By Samantha Lambert
As a former football player at Fort Walton Beach High School, the University of Florida and the National Football League, it is obvious Danny Wuerffel was an outstanding athlete. Born in Pensacola, he was the son of an Air Force Chaplain who moved all over the world. When the Wuerffel family moved to this area, Wuerffel attended Fort Walton Beach High School, where he led the Viking football team to a state championship. He was also valedictorian of the Class of 1991.
Wuerffel signed to play football at the University of Florida and in 1996 became Florida’s second Heisman Trophy winner, joining his coach, Steve Spurrier. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in public relations. Wuerffel was then selected in the fourth round of the 1997 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. He spent six years in the NFL before retiring.
Back in 2005, Tom Brassell, a member of the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, was talking with another member about creating an award named after Wuerffel. Brassell met with Wuerffel and presented the idea of an award that would be given to a college football player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.
Wuerffel then contacted the executive director emeritus of the Heisman Trophy, Rudy Riska. Riska agreed that this type of award was needed in the National College Football Awards Association. In February of 2005, Brassell’s group went to the All Sports Association with the idea of using the All Sports Association Annual Awards Dinner as the presentation venue for the Wuerffel Trophy. The group agreed, and the Wuerffel Trophy was off and running.
“We were just four guys and a checkbook at the start.” says Brassell, who is a past president of the All Sports Association. They started getting private donations and started looking for “community servants who just happen to be college football players and students.”
Brassell became the Executive Director of the Wuerffel Trophy in 2013 and they became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The next step was to apply for membership to the National College Football Awards Association. There had to be 100 percent agreement among the NCFAA members for a new college football award.
Later that year, the NCFAA agreed to add the Wuerffel Trophy as a member of its organization and to its list of the most prestigious awards in college football.
The Wuerffel Trophy is the only major college football award that places the majority of its voting emphasis on community service. “It will inspire other people to be community minded, to live for others, to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of the community and other people.” said Wuerffel upon the inception of the award.
The Wuerffel Trophy is open to any FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) college football player, but they must be nominated by their college. The nominee must have sustained, measurable and documented community service submitted which can be local, statewide, national or international. Community service constitutes 50 percent or more of the trophy committee’s decision when voting.
The nominee must be a first team player or major contributor. Additional consideration is given to those players who have been voted All Conference/All American. This category constitutes up to 25 percent of the trophy committee’s voting decision.
There is no minimum grade point average required for the Wuerffel Trophy, but a nominee must meet NCAA minimum eligibility requirements. Additional weight may be given based upon the college or major field of study. This category constitutes up to 25 percent of the trophy committee’s voting decision.
The Wuerffel Trophy’s board of directors narrows down the submissions to semi-finalists. The Board of Directors includes Wuerffel, his family, Brassell, and seven others. The Wuerffel Trophy National Selection Committee then votes for the three finalists and then again from those three to decide the winner. Members of the National Selection Team include former Florida State Football Coach Bobby Bowden, Tim Tebow, Mike Ditka, Tim Brando and Holly Rowe.
The Wuerffel Trophy winner for 2016 was announced on December 6 at the National Football Foundation’s Press Conference in New York City. The winner was Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight. Wuerffel will present the trophy to Knight at the 48th All Sports Association Awards Dinner in Fort Walton Beach Friday, Feb. 10.
“Our real mission for the Wuerffel Trophy is to show the young people of our country that there is a better way to do things through these amazing stories of college athletes serving others,” says Brassell. “That while participating in athletics, it is also a positive and great thing to serve others in their communities and to excel in the classroom. For every nominee for the Wuerffel Trophy, we do a media release to their conference, their hometown newspaper, and to their high school as well. We do everything we can to get their stories told.”
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