessert Reception tickets are $100 each for a chance to meet the honorees.
As a non-profit organization, this chapter has awarded nearly $147,000 in grants, scholarships and honorariums plus another $43,000 to other charities since receiving its charter in the fall of 2004.
Besides seeking donations and sponsorships to support the scholarship program, the chapter also receives money ($500 for every 50 dues-paying members in the local chapter) from the national office in Irving, Tex. In its first eight years, this chapter has recognized 144 scholar-athletes and awarded them between $250 and $5,000 each.
The tax-deductible membership dues are $40 per year or $99 for three years, payable to the National Football Foundation. The NFF has 121 chapters and more than 12,000 members, nationally, and awards more than $1 million in scholarships each year. The chapter is seeking partners and sponsors for scholarship packages, which are also tax-deductible.