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 18 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 $334,000 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 18 years, this chapter has recognized 433 scholar athletes, awarding scholarships or stipends to many of them for their second semester of college.
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 Alan Karpick, 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: email@example.com; phone: 765-427-3303; or mail: 3672 Farnsworth Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47906/
The NFF Tiller Chapter’s third annual Tyler Trent Golf Outing took place Friday Sept. 1 at Coyote Crossing Golf Club near West Lafayette.
This event, like the first two, benefitted the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research, and featured a member of Purdue’s Cradle of Quarterbacks. This time it was Curtis Painter, who piled up 11,163 yards passing and 67 touchdowns in three years as Purdue’s starter. Last year Kyle Orton was at Coyote Crossing and in 2021 Jim Everett participated in the T2 Golf Outing. All three Boilermaker stars were invited to take part in connection with their induction into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
The owners of Coyote Crossing, Torrin and Robin Bottrell, were committed to making this year’s Tyler Trent Golf Outing the biggest and best yet.
“We’ve seen this outing from our backyard and in the process got to know the Tony and Kelly Trent,” says Robin. “What started as a casual meeting and a few adult beverages has turned into a true friendship. Getting to know these wonderful people, and learning their story first hand, gave us all we needed to join them in their fight to find a cure for the cancer that took Tyler way before his time.”
“They are using their personal tragedy to help others, and we are elated to be able to help them in the process,” says Torrin. “We hope to take the T2 Outing to the next level, and with the help of our Director of Club Operations, Brent Wills, we will make it happen. We look for the support of the Purdue family, the Joe Tiller Chapter of the NFF and the Coyote Crossing membership to make this the best year ever!”
Kyle Turanchick of Oak Hill High School was awarded the NFF 2023 Scholar-Athlete of the Year by Matt Lancaster (left) at the National Football Foundation’s Joe Tiller Chapter Honors Brunch, Sunday, Jun. 25, 2023 in West Lafayette.
National heroes, Hall of Famers, All-Americans and scholar-athletes are being honored and recognized at various times and places this year as the National Football Foundation’s Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana celebrates a star-studded lineup in 2023.
Continuing with its emphasis of providing recognition for scholar-athletes and community members who support them and to raise funds for charities.
While fund-raising is an ongoing project, the NFF Honors Brunch “Celebrating Our Legends XIX” on June 25 at the Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms in West Lafayette was our feature event. The NFF Honors Reception on the afternoon of Sept. 1 will follow the Tyler Trent Golf Outing that day at Coyote Crossing Golf Club in West Lafayette. Other events are still being considered to recognize some honorees who have had challenging schedules.
The June 25 event focused on 12 NFF scholar-athletes who were nominated by their schools throughout Northwest Indiana for the annual Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award and 33 Lafayette Journal & Courier student-athletes nominated by high school athletics directors in the J&C coverage area. Also being honored are 14 J&C sport-by-sport players of the year selected by the J&C sports staff and 61 Indiana Football Coaches Association North All-Star nominees from Regions 1 and 4. Personalized certificates were presented to each of the prep athletes who attended the Honors Brunch.
Along with the awards and recognition for the high school athletes, the Tiller Chapter also selected recipients for 11 other awards, nominated and selected by chapter members and various entities, to recognize outstanding accomplishments in our communities. Some of these presentations took place June 25 while others will happen at the NFF’s Honors Reception in conjunction with the Tyler Trent Golf Outing or later in the fall or next year.
The entire list of awards are as follows:
# To be presented later in 2023 or 2024
The 2023 NFF scholar-athletes’ names and high schools, as nominated by their schools, were: Isaiah Fowler (Chesterton), Luke Foxworthy (Fountain Central), Camden Horner (Kokomo), Kameron Little (McCutcheon), James Mantel (Andrean), Brady Miller (Lafayette Central Catholic), Matthew Richardson (West Lafayette), James Schemerhorn (Tri-County), Justin Schroeder (Frontier), Kyle Turanchick (Oak Hill), Jacob Walters (Harrison) and Joshua White (Lafayette Jefferson).
The Lafayette Journal & Courier Female Nominees for Student-Athlete of the Year for 2023 were: Teegan Bacon (North Montgomery), Sydney Copeland (McCutcheon), Lexi Cunningham (North Newton), Halle Elliott (Crawfordsville), Riley Flinn (Harrison), Corryn Geheb (Roseville), Ava Hallberg (West Lafayette), Hannah Hodgen (Twin Lakes), Alli Holder (Faith Christian), Emma Pillion (Frankfort), Jannell Robson (Benton Central), Evann Royal (Delphi), Sydney Swan (Clinton Prairie), Emma Voors (Tri-County) and Avah Watson (Seeger).
The Lafayette Journal & Courier Male Nominees for Student-Athlete of the Year of 2023 were: Evan Cooke (West Lafayette), Cale Coursey (Crawfordsville), Jordan Cree (Rensselaer Central), Luke Deno (Twin Lakes), Owen Duff (Carroll), Cale Ehlinger (North Newton), Luke Foxworthy (Fountain Central), Gabe Freeman (Rossville), Gage Galloway (North Montgomery), Ben Henderson (Harrison), Landon Hughes (Clinton Prairie), Andrew Johns (Faith Christian), Chase Long (Delphi), Owen Kottkamp (Benton Central), Noah Oilar (Tri-County), Quentcy Perry (Frankfort), Zion Rodriguez (West Central), Ryan Schummer (Lafayette Central Catholic) and Eli Swank (McCutcheon).
The Journal & Courier Players of the Year were: Addie Bowsman (Twin Lakes/basketball), Evan Cooke (West Lafayette/soccer), Chloe Chicoine (McCutcheon/ volleyball), Owen Duff (Carroll/basketball), Keegan Ellis (Carroll/football/offense), Alli Harness (Carroll/basketball), Ben Henderson (Harrison/basketball), Anna Lasater (West Lafayette/soccer), Avery Layton (Rossville/softball ’22), Ben Mazur (Lafayette Central Catholic/baseball ’22), Ethan McCormick (Harrison/baseball ’22), Max Mullis (West Lafayette/football/offense), Sydney Miller (Harrison/softball ’22), Matthew Richardson (West Lafayette/football/defense), Grace Roach (Lafayette Central Catholic/volleyball) and Brinn Robbins (Lafayette Central Catholic/football/defense).
All 61 students who were selected as all-stars for the North team – some of them invited to the June event for other awards and honors – were invited to this Honors Brunch and received certificates, if they attended. That entire list can be found at www.ifca.net.
The community honorees for 2023 featured Nick Bostic who saved the lives of four Lafayette children when he happened across a house fire last July and was honored with a national award – the Carnegie Hero Medal, Mike Bauer for his generosity, Elisheba VanWinkle for her service, James Marshall for his game officiating, Nancy Cross for her loyalty to Purdue and Andrew Kinder as the Tyler Trent Scholarship winner.
Athletic-oriented awards this year went to Charlie Jones and Aidan O’Connell for their impact on Purdue football, Zach Edey for his mental toughness and excellence in Purdue basketball and high school standouts Ashlynn Brooke and Kendal Rider for overcoming huge health issues.
Ten individuals representing Region 4 have been selected for induction into the IFCA Hall of Fame for 2023 and 2024. The inductees have come to this distinction by very different paths – five as players, one each as a coach, sportswriter, game official, sports administrator and builder/donor.
Posthumous inductions include Todd Clark, who helped in the founding of the Western Indiana Officials Association in 2003 while having an on-field officiating career that spanned from 1974 through 2014, and John Scheumann, who was a very successful builder in the Lafayette area and was a major contributor to Lafayette Jefferson H.S. for the building and remodeling of its football stadium.
Two of the four players, Ryan Kerrigan and Curtis Painter of Purdue, were inducted June 25 while Clayton Richard will receive his Hall of Fame plaque at next June’s NFF Honors Brunch. Kerrigan was nominated by Muncie Central H.S, and Purdue, following a great playing career as an all-state defensive player in Muncie, an All-American in West Lafayette and an All-Pro in Washington, DC. Likewise, Painter enjoyed great success on offense as a quarterback at Vincennes Lincoln and Purdue while providing backup duties with three NFL teams over six seasons. Kerrigan is now an assistant coach with the Washington Commanders and Painter is in business living in Westfield, Ind.
Drew Brees, former Purdue and NFL star, is still considering his fall schedule and is hoping to attend a chapter function soon. He has been invited to the 2023 events to be inducted into the Indiana HOF and to pick up the Distinguished American Award he was selected to receive in 2020 but was unable to attend due to COVID and scheduling conflicts. Brees enjoyed an impressive four-year stint as Purdue’s record-setting quarterback before surviving a major shoulder injury and posting a record-setting NFL career with the New Orleans Saints, including winning a Super Bowl in 2010.
Another former Boilermaker, Taylor Stubblefield, was an All-American wide receiver who set an NCAA career record with 325 receptions when he completed his collegiate career in 2004, when he also set a team record with 16 touchdown catches. He remains among Purdue all-time leaders in receiving yardage with 3,629 yards. Stubblefield is now coaching wide receivers on the collegiate level, currently at the Air Force Academy. He will be inducted into the IFCA HOF next June and remains on the national ballot for the College Football HOF.
Clayton Richard excelled in two sports as Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball while at McCutcheon and as a highly-recruited football and baseball player at the University of Michigan before a lengthy career in Major League Baseball. Clayton is now coaching football and baseball at Lafayette Jefferson H.S. and will be inducted into the HOF next June.
The HOF inductee who earned his honor via coaching is Chris Meeks of Rensselaer Central H.S. where he has posted a record of 186-100 in 24 years (1999 though the present) as head coach after playing football for the Bombers in the early 1980’s. His best season was 2014 when Rensselaer Central won the Class 2A State Championship and posted a record of 15-0.
Tom Kubat was selected for induction on merit after a 40-year career as sportswriter for the Lafayette Journal & Courier, covering all sports for area high schools while being the primary beat reporter for Purdue sports for the majority of that time, winning many sports writing awards including induction into the Indiana Sportwriters and Sportscasters’ Hall of Fame.
Also selected induction on merit is Jim Vruggink, who retired from Purdue in 2019 after 37 years in athletic public relations and administration. He was president of CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) in 1996-97 and assisted with the formation of this NFF chapter, serving as its executive director since 2004. He will retire from that role at the end of next year and will be inducted into the IFCA HOF next June.