Twelve 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. 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 more than 700 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 $270,000 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 March.
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 12 years, this chapter has recognized 224 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. 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.
Celebrating the inductions of two former Boilermakers into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame was the main focus of the National Football Foundation’s Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana at its Honors Dinner “Celebrating Our Legends XII” June 10 before a crowd of 320 football enthusiasts at the Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms in West Lafayette.
Former Purdue head football coach Jim Young and former four-year starting center Peter Quinn are the new inductees into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, which is actually located in Richmond, Ind. Former Purdue All-America running back Otis Armstrong was scheduled to receive the plaque for his 2015 induction at the same event, but was unable to attend due to a death in the family.
Prior to the Hall of Fame presentations, the Honors Dinner program recognized outstanding accomplishments of several other attendees, including:
Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award to Danny Anthrop,
Bernie Flowers Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football to Larry Leverenz, Eric Nauman and Tom Talavage,
“He Played Football” Award to Doug DeVos,
Legends Award to Tom Spurgeon,
Patrick Mackey Courage Award to Josh Turanchick
And the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award to Cody Colbert.
For the 12th straight year, the top scholar-athletes of Northern Indiana, who were nominated by their schools for the NFF’s scholarships, were featured during this marque event.
The scholar-athletes’ names and high schools are: Garrett Clark (Delphi Community), Cody Colbert (Tri-Central), Devon Colonis (Lafayette Jefferson), Brady Decker (North Newton), Jack Folkers (West Lafayette), Melee Jackson (East Chicago Central), David Kostbade (Hobart), Patrick Marsh (Munster), Kordell Prescott (Peru), Ethan Schrader (Lafayette Central Catholic), Maverick Schultz (Winamac Community), Garritt Slatcoff (Chesterton), J. Dan Sturgeon (Harrison) and Josh Turanchick (Oak Hill).
Those 14 scholar-athletes were all high school seniors headed to college next fall. Academically, it’s an outstanding group. Four of the 14 had 4.0 grade point averages or better, eight were ranked among the top 10 percent in their senior classes, and two were valedictorians at their schools. Their collective grade point average was 3.66.
Six of those young men (Colbert, Colonis, Folkers, Marsh, Prescott and Slatcoff) were singled out by judges as finalists for the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award prior to the winner being announced June 10. Colbert is now a candidate for the Indiana Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. The “competition” is based 40 percent on academics, 40 percent on athletics and 20 percent on citizenship, leadership and character.
Colbert’s credentials are impressive. He graduated third in his class with a weighted GPA of 4.16 and is headed to Purdue University to study agricultural business and will serve as an intern for the NFF. He was named to the IFCA Academic All-State Team and was a two-time all-state running back (2014 and 2015) as he helped Tri-Central to a state title (2013) and a combined record of 45-6 as a four-year starter. He set school records in career rushing (3,916 yards), all-purpose yardage (4,383) and points scored (266). He also participated in basketball, baseball and track, winning a total of 10 varsity letters. Cody was also class president and was involved in 4-H, Food Pantry, Tipton County Pork Festival and the Indiana House of Representatives as a page.
The Honors Dinner crowd also paid tribute to the high school players and managers chosen from Regions 1 and 4 to compete on the North Squad in the annual North-South All-Star Game this summer in Indianapolis. Eight were present and introduced on stage.
Purdue Head Football Coach Darrell Hazell and Miss Purdue Maureen Brooks were also part of the program as was vocal star Karli Edging, a Purdue student from nearby Delphi, who performed for the fourth straight NFF Honors Dinner.
But, the highlight of the night, in conjunction with the Indiana Football Coaches Association, was the Hall of Fame Inductions of Quinn and Young, who were presented by previous inductees Bart Burrell and Mark Herrmann, known as the “Carmel Connection” as the lethal passing combination for both Carmel High School and Purdue during the mid-to-late 1970’s and early ‘80’s.
Quinn, a 1981 Purdue grad, was the starting center for a four-year run of Boilermaker football that was among the best ever, amassing a record of 33-13-1, including 23-8-1 in the Big Ten, from 1977-80 for quarterback Herrmann. Quinn was voted the greatest center in the first 100 years of Purdue football. He was also a three-year starter at Scecina High School in Indianapolis. Pete has enjoyed a highly-successful career in real estate while also serving as color analyst on the Purdue Radio Network for 24 years. He will call his 300th game this fall.
Young, a 1956 graduate of Bowling Green State, was the head coach at Purdue for five years (record of 38-19-1), including all of Quinn’s years, and spent a total of six years at Purdue, where he was also an associate athletic director for one year. He posted winning records at Arizona and Army and had a collective record of 120-71-2 in 18 years as a head coach. He had a 5-1 record in bowl games and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Jim also served as an assistant coach for 12 years of his career and was the “acting” head coach for Michigan in the 1970 Rose Bowl.
Armstrong was actually selected and inducted in 2015, but was unable to travel to Indiana due to surgery that spring. The Tiller Chapter will try to recognize Otis next year. Armstrong, a record-setting back for Purdue in the early 1970’s, now lives in Centennial, Colo., near Denver where he played professionally for the Broncos. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Other honorees at “Celebrating Our Legends XII” were Leverenz, Nauman and Talavage, three Purdue researchers who are leading a major study on concussions and brain damage in an effort to create safer playing conditions for football players at all levels. They received the award that was created to recognize outstanding contributions to amateur football and named after All-America receiver Bernie Flowers, who played at Purdue in the early 1950’s and enjoyed a long career in business.
DeVos, a former walk-on quarterback at Purdue, is now President of Amway International; Spurgeon, a former football manager who went on to own his own business, is a 10-year member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and a recent chairman of the board; Anthrop showed great mental toughness in battling back from injuries and signed on this spring as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts; and Turanchick exhibited outstanding courage in overcoming his physical difficulties as a child to emerge as an accomplished football player.
Since receiving its charter in the fall of 2004, as a non-profit organization, this chapter has awarded nearly $200,000 in grants, scholarships and honorariums to students plus another $65,000 to other charities in the region.
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 12 years, this chapter has recognized 228 prep scholar athletes.
The NFF’s tax-deductible membership dues are $40 per year or $99 for three years, payable to the National Football Foundation. The NFF has 120 chapters and more than 12,000 members, nationally, and awards more than $1.3 million in scholarships each year.
For more information, contact Vruggink at 3672 Farnsworth Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47906; (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 765-427-3303).