National Football Foundation

News Detail

NFF Concludes Momentous 60th Annual Awards Dinner
College Football Hall of Famers Peyton Manning, Steve Spurrier, Marshall Faulk and Matt Leinart and Campbell Trophy® winner Micah Kiser headlined night’s honorees.
Published: 12/5/2017 11:22:00 PM

NEW YORK (Dec. 5, 2017) – The New York Hilton Midtown’s Grand Ballroom played host to an all-star cast of history’s greatest football legends and the sport’s most promising student-athletes during the 60th National Football Foundation (NFF) Annual Awards Dinner tonight.

A celebrity-laden College Football Hall of Fame class took center stage at the event during their formal induction, and 13 of the game’s current-leading student-athletes collected $241,000 in postgraduate scholarships as NFF National Scholar-Athletes. The festivities began with the announcement of Virginia’s Micah Kiser as the recipient of the 28th William V. Campbell Trophy®, presented by Fidelity Investments, as the top football scholar-athlete in the nation, and the evening culminated with powerful speeches from Hall of Fame inductees Peyton Manning and Coach Steve Spurrier, responding on behalf of the 2017 class.

Photos from the Annual Awards Dinner can be found in a Photoshelter Gallery accessed via this link and password "nff2017" (please credit all photos in this folder to the National Football Foundation/Ben Solomon).

A packed house of 1,600, including more than 80 current collegiate head coaches and 40 returning Hall of Famers attended the event, which took place at its new venue after a 58-year stint at the Waldorf Astoria. ESPN’s Joe Tessitore entertained the crowd as the emcee for the annual celebration, which lived up to its historic role of bringing the college football community together at the end of the regular season to pay tribute to the game and its greatest legends.

The 2017 class was introduced by NFF Board Member Archie Griffin, a Hall of Fame running back from Ohio State. Members of the class included Bob Crable (Notre Dame), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), Kirk Gibson (Michigan State), Matt Leinart (Southern California), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Bob McKay (Texas), Dat Nguyen (Texas A&M), Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern), Mike Ruth (Boston College), Brian Urlacher (New Mexico) and coaches Danny Ford (Clemson, Arkansas), Larry Kehres (Mount Union [Ohio]) and Steve Spurrier (Duke, Florida, South Carolina). NFF Chairman and Hall of Fame inductee Archie Manning (Mississippi) conducted the Official Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony.

The 10 players and three coaches bring the total number of players in the Hall of Fame to 987 and the number of coaches in the Hall to 214. Steve Spurrier, just the fourth person ever to be inducted into the Hall as both a player and coach, responded on behalf of the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame coaches and touched on how important the honor is to all of the coaches.

“Thank you, I appreciate it for all of us and we thank the committee for our selection into the national College Football Hall of Fame,” said Spurrier. “It's really maybe the ultimate honor for all of us college football coaches to be recognized as amongst the best. And there's been so many super great coaches all through the years.”

He ended his speech with a simple message about the game: “College football, it's the greatest thing ever invented!”

Peyton Manning, Tennessee’s all-time leading passed and just the second Campbell Trophy® winner to join the Hall of Fame, delivered the response on behalf of the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame players. Manning touched on the great honor of the Hall, his personal story of attending his father, NFF Chairman Archie Manning’s induction as a kid and had personalized messages for each of his fellow inductees. Peyton ended his speech with a message about the importance of the game of football.

“Football has given each of us a gift and ultimately put our individual universes in motion,” said Manning. “Now it's up to the class of 2017 to carry on the legacy of the game, including the valuable life lessons it teaches. It's up to us to live up to what it really means to say ‘I'm a football player’ and ‘football matters.’ Loving this sport is much more than donning shoulder pads and helmet to run on the field. Loving the college game includes sacrificing, the simple pleasures of being just a student in exchange for the rigors of being a true student athlete.

“Throughout television and its stadiums nationwide, fans see dramatic moments on the field,” he continued. “But off the field, what they don't see are the caring and human connections that forge indelible bonds amongst our teammates. All 13 of us up here love this game. And tonight it's proof that the game loved us back. God bless you and God bless football.”

The 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class boasted 10 First Team All-Americans, three coaches, one Campbell Trophy® winner, three unanimous First Team All-Americans, seven consensus First Team All-Americans, five winners of college football major awards, one coach with the highest winning percentage in college football history, the youngest coach to ever win a national title and just the fourth individual to enter the Hall as both a player and a coach.

The 2017 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments, joined the Hall of Famers on stage. Comprised of 13 of the most talented and brightest football players in the nation, each member of the class received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and was a finalist for The William V. Campbell Trophy®. Kathy Murphy, NFF vice chairwoman and president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments, led the presentation of the awards, while NFF Chairman Emeritus Jon F. Hanson had the honor of presenting the Campbell Trophy® to Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser.

“My entire life, my parents have challenged me to be the best I could be in everything I did,” Kiser said in accepting the Campbell Trophy®. “They held me to the highest standard, the standard of being a Kiser. That meant A’s were expected in school, and great effort and success were expected on the playing field. They provided me every avenue for me to uphold this standard, and I stand here in front of you today because of the many sacrifices they made for me throughout the years, and for that I am forever grateful.

“In college, I've worn the honor of being a student-athlete with great pride, representing the University of Virginia's football team on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, soliciting a level of prestige while at the same time carrying immense pressure,” Kiser added. “I've always strived to prove that football players at the University of Virginia offer more than just athleticism on the field but also deserve and belong to be contributing members of the school community and to serve as role models in the Charlottesville community. This is not just an individual award, but a team award that I proudly accept in service of my fellow teammates at the University of Virginia.”

Kiser personifies the student-athlete ideal, having already earned his degree while claiming Second Team All-America accolades in 2016 as one of the top defensive players in the nation. This season, he leads the ACC in tackles per game for the third consecutive year while helping the Cavaliers become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. An Academic All-American, Kiser graduated with a bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs in May 2017 while boasting a 3.42 GPA, and he currently maintains a 4.0 GPA while working toward his master’s in higher education. Winning the Campbell Trophy® increases his postgraduate scholarship to a total of $25,000.

The rest of the 2017 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class included Sam Benger (Carnegie Mellon [Pa.]), Braxton Berrios (Miami [Fla.]), Mason Hampton (Boise State), Justin Jackson (Northwestern), Justin Lea (Jacksonville State), Brad Lundblade (Oklahoma State), Marcus Martin (Slippery Rock [Pa.]), Chandon Sullivan (Georgia State), Blaise Taylor (Arkansas State), Marlon Walls (Stephen F. Austin), Chris Weber (Nebraska) and Jake Wieneke (South Dakota State).

NFF Vice Chairman and TV personality Jack Ford provided a special look back at the history of the NFF, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017. Tessitore introduced the two major award winners. UCLA Athletics Director Dan Guerrero received the NFF John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration while the Voice of the UTEP Miners Jon Teicher was presented with the NFF Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting.

Columbia University team chaplain Father Thomas Valenti provided the Invocation while America’s beloved tenor, Daniel Rodriguez, returned to sing the National Anthem and God Bless America. Rodriguez was joined for the National Anthem by Marla Kavanaugh, Margaret Kelly and Ciarán Sheehan.

ESPN broadcaster Holly Rowe hosted the NFF Awards press conference in the morning, which included comments from the NFF major award winners, the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class and the 2017 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class. Click here for photos from all portions of the press conference (for media purposes only – please credit all photos in this folder to the National Football Foundation/Melissa Macatee).

The press conference also featured the announcement of North Carolina A&T State quarterback Lamar Raynard and South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard as the MEAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, by conference commissioner Dennis Thomas; the announcement of Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love as the recipient of the 2017 Wuerffel Trophy for community service by College Football Hall of Famer and 1996 Campbell Trophy® recipient, Danny Wuerffel (Florida); and the announcement of the finalists for the FWAA Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson and Allstate Sugar Bowl President Stanley Cohn, which include are Bill Clark (UAB), Scott Frost, (UCF), Lane Kiffin (Florida Atlantic), Jeff Monken (Army), Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Dabo Swinney (Clemson) and Jeff Tedford (Fresno State).

College Football Hall of Famer Don McPherson (Syracuse) emceed the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon, presented by Under Armour. At the event, the five NFF Chapter Scholar-Athletes accepted their accolades, and the five winners of the 2017 Chapter Leadership Awards spoke about their passion for strengthening the game for future generations.

The 2017 Chapter Leadership Award winners included Bob Bacewicz (Southeastern Connecticut Chapter), John Barzizza (Memphis [Tenn.] Chapter), Jeff Felton (Wyoming Chapter), Ron Hoehn (Delaware Valley [N.J.] Chapter) and John Weiler (Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter).

The NFF Chapter Scholar-Athletes included John Mahoney (Iowa Chapter - currently attending Notre Dame), Bobby Maimaron (Jack Grinold/Eastern Massachusetts Chapter - currently attending Williams [Mass.]), Brandon Micale (Colorado Chapter - currently attending San Diego), Rick Mottram (Delaware Valley [N.J.] Chapter - currently attending Bucknell) and Blake Wooden (Brian Piccolo/Fort Lauderdale [Fla.] Chapter - currently attending Columbia).

George Sechrist
, of the Business Media Group (BMG) based in Indianapolis, produced the event for the fourth time, and ESPN3 carried the event live.

Sponsors for the day’s events included the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Delta Air Lines, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, iSix, New York Athletic Club, The Pasadena Tournament of Roses, PrimeSport, Spielman Koenigsberg & Parker LLP, SportsBusiness Journal, SportsManias, Sports Systems, Under Armour, UPS, VICIS and XOS Digital.

“The NFF Annual Awards Dinner continues to grow in both size and prestige each December,” NFF President Steve Hatchell said. “Those in the room tonight care deeply about the game, and the event captured why football matters. This sport transforms lives, opens doors and instills the characteristics in our young people that make our country great. When you listen to the accomplishments of the night’s honorees, you know that the future of our sport remains bright.”

Fans can view a replay of the NFF Annual Awards Dinner by clicking here, and they can view the morning press conference by clicking here. Replays should be available within 24 hours.

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 Football Matters®, 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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