May 18, 2010
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue's three Super Bowl champion quarterbacks will highlight an evening of awards and celebration on June 22, when Drew Brees, Len Dawson and Bob Griese appear together for the first time ever in West Lafayette at the sixth-annual NFF Honors Dinner. The event is co-hosted by the National Football Foundation's Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana and Purdue University's Gimlet Leadership Honorary.
Tickets are selling quickly for "Celebrating Our Legends VI" at the Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms. The dinner also will include the presentation of scholarships and honorariums to 27 high school scholar athletes who are headed to college in the fall. Last year, 413 football fans attended the fifth-annual event, but this year's crowd may double that, according to Jim Vruggink, the executive director of the local chapter, citing that more than 500 tickets for this year's event have already been requested.
"Within a few hours after New Orleans won the Super Bowl, I was inundated with questions from previous attendees wanting to know if Drew would attend this year's Honors Dinner as he had the previous five," Vruggink said. "When I assured them he would, the ticket orders started rolling in. And, now that our board has decided to honor the three Super Bowl champion quarterbacks by presenting our Gold Medallion Award to them, I predict we will sell out this event (capacity will be 800) well in advance.
"Sales and seating priority are offered to our chapter members, sponsors and families of honorees until the end of May, and we will close off all sales no later than June 16 in order to properly prepare the venue."
This year's event will begin at 5 p.m. with a silent auction reception that also serves as an autograph session for Purdue head coach Danny Hope, former head coach Joe Tiller and some select former and current Boilermakers. Brees, Dawson and Griese will not take part in that session but will join other honorees at a VIP Reception elsewhere in the building.
Dinner prices are $35 each for students college age and younger ($280 for a table of eight), $40 each for NFF members ($320 for a table of eight) and $50 per person for non-NFF member adults ($400 for a table of eight non-members). Cost of attending the VIP Reception is $200 per person with all proceeds going to charities.
Purdue now matches Alabama as the only universities in the nation to have three alums as Super Bowl Champion quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide claims Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler.
Prior to Brees accomplishing the feat in February, Dawson won in 1971 and Griese did the same in 1976. Griese actually started three Super Bowls (VI, VII and VIII) after Dawson started Super Bowls I and IV. Both were on the losing end of their first games before winning their subsequent appearances. Dawson, in fact, was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl IV after Kansas City defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. And the Dolphins' 14-7 over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII capped a 17-0 season, and Miami become the only unbeaten, untied team in NFL history. Brees was named MVP of Super Bowl XLIV after leading New Orleans to a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, capping a magical season for the Saints and their loyal fans.
In receiving the Gold Medallion, the quarterback trio will earn the chapter's highest award, having been awarded only once previously (to Dr. Martin Jischke upon his retirement as Purdue President in 2007). It is given only in special circumstances to honor highly successful people who have achieved significant career success while demonstrating integrity and honesty and bringing recognition to the local area covered by this NFF chapter, which is now the fourth largest in the nation among 120 chapters.
In addition to receiving the Gold Medallion, Brees will present the chapter's Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award to a player of his choice.
Meanwhile, Joe McConnell, who retired as a Purdue's football play-by-play announcer after the 2009 season, will receive the chapter's Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award. He will be recognized for his 15 years of superb work in calling games for Boilermaker radio listeners throughout Indiana.
A total of 27 high school football players from the 18 counties of Northwest Indiana that encompass the Joe Tiller Chapter will receive scholarship assistance for their first year of college. They are: Nicholas Biancardi (Griffith), Greg Burns (Lafayette Central Catholic), Steven Cavanaugh (Clinton Prairier), Austen Conwell (Taylor), Tanner Cripe (Delphi), Damon Foreman (Lewis Cass), Marc Heater (Winamac), Mike Huffer (Lafayette Jefferson), Andy Hunkeler (Northwestern), Kyle Kellar (Wheeler), David Lee (Gary West Side), Derrick McQuiston (Logansport), Keifer Morgan (Munster), Scott Moore (Fountain Central), Nicholas Morris (Benton Central), Phillip Newbill (Maconaquah), Clay Oppy (McCutcheon), Darius Parker (East Chicago Central), Jacob Rietow (Knox), T.K. Rock (Harrison), Seth Rooze (Attica), John Saltanovitz (Valparaiso), Richard Schmidt (Andrean), Casey Shipley (Kokomo), Eric Shorten (Oak Hill), Andrew Wilson (Twin Lakes), and Daniel Wodicka (West Lafayette).
Six of these young men - Burns, Heater, Moore, Saltanovitz, Schmidt and Wodicka - have been singled out by judges as finalists for the Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, based 40 percent on academics, 40 percent on athletics, and 20 percent on citizenship and character. The winner will be announced at the Honors Dinner.
Prior to this year, the chapter has honored 71 scholar athletes and awarded approximately $82,000 worth of scholarships, honorariums and grants in its first five years. Local recording artist (and NFF chapter member) Levi Riggs will again provide music prior to the dinner.
The chapter is seeking partners and sponsors for scholarship packages, which are tax-deductible. Interested parties may contact the executive director at 765-427-3303 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.