|Honoring athletes and identifying champions are the main focal points of the National Football Foundation's Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana this spring. Read More About Events >
CARROLL'S SPESARD NAMED INDIANA'S NFF SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Ryan Spesard of Carroll High School has been named the National Football Foundation's State of Indiana Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2012-13, making him the first recipient of what is hoped will become an annual award.
The announcement came July 18 as part of the North-South All-Star Game Banquet sponsored by the Indiana Football Coaches Association, at Primo's South in Indianapolis where Spesard was introduced as one of five finalists for the award. Representing the NFF's Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana and Region 4 of the IFCA, Ryan received a large football trophy and a modest scholarship check.
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EASTSIDE'S MILLER, CARROLL'S SPESARD NAMED
NFF CHAPTER SCHOLAR-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Recent graduates Justin Miller of Eastside High School and Ryan Spesard of Carroll High School have been named National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes of the Year for Northeast Indiana and Northwest Indiana, respectively.
The announcement came in West Lafayette during the NFF Honors Dinner "Celebrating Our Legends IX," hosted by the Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana June 10th at the Purdue Memorial Union before a crowd of 400 football enthusiasts.
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You Can Help Accomplish the Goals of the National Football Foundation's Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana
Nine 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 eight 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 more than 620 members, becoming the largest chapter in the state and the second largest in the nation as of the summer of 2011.
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.
Each dues-paying member receives a ballot in the selection process for the College Football Hall of Fame, a feature that helped elect former Purdue All-Americans Mike Phipps, Mark Herrmann and Otis Armstrong to the Hall in 2006, 2010 and 2012, respectively. "One of the most important goals of the chapter is to help provide support for former players and coaches who deserve induction into the College Hall of Fame," says Bart Burrell, the chapter president and a former Purdue player. As this chapter becomes larger, the chances of more former players with ties to this area being selected for induction into the Hall of Fame become greater and greater. Another benefit is the NFF membership card, allowing free admission to the Hall of Fame in South Bend.
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The chapter typically plans several annual events in the area – capped off by its marquee event, the Honors Dinner "Celebrating Our Legends" in June. Drew Brees, one of Tiller's first recruits who led Purdue to the Rose Bowl in 2001 and the current quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, has been a guest speaker and presenter at seven of the eight dinners. At that dinner, the chapter recognizes individuals from the region with its Distinguished American Award, Legends Award, Courage Award, the Bernie Flowers Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award, the Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award, and the Scholar Athlete-of-the-Year Award. The chapter also created its Gold Medallion Award for special occasions. As a non-profit organization, this chapter has awarded more $190,000 in grants, scholarships, honorariums and donations since receiving its charter in 2004. Awards nominations must be submitted to executive director Jim Vruggink each year by the end of January.
This chapter offers scholarship opportunities for scholar athletes at 73 high schools in 18 Northwest Indiana counties (Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Fulton, Howard, Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Miami, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, Starke, 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 eight years, this chapter has recognized 144 scholar athletes, awarding them between $250 and $5,000 each, totaling more than $147,000.
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, providing opportunities for elementary school-aged players in the area. The chapter also helps to support the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
The tax-deductible membership dues are $40 per year or $99 for three years, payable to the National Football Foundation. The NFF has 121 chapters and more than 12,000 members, nationally, and awards more than $1.3 million in scholarships per year. For more information, contact Vruggink at 320 Dehart St., West Lafayette, IN 47906; (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 765-427-3303).