For the past 17 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 16 years since receiving its charter, the Northwest Indiana Chapter (which became the Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana in 2007) has enlisted more than 825 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 “Celebrating Our Legends” each spring. 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 16 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 $315,000 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 16 years, this chapter has recognized 348 scholar athletes, awarding scholarships or stipends to many of them for their second semester of college, totaling about $252,000.
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 and Brian Moore 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 $40 per year or $99 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.
A “return to normal” is one of the goals for the National Football Foundation’s Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana in 2021. And, with the June 27 Honors Brunch at the Purdue Memorial Union Ballrooms in West Lafayette successfully in the books, we’ll claim MISSION ACCOMPLISHED for the first event.
Part of the mission for the NFF is to provide recognition for scholar-athletes and community members who support them and to raise funds for charities.
Coming off 15 months of having much of our world turned up-side-down due to Covid-19, including high school seniors who had many of their games, contests, events, traditions and rites of passage dramatically altered, the Tiller Chapter helped to lead the charge back to normality.
And that involves planning and executing events, starting with the NFF Honors Brunch “Celebrating Our Legends XVII” in June, followed by the NFF Honors Reception on Sept. 2 and the Tyler Trent Golf Outing on Sept. 3, both at Coyote Crossing Golf Club in West Lafayette. Other events may be planned for the fall, if health conditions don’t interfere.
The June 27 event focused on 19 NFF scholar-athletes who were nominated by their schools throughout Northwest Indiana for the annual Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award and 32 Lafayette Journal & Courier student-athletes nominated by high school athletics directors in the J&C coverage area. Also honored were 12 J&C sport-by-sport players of the year selected by the J&C sports staff and 63 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 is presenting 12 other awards this year, nominated and selected by chapter members and various entities, to recognize outstanding accomplishments in our communities. Several of these presentations took place June 27 while others, including one Hall of Fame recognition, will take place at the NFF’s Honors Reception on Sept. 2 in conjunction with the Tyler Trent Golf Outing.
The entire list of awards are as follows:
NFF Chapter Scholar-Athlete of the Year – Owen Smith (Clinton Central H.S.)
J&C Female & Male Student-Athletes of the Year – Megan Wagner (Carroll H.S.) and Lewis Dellinger (Twin Lakes H.S.)
Patrick Mackey Courage Award – Patrick Kiefer
Service to Football Award – Marion Vruggink
Tyler Trent Courage and Resilience Award – Kyle Albertson
Todd Clark Outstanding Game Official Award – Mark Maxwell
Legends Award – Leroy Keyes (posthumously)
Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award – Raheem Mostert
Indiana Football Hall of Fame Inductee – Marshall Overley
Bernie Flowers Contribution to Amateur Sports Award – Young Lee (Sept. 2)
Indiana Football Hall of Fame Inductee – Jim Everett (Sept. 2)
Distinguished American Award – Drew Brees (Future)
The NFF scholar-athletes’ names and high schools, as nominated by their schools, are: Vincent Allegretti (Andrean), Gabe Anderson (Oak Hill), Jacob Bunton (Lafayette Central Catholic), Elijah Carden (Kankakee Valley), Cody David (Heritage), Lewis Dellinger (Twin Lakes), Ben DeLong (Elwood), Zane Downing (Eastern), Jackson Fleming (Chesterton), Andrew Forszt (Munster), Evan Fritz (Delphi), Trey Hampton (North Judson-San Pierre), Patrick Kiefer (Winamac), Zion King (Harrison), Colton Lehnen (Lafayette Jefferson), Jacob Martin (Northwestern), Sam Schott (West Lafayette), Bronson Smith (Kokomo) and Owen Smith (Clinton Central).
The Journal & Courier Nominees for Student-Athlete of the Year goes as follows: Sydney Argo (Faith Christian), Jade Ayres (Frankfort), Katie Buckles (McCutcheon), Sidney Campbell (North Montgomery), Kyle Carter (Rensselaer Central), Mark Cramer (Central Catholic), Lewis Dellinger (Twin Lakes), Reid Douglas (Rossville), Mackendzie Dresbaugh (North Newton), Carson Eberly (Fountain Central), Cade Ehlinger (North Newton), Kylie Foster (Tri-County), Lexi Fraley (Harrison), Brandte Gayler (Attica), Alyson Haehl (West Lafayette), Jaden Harness (Carroll), Taylor Hodgen (Twin Lakes), Zion King (Harrison), Caleb Koeppen (Lafayette Jeff), Emma Lawson (Rossville), Lauren Moore (Rensselaer Central), Braden Nuest (West Central), Ella Peterson (Attica), Spencer Phillips (McCutcheon), Emily Pilarski (West Central), Sam Schott (West Lafayette), Zack Searle (North Montgomery), Addison Sheets (Clinton Central), Owen Smith (Clinton Central), Khal Stephen (Seeger). Megan Wagner (Carroll) and Samantha Warren (South Newton).
The Journal & Courier Players of the Year goes as follows: Brooks Barnhizer (Lafayette Jeff, Basketball), Karsyn Cherry (Central Catholic, Soccer), Chloe Chicoine (McCutcheon, Volleyball), Carson Cooke (West Lafayette, Soccer), Omarion Dixon (Harrison, Football), Evan Fritz (Delphi, Football), Teresa Maggio (McCutcheon, Basketball), Tynlie Neal (Clinton Prairie, Basketball), Peyton Price (Lafayette Jeff, Football), Damon Shaw (Rossville, Basketball), Khai Stephen (Seeger, Football) and Sam Warren (South Newton, Volleyball).
All 63 students who were selected as all-stars for the North team were invited to this Honors Brunch. That entire list can be found at www.ifca.net.
Four of the honorees this year are “hold-overs” from 2020. Drew Brees and Raheem Mostert, both former Purdue and NFL stars, were invited to attend the 2021 events to pick up the awards they were selected to receive in 2020, when they were unable to attend due to rescheduling of last year’s Honors Dinner. Mostert did attend the June 27 brunch and Brees is hoping to be back in West Lafayette this fall.
Likewise, Jim Everett and Marshall Overley were selected for induction into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2020, but their inductions were postponed to this year due to Covid-19. Overley chose to be inducted at the June event and Everett will be honored in September.
SEPT. 2 – NFF HONORS RECEPTION
SEPT. 3 – TYLER TRENT GOLF OUTING
The first weekend of September in West Lafayette not only features Purdue’s season-opening football game versus Oregon State (Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at Ross-Ade Stadium) but also serves as perfect timing for the Tiller Chapter’s hosting of the NFF Honors Reception (Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m.) and the NFF’s Tyler Trent Golf Outing (Sept. 3 at 9 a.m.) – both at Coyote Crossing Golf Club in West Lafayette.
Tickets for the Honors Reception, including beverages and desserts from Town & Gown Bistro in West Lafayette, are on sale now for $25 per person. Jim Everett will be inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame during a brief ceremony that evening, when Young Lee will also receive his trophy, the Bernie Flowers Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Sports. He was unable to attend the June 27 Honors Brunch due to the birth of his second daughter the day before.
Everett is coming to West Lafayette for the weekend from his home in Southern California for this HOF induction. As a native of Kansas and a graduate of Albuquerque Eldorado High School in New Mexico, Everett came to Indiana as a highly-recruited quarterback. He put up brilliant numbers (7,411 yards and 43 touchdowns) as a two-year starter at Purdue University.
Everett was second-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-America, finishing sixth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy and was the third player chosen in the NFL Draft of 1986, picked by the Houston Oilers. He played eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, where he led the league in passing twice and was named All-Pro in 1991. Everett was inducted into the Purdue Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999 and now lives in Dana Point, Calif. The Indiana Football Hall of Fame is located in Richmond, Ind.
Tickets for the Honors Reception will be included for all the golfers who register in advance for the Tyler Trent Golf Outing on Sept. 3 … also at Coyote Crossing Golf Club. This will be the Tiller Chapter’s first year of involvement with the Tyler Trent Golf Outing with proceeds going to Purdue’s Center for Cancer Research.
After several years of the Ryan Kerrigan/12th Boiler Golf Outing as a combined effort between the NFF Tiller Chapter and Purdue’s Trademarks Licensing Office, a new partnership became necessary when Jim Vruggink retired from Purdue. The chapter came to an agreement with the Tyler Trent Family and the Center for Cancer Research with help from Gold & Black Illustrated and Purdue Sports Properties. The outing will be an 18-hole scramble starting at 10 a.m. that Friday. Lunch will be provided by Subway on the course and an Arni’s pizza reception will follow.
Everett to serve as the event celebrity with the goal of raising funds for cancer research while honoring the legacy of Purdue “super-fan” Tyler Trent who passed away in early 2019 after a news-making battle with osteosarcoma cancer.
Cost is $600 per foursome or $150 per player ($75 for students), covering s shirt, cap, box lunch, golf cart, balls and 18 holes of golf. Contact Jim Vruggink (765-427-3303) for more information.