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NFF Announces 2017 Chapter Leadership Award Recipients
Five outstanding chapter leaders will be honored at the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon, presented by Under Armour, on Dec. 5 in New York City.
Published: 10/19/2017 11:00:00 AM
IRVING, Texas (Oct. 19, 2017) – The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) announced today the five outstanding recipients of the 2017 Chapter Leadership Awards. 

The Chapter Leadership Awards, first presented in 1988, annually recognize five individuals, one from each region of the country, for their commitment, generosity and leadership at the local level in fulfilling the NFF’s mission of demonstrating that Football Matters®. Each of the five leadership award winners will be honored during the NFF’s Chapter Awards Luncheon, presented by Under Armour, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the New York Hilton Midtown. 

“Each of these individuals has embraced the mission of the NFF and is promoting the good in the game and the benefits to our nation’s youth,” said NFF President and CEO Steven J. Hatchell. “Their dedication and passion create a powerful presence for the NFF in their communities, making an impact and inspiring excellence on and off the field. We are excited to honor their exceptional commitment and sincere desire to give back.”

2017 NFF Chapter Leadership Award Recipients
(Full Bios Included)

  • Bob Bacewicz – Southeastern Connecticut Chapter, representing the Northeast Region
  • John Barzizza – Memphis (Tenn.) Chapter, representing the South Region
  • Jeff Felton – Wyoming Chapter, representing the West Region
  • Ron Hoehn – Delaware Valley (N.J.) Chapter, representing the East Region
  • John Weiler – Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter, representing the Midwest Region

With 120 chapters and more than 12,000 members, the NFF Chapter Network impacts more than 500,000 student-athletes at 5,000 high schools in 47 states each year. Collectively, the NFF chapters stage more than 300 annual events, celebrating the game and its unique ability to teach the values of leadership, teamwork and the drive to compete. The events include coaching clinics, leadership conferences, college nights, media days and local awards banquets that recognize more than 3,500 scholar-athletes and distribute more than $1 million in annual scholarships. 

The Chapter Leadership Award recipients have spearheaded the efforts of their respective chapters: securing funds for scholarships; selecting the honorees; and staging events to benefit the young people who play football. Their efforts ensure that future generations of players are inspired to achieve on and off the field. Five student-athletes, selected from the more than 500,000 covered by the NFF Chapter Network, will also be honored as the 2017 NFF Chapter Scholar-Athletes at the luncheon.

For tickets to the Dec. 5 luncheon in New York, please contact Ron Dilatush at or by calling 972-556-1000.

Northeast Region
NFF Southeastern Connecticut Chapter

For more than 35 years, Bob Bacewicz has been devoted to the advancement of the game of football and education in Connecticut.

After graduating from Enfield High School in Enfield, Conn., Bacewicz earned his bachelor’s degree while playing offensive guard and as a punter at the University of Connecticut from 1970-72. After graduating in 1973, he began a 36-year tenure with the Groton School District, serving as a teacher and assistant football coach at Fitch Senior High School. Bacewicz also continued his education earning a master’s in education from UConn in 1978 and a sixth year professional diploma in administration and supervision from the University of Southern Connecticut in 1984.

At Fitch, Bacewicz served as a social studies teacher and department chair before becoming assistant principal in 2000 and then principal in 2006. He was part of the football coaching staff for 19 years, focusing on the offensive line and special teams and helping lead Fitch to an undefeated state title season in 1976. Before retiring as principal in 2009, he helped complete a $45 million renovation of the school.

A member of the NFF Southeastern Connecticut Chapter’s executive board since 1982, Bacewicz has helmed the chapter as president since 2003. He serves as emcee of the chapter’s outstanding scholar-athlete dinner, which is partially supported by, and held at, the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. The Southeastern Connecticut Chapter honors more than 15 scholar-athletes each year while also recognizing successful coaches, media representatives, civic leaders, educational administrators and football officials.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to work with a few tremendously dedicated people on the executive board for our chapter,” said Bacewicz. “It is through our combined efforts that we have been able to recognize some of the finest young men and athletes in our area over the last 35 years. We take great pride in honoring all of them for their accomplishments on the football field, in the classroom and in their communities. The joy and pride we see in them and their families every year makes our efforts all the more worthwhile.”

Bacewicz and his wife, Deborah, live in Ledyard, Conn., and have two children and one grandson. An avid golfer, he still attends UConn football games.

South Region
NFF Memphis (Tenn.) Chapter

A successful business owner for more than 40 years, John Barzizza has greatly expanded the success and impact of the NFF Memphis Chapter.

After graduating from Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Barzizza earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Regis University in Denver in 1969. A career businessman, he started Southwestern Distributing Co. with his brother in 1969. Barzizza became the company’s president in 1977 before retiring in 2012 after 43 years in the wholesale wine, spirits and beer business. A United States Navy Reservist from 1969-75, he previously served on the board of directors for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America.

Barzizza started volunteering for the Liberty Bowl in 1977, and he was elected to its board in 1984, serving in various offices and as committee chair for numerous events. A member of the Liberty Bowl executive committee since 1995, he served as president in 2000 and then as chairman in 2001.

A member of the Christian Brothers High School Hall of Fame, Barzizza is an active member of the school’s alumni association and served on its board of directors from 1993-2002. He is also a member of the Memphis Quarterback Club and the Memphis Touchdown Club, and he serves as a board member of Shelby Residential and Vocational Services, a non-profit that helps those with disabilities.

Since joining the NFF Memphis Chapter in 1984, Barzizza has played an integral role in the chapter’s success. He served as president 1999, and he has served as the chapter’s executive director since 2009. The Memphis Chapter holds its annual black tie scholar-athlete banquet the first Monday of May, where 11 high school and two college football players in the area are recognized and given scholarships based on athletics, academics and community service. All 13 scholar-athletes receive partial scholarships, and the scholarship donors make the presentations. The chapter has also hosts a golf tournament to help fund chapter initiatives.

“Due to knee problems as a child and young adult, I was not active as a football player but always knew that football builds discipline and character in men, and if applied, that work ethic on the field can translate to discipline and success in the classroom,” said Barzizza. “I learned quite quickly from the really great Memphis Chapter Board the mission of the NFF and the dedication of the chapter in presenting the best of the best young men who excelled on the field, classroom, in the community and in endeavors outside of football. Many of the most successful young men I have encountered in the 35 plus years who were our Memphis Chapter’s scholar-athlete winners truly characterize the mission of the NFF.

“I have seen just how understanding and supportive the Memphis Chapter Board is of the mission of the organization and for that I am very proud of each and every member of our board, for it is them who all should be getting the accolades”.

Barzizza and his wife, Wanda, live in Germantown, Tenn., and have five children and three grandsons. A fan of Alabama football and the Memphis Tigers, he coached youth sports for nine years.

West Region
NFF Wyoming Chapter

A dedicated leader, Jeff Felton spent 39 years in public education while helping turn the NFF Wyoming Chapter into one of the largest in the nation.

Felton earned his bachelor’s degree in geography and physical education from California State University, Long Beach in 1969 before earning his master’s in physical education from Montana State while teaching and coaching at Ukiah High School in California. After stints as an assistant coach at Cal Poly-Pomona and as head coach at St. Maries High School in Idaho, Felton served as a teacher and head football coach at Powell High School in Wyoming from 1982-89. At Powell, he earned multiple Wyoming football coach of the year honors after leading the team to the 1987 state title. Felton also coached the track team to a state title in 1984.

Felton left Powell to earn his education specialist degree from the University of Wyoming, where he also served as a graduate assistant coach for the football team. In 1992, he began the next phase of his education career as an administrator, serving as an assistant principal and then as principal at Larned High School in Larned, Kan.

Over the next 25 years in Wyoming, he served as an assistant principal at East High School, and as the principal at High School III, an alternative high school, and several elementary schools. After retiring as principal in 2009, he continued to assist the Laramie County School District by supervising student teachers.

A member of the NFF Wyoming Chapter since 1993, Felton has served on its board of directors for 22 years. He served as the chairman for the scholar-athlete selection committee for 15 years before becoming the chapter’s president from 2011-17. Felton was instrumental in developing the chapter’s website and gaining one of the largest memberships of any chapter in the country. The chapter annually honors 12-15 high school and two collegiate scholar-athletes at its awards banquet held on the University of Wyoming campus. Behind Felton’s leadership, the Wyoming Chapter awarded $21,600 in scholarships this past year, bringing its all-time distribution to $329,550.

“Whether it involved serving as a board member, chairman of the scholar-athlete selection committee, or chapter president, my work with the Wyoming chapter has been a labor of love built upon teamwork and great relationships,” said Felton. “It has allowed me to give back to a sport which embodies important values conducive to success in real-life and recognize outstanding scholar-athletes and individuals who have given unselfishly of their time and energy to promote amateur football.”

Felton and his wife, Jan, live in Cheyenne, Wyo., and have four children and six grandchildren. He still attends local high school and University of Wyoming sporting events.

East Region
NFF Delaware Valley (N.J.) Chapter

The son of a football coach, Ron Hoehn has been working to recognize outstanding players from the Delaware Valley area for more than 35 years.

In 1970, Hoehn earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Pennsylvania Military College in Chester, Pa., which is now known as Widener University. While at the college, he was a member of the Society of Pershing Rifles drill team. Hoehn spent 36 years working for the New Jersey Office of Information Technology, retiring in 2008 as the assistant director of data management.

For 42 years, Hoehn was a member of the New Jersey Football Officials Association, working with many of Central Jersey’s finest officials in high school football games throughout the state. An officer in the local football officials chapter, he is currently working to foster relationships between high school coaches, athletics directors and officials.

Hoehn joined the NFF Delaware Valley Chapter’s board of directors in 1979, and he is active with the scholarship selection committee and coaching clinics. Currently the chairman of the chapter’s awards dinner, he oversees the entire process, including soliciting nominations, collecting data, distributing tickets, coordinating special awards, working with the venue and all other aspects of the annual event. The annual George Wah Scholar-Leader-Athlete banquet honors graduating senior football players from 30 schools in six Central Jersey counties, with each of them receiving at least a $1,000 scholarship with money raised from various businessmen and women throughout the area. The chapter has annually distributed more than $35,000 in scholarships, with its current all-time distribution exceeding $650,000.

Hoehn used his IT background to help the chapter launch a website, and he also helps run the chapter’s Sunshine Classic All-Star Game, 7-on-7 passing league and 12th man TD club, which recognizes high school offensive and defensive players of the week. He coordinates the chapter’s work with Special Olympics of New Jersey, serving as a site facility director for its flag football program. Delaware Valley Chapter president Eric Hamilton said that Hoehn “is the one behind the scenes that makes things happen. He is the glue that keeps us together.”

“The Delaware Valley Chapter makes a difference in our community,” said Hoehn. “We highlight the game of football while honoring achievement and contributions made to the game. Through a variety of activities and sponsorships we strive to bring coaches, players and schools together to promote all the good things that come from football. There is no doubt that football helps develop young people and prepares them for life. Teamwork and discipline learned on the football field can only be a positive factor toward building good character as young people strive to succeed in life.”

Hoehn and his wife, Ann, live in Columbus, N.J., and have two children. He enjoys mentoring new and young officials.

Midwest Region
NFF Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter

One of the original members of the NFF Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter, John Weiler has constantly given back to amateur football.

After earning all-state honors at his high school in Indiana, Weiler played one year of varsity football at the University of Notre Dame. While in college, he worked for a local CPA firm and earned his bachelor’s in accounting in 1958. After earning his MBA from the University of Louisville, Weiler embarked on a successful business career before retiring in 2007 as the vice president of sales for Consolidated Management-Food Services. He still works part time at his sons’ telephone accessories business. Weiler previously coached his sons’ youth football teams and is still a volunteer at the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic.

One of the original 50 members of the NFF Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter when it received its charter in 1992, Weiler was instrumental in its formation and has served on its board of directors from the beginning. From the chapter’s onset, he has served as chairman for the chapter’s banquet, which annually honors around 15 of the top high school scholar-athletes in the region and one scholar-athlete from Washington University in St. Louis.

One of the most successful and active chapters in the nation, the Lombardo Chapter also holds monthly luncheons with outstanding guest speakers and an annual golf tournament, with proceeds from each going toward chapter initiatives. The chapter hosted its second national signing day event earlier this year, attracting 82 players to announce their college choices in front of reporters from all of the local TV stations and major newspapers in St. Louis.

Weiler has developed a relationship between the chapter and local schools and coaches, and he is responsible for the chapter’s donations of water fountains, helmets, footballs, jerseys and other significant contributions to schools in need.

“Over the 25 years I have been involved with the NFF, I have been associated with many individuals who helped to provide assistance for football students who needed assistance for going to college,” said Weiler. “Then to see these individuals become successful citizens is a great reward. In addition, being able to provide equipment for those schools that cannot afford the necessary equipment is another award.”

A widower, Weiler lives in St. Louis and has three sons: Mike, Tom and Mark. Tom and Mark both played football at Indiana University, and Mark twice led the Big Ten in tackles.

About The National Football Foundation & College 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. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include, the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, The William V. Campbell Trophy® presented by Fidelity Investments, annual scholarships of more than $1.3 million and a series of initiatives to honor the legends of the past and inspire the leaders of the future. NFF corporate partners include Delta Air Lines, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, New York Athletic Club, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, PrimeSport, the Sports Business Journal, Under Armour and VICIS. Learn more at

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