For the past 18 years, football fans of Purdue University and Northwest Indiana have been channeling some of their enthusiasm and support for amateur football through the National Football Foundation’s chapter based in West Lafayette.
In the 17 years since receiving its charter, the Northwest Indiana Chapter (which became the Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana in 2007) has enlisted more than 850 members, becoming the largest chapter in the state and, at one point, was second largest in the nation.
The chapter typically plans several annual events in the area – highlighted by its marquee event, the Honors Dinner/Brunch “Celebrating Our Legends” each spring. Drew Brees, one of Tiller’s first recruits who led Purdue to the Rose Bowl in 2001 and a Hall of Fame quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, has been a guest speaker and presenter at several of the 17 dinners. At that event, the chapter recognizes individuals from the region for various awards and accomplishments, including the announcement of the chapter’s Scholar Athlete of the Year Award. As a non-profit organization, this chapter has awarded approximately $338,000 in grants, scholarships, honorariums and donations since receiving its charter in 2004.
This chapter offers scholarship opportunities for scholar athletes after graduation from 70 high schools in 17 Northwest Indiana counties (ranging from Tippecanoe to Lake counties). 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 17 years, this chapter has recognized 391 scholar athletes, awarding scholarships or stipends to many of them for their second semester of college, totaling about $260,000.
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, Otis Armstrong, Dave Butz and Rod Woodson to the Hall in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, 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 Kelly Kitchel, the chapter president and a former Purdue player.
Also, this chapter has been very helpful in getting Armstrong, Butz and Woodson along with Joe Tiller, Mike Alstott, Leroy Keyes, Pete Quinn, Jim Young, Bernie Flowers, Len Dawson, Dale Samuels, Dustin Keller, Jim Everett and several area high school coaches inducted into the Indiana FB Hall of Fame since 2012.
In addition to the scholarships, the local chapter has been involved in support of various youth programs and charities in the area and provides financial assistance for the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and the John Purdue Club’s 12th Boiler Scholarship Program.
The tax-deductible membership dues are now $60 per year or $150 for three years, payable to the National Football Foundation. The NFF has 120 chapters in 47 states and more than 10,000 members, nationally, and awards more than $1.3 million in scholarships per year while also administering the College Football Hall of Fame. For more information, contact Jim Vruggink (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 765-427-3303; or mail: 3672 Farnsworth Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47906/
The Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana is pleased to move in 2022 with momentum, optimism, new leadership and the satisfaction of pulling off several successful events in 2021 as we survived and overcame COVID. We will keep our fingers crossed that all those trends remain positive.
Our next Honors Brunch will be back into the Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms on Sunday, June 12. It will be our 18th “Celebrating Our Legends” event and will recognize deserving community members and will honor area high school scholar-athletes as they prepare to move on to college. Like last year, some of the awards may be moved to another event, the NFF Honors Reception, which was held this past year in conjunction with the Tyler Trent Golf Outing. Both the reception and the golf outing are yet to be scheduled for 2022, but will most likely be in late August or early September. The chapter’s advisory council is considering several other events and activities that will be finalized and announced after the first of the year.
Prior to any events, however, are two key deadlines for the NFF awards process. Nominations are due Feb. 1 from the high schools in the 17-county area of Northwest Indiana for the judging of the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Also, Mar. 31 is the deadline for nominations for the other chapter awards (see awards and nomination form on adjoining pages).
High school coaches, athletic directors, academic counselors and principals provide the nominations of the high school scholar-athletes while anyone associated with our chapter, whether members or not, may nominate candidates for the chapter’s community awards.
Along with the NFF awards, the annual Honors Brunch/Dinner will also include awards and recognition for athletes selected by the Lafayette Journal & Courier sports staff based on nominations by coaches and athletic directors within the J&C coverage area.
MEMORABILIA AUCTIONS AND SALES
Memorabilia auctions and sales became a staple of our fund-raising activities during COVID and those activities will continue into 2022, thanks to the efforts of board member Young Lee, who planned and organized online sale through eBay and PayPal connecting through our chapter website. Young ran several sales in the fall, utilizing Purdue and Tiller memorabilia collected from several sources.
After netting more than $12,500 (after expenses) that helped to fund the 2020 scholarship stipends for students and a sizable transfer of funds to the Tiller Endowment, the memorabilia sales have netted another $18,000? (after expenses) in 2021, with the proceeds being split between various charities, the Tiller Endowment and the chapter’s scholarship fund. The online sales effort will continue throughout 2022 as we accumulate more memorabilia items. A live auction/sale is also being considered, perhaps in conjunction with the Honors Reception mentioned above in the summer or early fall.
TYLER TRENT GOLF OUTING
The Tiller Chapter’s annual golf outing has taking on a different look and direction.
After several years as the Ryan Kerrigan/12th Boiler Golf Outing as a combined effort between the NFF’s Tiller Chapter and Purdue’s Trademarks Licensing Office, a new partnership became necessary. In the spring of 2020, the chapter agreed to join forces with the Tyler Trent Family, the Elks Club of West Lafayette and Purdue’s Center for Cancer Research to begin making plans for an event at the West Lafayette Golf Club in September of that year, but as COVID spiked in mid-summer, that event was postponed. Then, last winter, the Elks Club voted to dissolve itself leaving the Tiller Chapter and the PCCR to co-host the event.
Coyote Crossing Golf Club near West Lafayette “stepped up” and negotiated a good price and became the site of the Tyler Trent Golf Outing on Sept. 3 of this year. With 18 sponsors, 64 golfers, great weather and the cooperation of former Purdue quarterback great Jim Everett, the outing experienced terrific success, raising $6,000 for cancer research in honor of the legacy of Purdue “super-fan” Tyler Trent who passed away on the first day of 2019 after a news-making battle with osteosarcoma cancer.
The 2022 Tyler Trent Golf Outing is in the early planning stages, but probably will return to Coyote Crossing on Sept. 9, which is the Friday prior to Purdue’s home football game vs. Indiana State.
Contact Jim Vruggink (765-427-3303) for more information.