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: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 765-427-3303; or mail: 3672 Farnsworth Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47906/
Lafayette Jefferson High School’s Brady Preston, a three-sport standout starter with four years of straight-A’s in the classroom, has been named the National Football Foundation’s State of Indiana Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2021-22.
He becomes the 10th recipient of this annual state award. Presentation of a trophy will take place July 27 at a private event at Town & Gown Bistro in West Lafayette. Winning the state award gives Brady a clean sweep of the awards designed to recognize outstanding scholarship and athletic prowess.
Preston was named the Lafayette Journal & Courier Male Student-Athlete of the Year on June 12 prior to being named the Joe Tiller Chapter Scholar-Athlete of the Year. On June 23, Preston was one of 82 scholar-athletes named to the NFF’s Team of Distinction, a nation-wide recognition.
Representing the NFF’s Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana, Preston was selected by a panel of judges representing the four active NFF chapters in the state. The “competition” was based 40 percent on academics, 40 percent on athletics and 20 percent on citizenship, leadership and character.
Brady, the son of Mark and Cindy Preston of Lafayette, will study business at Butler University. He earned a 4.35 GPA and was on the straight-A honor roll all eight semesters. A 2021 IFCA Academic AllState selection, Preston earned the 2021 Principal’s Award for having the highest GPA on the baseball, basketball and football teams.
Preston started at Lafayette Jeff for three football seasons - one as a tight end and two as a quarterback - as part of the second winningest class in Lafayette Jeff football history, including three NCC championships. He was an All-NCC and All-J&C selection in both 2020 and 2021. He was a four-year letterwinner for the Broncho baseball team as a catcher and was a starting guard in basketball.
Preston was a pillar of the Lafayette community through the Salvation Army Red Kettle program and the Lafayette Community Christmas Day Dinner. He earned the Distinguished Citizenship Award from the City of Lafayette. At Lafayette Jeff, he was active in the National Honor Society and Spirit Advisory Club.
"On behalf of the NFF chapters in Indiana, I want to congratulate all the scholar-athletes who were nominated and all the coaches and principals who nominated them this year as we advanced the NFF’s recognition to all football-playing high schools in Indiana,” said Jim Vruggink, the executive director for the Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana, who coordinated the judging process for this award.
Our second annual Tyler Trent Golf Outing at Coyote Crossing was a success as we had 56 golfers and 24 sponsors. After golf, the NFF Honors Reception that evening at Bruno's featured Kyle Orton's induction into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
The NFF held a "Meet & Greet" with new Purdue football coach Ryan Walters on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Bruno's in West Lafayette. 74 individuals attended the event, including Walters and nine of his assistants. Event sponsors Orlando Itin of Bruno's, Jeff Sieber of University Book Store and Dan Sommers of Sommers Financial Services made the event possible. GoldandBlack.com President Alan Karpick led the discussion with Coach Walters.
George Karlaftis (second from right) with West Lafayette H.S. FB coaches and NFF members following the Kansas City Chiefs Sept. 25 game vs. the Indianapolis Colts. Karlaftis, a Purdue All-American and first-round draft choice, won Super Bowl LVII.
Brady Preston of Lafayette Jeff High School was named the NFF Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the J&C Student-Athlete of the Year.