The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame have local chapters across the country, with one of the objectives being to honor contributors to the game of football and to honor outstanding achievements for both athletes and coaches.
Organized in 1986, the UGA chapter, with understandable growing pains, has become the No. 1 chapter in the country and has enjoyed that enviable status for over a dozen years.
The lifeblood of the organization has become a golf outing featuring the traditional scramble format with a celebrity and four team members. This popular outing, enhanced by abundant prizes and favors from support organizations and friends, has served the chapter well. With an able and enterprising board led by President Lenn Chandler, the chapter has achieved noteworthy success.
One of the objectives of the Georgia chapter is to honor scholar-athletes. That includes Northeast Georgia area high school players and UGA athletes. The highlight of the latter is the honoring of scholar-athletes who are honored with the Billy Payne Award. This award is presented to young men who have been with the Bulldog program for four years, have graduated, and have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. This year’s winners are Jack Podlesny and Payne Walker.
One of the chapter’s longest supporters, a major sponsor, is Coca Cola which honors a charity in the Athens-Clarke community with its “Helping Hand Award.” This year Coca-Cola, led by Fred Butler, chose to honor Jamie Scott and “The Sparrow’s Nest.”
Winning the Jack Turner Award was Bulldog place-kicker Jack Podlesny. This award is presented in memory of Hoyt Jack Turner, an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia. A devoted alumnus and a passionate Bulldog, Jack Turner were one of UGA’s most loyal supporters throughout his life.
The recipient of the Jack Turner Award, which this year was presented by Jesse Hickey of the Turner Foundation, is awarded to a football player at the University of Georgia whose focus and energy go beyond the playing of his chosen sport. The award winner is a Bulldog starting letterman who is defined by his exceptional accomplishment and varied interests—a well-rounded Georgia man. Jack Turner would be proud that the UGA chapter honored Jack Podlesny, one of the most successful place-kickers in UGA history.
Georgia Power, a long-time major sponsor, which supports the National Football Foundation’s Play it Smart program, helps underwrite the academic support efforts of the two local public high schools, Cedar Shoals and Clark Central. The chapter, with a major assist from Jeff Petrea and Georgia Power, funds this academic support program with an annual grant to the local public high schools.
Mandrell Glenn (Cedar Shoals) and Michael Campbell (Clarke Central) were recognized for their academic and football achievement in association with the Play-It-Smart program and will receive a scholarship grant provided by the Georgia NFF chapter and Synovus Bank.
Abit Massey, a distinguished Georgia graduate, and entertainer Jeff Foxworthy were honored with the Chapter’s “Distinguished American Awards.” Massey is known as the “dean of the poultry industry” in our state and has been a loyal Bulldog alumnus and supporter since graduating from Georgia in 1947.
In its history, the UGA chapter has never had a more entertaining speaker than Foxworthy, who has been a Bulldog fan all his life. “Nothing beats a day between the hedges,” Jeff says. “You can’t believe the joy in my heart the last two years with winning back-to-back national championships. Foxworthy’s class, keeping his humor clean, resonated with the audience.
The J. Reid Parker “Post Graduate Achievement Awards,” went to Mike Cavan, Terrance Edwards, Travis Stroud, Todd Wheeler, and Eric Zeier. These awards are showcased by John Parker in memory of his parents, Reid and Cynthia Parker. Reid Parker was a long-time member of the UGA Forestry School faculty and served as UGA athletic director for administration in 1978-1980.
Matt Brinkley, incoming president of the Touchdown Club of Athens, presented the chapter’s Contribution to Amateur Football Award to Craig Silver, longtime producer of SEC football on CBS. A connoisseur of good food, Craig loves the Athens restaurant scene. He is fascinated, like many, with “life between the hedges.”
Also receiving the Contribution to Amateur Football was Coach Sonny Smart, father of the Bulldog’s ultra-successful coach, Kirby Smart. Kirby was on hand to help honor his father saying how much his dad’s influence has impacted his career.
The chapter has instituted a new award, “The Mark Richt Altruism Award,” which was presented to Ben Brandenburg, a member of the UGA administrative staff.
Darrice Griffin, senior deputy director of athletics at UGA, was on hand to help honor the Frances Wood Wilson high school scholar-athletes: John Dorris, Athens Academy; Gregg “Billy” Williams, Oconee County; Copeland Grantham, Clarke-Central; Will Sampson, Oglethorpe County and Dominic Walker, Athens Christian School. Each recipient will receive a tuition grant from the Wilson Foundation; Joining in presenting these awards was Judge Lawton Stephens of Athens and a member of the Wilson Foundation Board.
This event came off as the chapter’s best banquet in three decades.