IRVING, Texas –– The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame has announced it will partner for a second consecutive year with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) to reveal the league’s offensive and defensive players of the year as part of the festivities surrounding the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown.
“We are extremely pleased to again share our national spotlight with the MEAC, which boasts some of the best student-athletes in the country,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Showcasing the MEAC players of the year further solidifies the NFF Annual Award Dinner as the one event of the year that truly brings together the entire college football community.”
The announcement of the MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year will take place during the NFF morning press conference from the Trianon Ballroom at the New York Hilton Midtown. MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis E. Thomas will make the announcement, and he will be joined by the recipients and their head coaches.
“This is a historic moment for the MEAC as our continued partnership with the NFF is truly significant,” said Thomas. “No other college football event has a richer history than the NFF Annual Awards Dinner. We are appreciative to the NFF for once again providing the MEAC access to its national stage to showcase and brand the top players from our conference. We look forward to celebrating this year’s offensive and defensive player of the year recipients at the conclusion of the season in New York. It raises the brand and profile of the MEAC awards while providing the recipients a well-earned experience by being part of this historical and magnificent event.”
The first NFF Annual Awards Dinner took place in 1958, and the event has captured countless historical moments over the years, including remarks from seven U.S. Presidents who have claimed the NFF Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honor. As the culmination of the regular season, the event provides the stage for the presentation of the NFF Major Awards; the induction of the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class; and the bestowing of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards and The William V. Campbell Trophy, both presented by Fidelity Investments with the trophy displayed inside its official home at the New York Athletic Club.
The morning press conference features remarks from all of the event’s honorees, and it also provides the venue for the announcement of the finalists for the FWAA Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award and the winner of the Wuerffel Trophy, which honors the college football player who best exhibits exemplary community service.
Presented annually since 1971, the MEAC players of the year awards are voted on by the MEAC head football coaches and sports information directors. North Carolina A&T State running back Tarik Cohen (Offensive Player of the Year) and South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard (Defensive Player of the Year) claimed the awards in 2016, the first year the honors were announced at the NFF press conference.
The MEAC boasts 14 College Football Hall of Fame inductees, including Coach Earl Banks(Morgan State), Emerson Boozer (Maryland Eastern Shore), Roger Brown (Maryland Eastern Shore), Harry Carson (South Carolina State), Coach Jake Gaither (Florida A&M), Willie Galimore (Florida A&M), Coach Willie Jeffries (Howard, South Carolina State), Coach Billy Joe(Florida A&M), Willie Lanier (Morgan State), Coach Vernon “Skip” McCain (Maryland Eastern Shore), Tyrone McGriff (Florida A&M), Coach Doug Porter (Howard), Art Shell (Maryland Eastern Shore) and Donnie Shell (South Carolina State).
Several MEAC players have received coveted NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, including Malcolm Benson (Hampton), Timothy Benson (Hampton), Michael Bland (Hampton), Roy Ellison (Savannah State), Jerrell Moore (South Carolina State), Willie Thompson (Morgan State) and James Thurman (Florida A&M).
The day before the press conference, the NFF partners with the Ivy League to co-host a press conference and reception, presented by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses®, to bestow the Asa S. Bushnell Cup to the League’s Football Players of the Year, kicking off the festivities surrounding the numerous events at the New York Hilton Midtown.
The 2017 recipients of the NFF Major Awards include UCLA Athletics Director Dan Guerrero(NFF John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration), the Voice of the UTEP Miners Jon Teicher (NFF Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting) and the yet-to-be announced recipients of the NFF Gold Medal and NFF Distinguished American Award.
This 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class includes: Bob Crable (Notre Dame), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), Kirk Gibson (Michigan State), Matt Leinart (Southern California), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Bob McKay (Texas), Dat Nguyen (Texas A&M), Adrian Peterson(Georgia Southern), Mike Ruth (Boston College), Brian Urlacher (New Mexico) and coaches Danny Ford (Clemson, Arkansas), Larry Kehres (Mount Union [Ohio]) and Steve Spurrier(Duke, Florida, South Carolina). The 2017 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class will be announced Nov. 1, and the winner of the Campbell Trophy will be announced live in dramatic fashion at the Dec. 5 event.