Awards Show Results in Plenty of 'Cheers, Cheers for Ol' Notre Dame'

December 8, 2012
heisman candidates 2012
The 2012 Heisman Trophy candidates were at the Home Depot College Football Awards program. From left, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and quarterback Collin Klein of Kansas State. Photos courtesy ESPN Images.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There were plenty of "Cheers, Cheers for Ol' Notre Dame" during the college football awards program Thursday when the luck of the Irish and the magic of Disney combined to produce a spectacular evening for sports fans nationwide.

Head coach Brian Kelly, linebacker Manti Te'o, tight end Tyler Eifert and coaching legend Ara Parseghian were all honored at the 22nd annual Home Depot College Football Awards program held at Disney World Dec. 6th.

Kelly received the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award for leading the resurgent Irish to a surpising undefeated season and an improbable berth in the upcoming national championship game against Alabama.
He is the only two-time winner of this award, having been similarly honored in 2009 while coaching Cincinnati.

In his third year coaching in the presence of "Touchdown Jesus," Kelly hopes to duplicate the feat accomplished by Parseghian who, while in his third year at Notre Dame, led the Irish to a national championship in 1966 after taking over a moribund program that had not had a winning season in the five years before he arrived in South Bend. During Parseghian's 11 seasons, his teams went 95-17-4 and tacked on a second national crown in 1973.

Parseghian was on hand to receive the Contribution to College Football Award presented by The National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA).

notre dame coaches
Notre Dame head coaches Brian Kelly (2010-present, 28-10), Ara Parseghian (1964-1974, 95–17–4) and Lou Holtz (1986-1996, 100–30–2).

But it wasn't only his gridiron exploits for which the venerable former coach was being honored this night. The focus, instead, was on the scientific field, namely, the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation which has raised more than $40 million to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C (NP-C) disease, a malady which claimed the lives of three of Parseghian's grandchildren at the ages of 16, 10 and nine. A fourth grandchild, Ara's namesake, has escaped this deadly genetic disorder.

"We started [the foundation in 1994] at the one-foot line and since then we've crossed the 50 and now we're on the opposing 35 and we will score, we will score and beat this thing," said Parseghian, now 89.
Two players also shared in the accolades heaped on the Notre Dame coaches, past and present.

Heisman hopeful Te'o continued to rack up post-season awards almost as easily as making tackles against Boston College, receiving three Thursday night, including the Maxwell Award, given to the country's outstanding collegiate player. Just as he does on the field -- intercepting seven passes this season -- Te'o wrecked the plans of slinging quarterbacks, snapping a streak of nine straight signal callers who have received the Maxwell Award.

manti te'o awards
Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o with two of the half dozen major awards he has received following the 2012 season.

Te'o also received the Chuck Bednarik Award as the most outstanding defensive player and the prestigious Walter Camp award as the most outstanding player in college football as determined by a vote of head coaches of the 124 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

The inspirational soul of a suddenly vibrant Notre Dame team and the heart of the stingiest defense in the nation, Te'o had already taken home the Butkus Award, the Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, all at different venues.

Eifert, Notre Dame's monster tight end, received The John Mackey Award, which, according to the awarding organization, goes "to the most outstanding tight end in FBS college football. In addition to demonstrating outstanding athletic prowess on the field, the award also stands for positive sportsmanship-like behavior, good academic standing and exceptional leadership abilities." 

While Te'o and Eifert are both seniors, it was a freshman that more or less stole the show at the Disney complex.

What better gift could a guy get for his 20th birthday other than the Davey O’Brien Quarterback Award as the best college QB in the country? That's exactly what Johnny "Football" Manziel received Thursday night after a giant gridiron-shaped cake had been given him to mark his birthday, a graphic reminder that the Texas A&M phenom was only 19 while excelling on the field with the experience one would expect from a fifth-year senior. He embodies the classic example of the Flutie Effect, i.e., overcoming a smaller stature with a giant-sized heart, successfully pulling off unexpected exploits as a David-figure in a world of fast-moving giants, and in Manziel's case, reaching the pinnacle of success by slinging the ultimate stone and toppling FBS goliath Alabama.

Disney Spirit Award
Nate Boyer,the Texas Longhorns' long snapper, received the Disney Spirit Award, presented by Disney Sports Executive Faron Kelley. The award goes to college football's most inspirational figure or team. Boyer earned a Bronze Star for his service with the U.S. Army Special Forces Unit and has provided assistance to autistic children and Darfur refugees.

Other award recipients during the event held at the plush Disney Boardwalk were:
 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Outstanding Passer) – Collin Klein, Kansas State.
 Doak Walker Award (National Running back Award) – Montee Ball, Wisconsin.
 Fred Biletnikoff Award (Outstanding Wide Receiver) – Marqise Lee, USC.
 Ted Hendricks Award (Best Defensive End) – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina.
 Outland Trophy (Outstanding Interior Lineman) – Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M.
 Jim Thorpe Award (Outstanding Defensive Back) – Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State.
 Lou Groza Award (Collegiate Placekicker Award) – Cairo Santos, Tulane.
 Ray Guy Award (Outstanding Punter) – Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech.
 Disney Spirit Award (Most Inspirational Player or Team) - long snapper Nate Boyer, Texas.
 Rimington Trophy (Outstanding Center) – Barrett Jones, Alabama.

Jones, the stalwart anchor of the rugged Alabama offensive line, compiled a perfect 4.0 gpa in four years at Tuscaloosa, earning enough A's in the classroom to spell AlAbAmA more than a dozen times. He had been in New York City on Wednesday night to receive the prestigious  William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, presented during the 55th National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.

One of the awards presenters, former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer had a radiantly rodential retinue for the event.

"Barrett is perhaps one of the greatest scholar-athletes to have ever played the game, and we are so proud to honor him tonight," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell, noting that "the Campbell Trophy is one of college football's most sought after and competitive awards, recognizing an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership."

During his acceptance speech, Jones expressed a desire to be a role model for youngsters, to show that one can excel at both athletics and academics: "Charles Barkley once famously said 'I'm not a role model.' I think the fact is, with all the exposure college athletes get today, we are role models [and should strive to] use that status in a positive way," Jones said.

Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide, Ara Parseghian, Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, Barrett Jones, BCS Bowl, Brian Kelly, Disney Spirit Award, , Home Depot Football Awards, Manti Te'o, Nate Boyer, National College Football Awards Association, NCFAA, Niemann-Pick Type C (NP-C) Disease, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Rimington Trophy, Texas Longhorns, Tyler Eifert


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