The NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments, was established in 1959 as the first initiative in history to honor scholar-athletes with post-graduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. In 2011, Fidelity Investments became the first official sponsor in the 54-year history of the prestigious program, which has awarded more than $10.4 million to 787 individuals since its inception. The program currently provides $300,000 each year in post-graduate scholarships to the nation’s top scholar-athletes from all levels of collegiate play.
Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
The class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Fame inductees and athletics administrators. The committee traditionally selects 15 to 17 scholar-athletes from across the country for these prestigious $18,000 fellowships, and they consider candidates from all levels of college football, including the Division I Bowl Subdivision, Division I Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and the NAIA, in making their selections.
The committee also designates one of the recipients as the top college football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, an honor that comes with the William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth and hosted by the NYAC. Symbolizing the essence of the NFF's mission to build leaders through football, the Campbell Trophy comes with an additional $7,000 in scholarship money for a total of $25,000.
Each recipient travels to New York City as the guest of the foundation for the NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, where they sit on the dais and have their accomplishments highlighted in front of one of the most powerful and influential audiences in all of sports. The event also includes the induction of the College Football Hall of Fame Class and the presentation of several major awards, including the organization’s highest honor, the Gold Medal, which has been claimed by seven U.S. Presidents.
Notable past NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award recipients include former NFL standout Derrick Brooks(Florida State); actor Mark Harmon (UCLA); NASA astronaut Leland Melvin (Richmond); former Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips (Yale); chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Billy Payne (Georgia); record-setting NFL quarterback Peyton Manning (Tennessee); famed NFL quarterback Steve Young (BYU); and Heisman Trophy winners Terry Baker (Oregon State), Gary Beban (UCLA), Doug Flutie (Boston College) and Tim Tebow (Florida).
ENDOWED SCHOLAR-ATHLETE AWARDS
Since the inaugural class in 1959, the National Scholar-Athlete Awards have become among the most sought-after and prestigious honors in all of college football.
Like any great institution, the program required powerful visionaries to help with its launch, but equally important have been the subsequent generations of individuals who have stepped forward to build upon the ground work laid by their forerunners. During the modern era, several key torchbearers have stepped forward to endow specific scholarships. Their generosity and heartfelt desire to give back currently allows the NFF to annually distribute $300,000 for the postgraduate educations of a select few who have clearly built records that signal future greatness later in life.
In 1997, Harold Alfond became the first to endow a National Scholar-Athlete Award. In 2003, George M. Steinbrenner III became the first to endow two National Scholar-Athlete Awards. Today, the future has been secured for 12 of the 16 annual $18,000 scholarships, thanks to the leadership of the following individuals and organizations.
The William V. Campbell Trophy, Endowed by HealthSouth in 2001. Hosted by the NYAC.
College Football's Premier Scholar-Athlete of the Year
In 2001, HealthSouth, one of the nation's largest outpatient surgery and rehabilitative healthcare providers, endowed the Campbell Trophy. Established in 1990 and formerly known as the Draddy Trophy until 2009, the award annually honors one member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. HealthSouth became affiliated with the award to further the standards of excellence in athletic competition and academic achievement. Symbolizing the essence of the NFF's mission to build leaders through football, the award takes it name from Bill Campbell, the former player and head coach at Columbia University, who after an unlikely career switch at age 39 from coach to advertising executive, went on to apply the lessons of the gridiron to become one of the country's most influential business leaders with critical roles in the successes of Intuit, Apple and Google. In 2013, the NFF partnered with the New York Athletic Club, making the NYAC the exclusive home of the Campbell Trophy. The trophy is now part of the NYAC Hall of Fame, and is prominently displayed in an exhibit featuring the names and photographs of each of the winners.
Harold Alfond Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by the Harold Alfond Foundation in 1997
The Founder of Dexter Shoe Company, Mr. Alfond's munificence provided millions of dollars in support of athletics, medical and educational causes. Never missing an Awards Dinner, Mr. Alfond received the Foundation's highest honor - the Gold Medal - in 1995. Alfond said, "I urge others to get behind this endowment drive. These Scholar-Athletes are our best leaders of the future. We need to recognize and honor academic and civic leadership." Alfond passed away in 2007 at the age of 93.
E. Douglas Kenna Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by E. Douglas Kenna in 1997
The quintessential athlete, scholar, businessman and community leader, Doug Kenna quarterbacked the 1944 Army team to a national championship and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984. He also claimed All-America basketball status while at West Point, captained the tennis team and was Class President and Regimental Commander. After serving America in Germany, he returned to be one of Col. Earl Blaik's assistant coaches before entering the business world. He held several executive positions including President and Director of Carrier Corporation, G.L. Ohrstrom & Company, Roper Industries and Robert B. Anderson Company. He also served as NFF Vice Chairman from 1986-91. Kenna passed away in 2013 at the age of 88.
Jefferson W. Kirby Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by The F.M. Kirby Foundation in 2005
Founder and managing member of Broadfield Capital, an investment firm located in Morristown, N.J., Kirby joined the NFF Board of Directors in 1998, becoming an emeritus member in 2011. He is the current chairman of the Alleghany Corporation. Known as an astute businessman, Kirby has served on numerous other corporate boards. He is an alumnus of Lafayette College; holds an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University; and serves as a board member of each institution.
William Pearce Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by William A. Schreyer in 1997
In honor of the late NFF Chairman Bill Pearce, William Schreyer endowed a National Scholar-Athlete Award in 1997. A graduate of Penn State University, Schreyer headed Merrill Lynch and served for many years as a member of the NFF Board of Directors. Extraordinary gifts, totaling more than $55 million to Penn State, by Schreyer created the Schreyer Honors College and truly changed the shape of the institution. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 83.
Robert A. Simms Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by Robert A. Simms in 1997
A former football star at Rutgers University, Robert Simms was the first to fully endow a Scholar-Athlete Award in 1997. After graduating from Rutgers in 1960, Simms played three seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers before embarking on a business career that included stints with Jackson & Curtis, Black & Company, and Bear, Stearns & Company, where he made General Partner. Today, he is Chairman and CEO of Simms Capital Management and is an emeritus member of the NFF Board.
Coach Eddie Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by the George M. Steinbrenner Family and the New York Yankees Foundation in 1997
Aside from his well-known success with the New York Yankees, Mr. Steinbrenner has been a staunch supporter of the NFF for many years with roots in football. A multi-sport athlete at Culver Military Academy, Steinbrenner matriculated to Williams College before becoming an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Purdue. Mr. Steinbrenner received the Foundation's Gold Medal in 2003. When establishing this endowment, he named it in honor of his longtime friend Eddie Robinson, the legendary Hall of Fame coach from Grambling State. A true believer in the power of football to shape young men, he hung a sign of General Douglas MacArthur's famous quote, "There is no substitute for victory," at Yankee Stadium as an inspiration to his players. Steinbrenner served on the NFF Board from 1998 until his passing in 2010 at the age of 80.
Coach Lou Saban Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by George M. Steinbrenner III in 2003
In 2003, George M. Steinbrenner increased his support of the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards program by endowing in perpetuity a second award in honor of his longtime friend, Coach Lou Saban. Steinbrenner and Saban traced their professional connections and friendship back to 1948, when both were involved in a Cleveland youth track and field program. Seven years later, the relationship deepened when Saban hired Steinbrenner as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University. At the time of endowing the scholarship in Saban's name, Steinbrenner recalled working for Saban as a great lesson in discipline and loyalty, calling him "the ultimate warrior, molder of men and builder of teams." Saban passed away in 2009 at the age of 87, and Steinbrenner passed away in 2010 at the age of 80.
James J. Campbell Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by Bill Campbell in 2005
A native of Homestead, Pa., Jim Campbell was a three-sport athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy, earning All-America honors in football and lacrosse while also playing varsity basketball. A three-year football letterman, he played end on the Navy team quarterbacked by College Football Hall of Famer Roger Staubach that met Texas in the 1964 Cotton Bowl for the national championship. The same year, he claimed the Schmisser Award as the best lacrosse defenseman in the country. An F-4 pilot in the Navy, Campbell served in Vietnam, flying more than 200 combat missions, fighting the devastating fire on the USS Forrestal that claimed 134 lives and earning a Navy Cross. From 1985 to 1988, Campbell was a deputy director of athletics at the Naval Academy. He subsequently built a successful career in the resort development and management business before passing away in 2006 at the age of 63. His brother Bill, the longest serving member of the NFF Board and the namesake of the Campbell Trophy, endowed the scholarship in Jim's memory.
F.M. Kirby Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by National Football Foundation in 1997
A graduate of Lafayette College, F.M. Kirby played on the Leopards' undefeated 1940 football team. After serving as a Naval Reserve Officer in World War II, he earned an MBA from Harvard. Kirby went on to be chairman and CEO of Alleghany Corporation and also served as a director of many of the nation's largest corporations and financial institutions. A stalwart in the community, his philanthropic involvement continues through the F.M. Kirby Foundation with more than $500 million in assets. The 2000 recipient of the NFF Gold Medal, Kirby served on the NFF Board from 1982 until his passing in 2011, at the age of 91. In recognition of his many years of leadership and unwavering support, the NFF named one of the National Scholar-Athlete Awards in his honor in 1997.
The National Football League Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by the National Football League in 1999
The National Football League has always been supportive of the Foundation's programs and mission. Their commitment to endow a National Scholar-Athlete Award only strengthened that position and further exemplifies the NFL's commitment to education and youth development. Current Commissioner Roger Goodell, the 2013 recipient of the NFF Gold Medal, carries on this tradition of support by meeting each year with the recipient of the award endowed by the NFL.
John H. McConnell Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by John H. McConnell in 1999
Following his service in the Navy during World War II, John McConnell enrolled at Michigan State where he played offensive guard for the Spartans. He founded Worthington Industries in 1955 and built the company into an international manufacturing company. McConnell owned the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets and an Arena Football League team in Columbus. Among many business and civic awards, McConnell received the NFF's highest honor, the Gold Medal, in 1998. McConnell passed away in 2008 at the age of 85.
Vincent dePaul Draddy Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by the National Football Foundation in 2009
Vincent dePaul Draddy attended Manhattan College (N.Y.) on a scholarship, becoming the quarterback and captain of the school's 1929 football team. An innovator in the sports apparel industry, he developed the Izod and Lacoste brands as the chairman of David Crystal, Inc., and the brands still thrive today. Recruited by NFF Chairman Chester J. LaRoche to help promote the inaugural NFF Annual Awards Dinner in 1958, Draddy served on the NFF Board for 33 years, including 19 years as chairman. He passed away in 1990. A man with a deep belief in the lasting value of the lessons learned on the gridiron, Draddy took great pride in the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards program. Recognizing his contributions, the NFF Board established the Vincent dePaul Draddy Scholar-Athlete Award in 2009.
The Coach Bobby Bowden National Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by Phil Knight and Nike in 2010
In tribute to a remarkable coaching career that impacted the lives of countless young men, Nike and its chairman and co-founder Phil Knight endowed an NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award in honor of coaching legend Bobby Bowden. The relationship between Knight and Bowden spans many years, and the two men maintain close ties with a deep mutual respect for each other and their respective leadership abilities. Both men have claimed the NFF Gold Medal, the organization's highest honor, in recognition of their significant career achievements and for demonstrating integrity, honesty, and the core values of college football. Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, Bobby Bowden coached seven NFF National Scholar-Athletes at Florida State while amassing an all-time record of 377-129-4, an astounding .743 win percentage.
General Robert R. Neyland Scholar-Athlete Award
Endowed by The Haslam Family Foundation in 2012
A star lineman at West Point who reached the rank of brigadier general between his head coaching stints at Tennessee, Robert R. Neyland instilled in his Volunteer players a military sense of organization, discipline and teamwork. James A. Haslam II, a tackle on Neyland’s 1951 national championship team and the 1952 captain, learned these lessons well. Starting with a single gas station in 1958, Haslam founded the Pilot Corporation, turning it into the largest operator of travel plazas in North America with sales in excess of $4 billion. In a fitting tribute to his coach, Haslam endowed one of the prestigious NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards in Neyland’s honor, perpetuating the Hall of Fame coach's legacy and his remarkable lifetime record of 173-31-12.