ELEVEN years ago, Joe Tiller, Purdue's head football coach at the time, presented a challenge of forming one of the largest chapters in the National Football Foundation here in Northwest Indiana. In the 10 years since receiving its charter in Tippecanoe County, the Northwest Indiana Chapter (which was renamed in 2007 the Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana) has enlisted nearly 670 members, becoming the largest chapter in the state and the second largest in the nation at one point.
As a group of football-loving enthusiasts with the purpose of advancing amateur football at the local, state and national levels, the Joe Tiller Chapter of the NFF provides grassroots support in a many ways.
As a non-profit organization, this chapter has awarded more than $230,000 in grants, scholarships, honorariums and donations since receiving its charter in 2004. Awards nominations must be submitted to chapter director Jim Vruggink each year by the end of January.
This chapter offers scholarship opportunities for scholar athletes at 70 high schools in 17 Northwest Indiana counties (Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Fulton, Howard, Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Miami, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren and White). Selection of the Scholar Athlete of the Year is based 40% on academic achievement, 40% football performance and attitude, and 20% leadership and citizenship. In addition to 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 10 years, this chapter has recognized 195 scholar athletes, awarding scholarships ranging in size between $200 and $5,000 individually.
In addition to the scholarships, the local chapter has been involved with youth programs such as the Dream Season (providing experiences for kids and young adults with disabilities) and the Lafayette 56ers, Attica Youth Football, Little Gridiron, and West Side Flag Football, helping to provide opportunities for elementary school-aged players in the area. The chapter also helps to support the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
The NFF chapter is one of 120 nation-wide and is now the largest in Indiana and seventh largest in the country with 159 members. Other Indiana chapters are in South Bend, Fort Wayne, Evansville and Indianapolis. Nationally, the NFF has more than 12,000 members and awards more than $1.3 million in scholarships each year.