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Over 700 Attend the 2014 Minnesota Football Honors Awards Event

On May 4th, a sold out crowd of over 700 attended the 2014 Minnesota Football Honors Awards Event hosted by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation.  The event was held at the Hilton Minneapolis.  $16,000 in scholarships were distributed to Eight High School Scholar Athletes.  The Minnesota Football Awards Event continues to honor our top Leaders and  Legends. 



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2014 Minnesota Football Honors Award Winners

2014 Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award

The 2014 Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award will be presented to Tom Moe for his contributions to Minnesota football and athletics in the state as a whole.  

Growing up in the Twin Cities area, Moe had a distinguished high school and college athletics career in Minnesota.  While at Edina High School, Moe competed for the Hornets in football, baseball, and basketball.  His efforts for the Hornets led to 10 letters, six all-conference awards, and being named all-state in both football and baseball.  He attended the University of Minnesota, lettering three times in both football and baseball.  He was recognized by the Golden Gophers as the 1959 football team’s "Most Valuable Player."  Moe received his undergraduate degree from Minnesota and  then obtained his law degree with honors from Minnesota in 1963 while also earning entrance into the school's Order of the Coif.  Upon graduation, he joined Minneapolis law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP, where he remained until his retirement in late 1999.  In his time at the firm, he rose through the ranks to eventually be named Chairman and Managing Partner of the Firm.

One of Moe's most recognizable contributions to football and athletics as a whole in Minnesota, came in late 1999, when he was named interim men's athletic director for the University of Minnesota.  Taking the helm following academic fraud charges against the men's basketball team, Moe led men's Golden Gophers athletics programs for three years.  During that time, Minnesota won four national championships, including the first of back-to-back titles for the marquee hockey program.  Moe also oversaw the 2002 merger of the men's and women's athletic programs into one unified department.  He was a consistent proponent of on-campus football, and his groundwork was instrumental in returning football to the University campus with the construction of TCF Bank Stadium.

Moe has also devoted his time to numerous athletics organizations in the state, including the University of Minnesota's Touchdown Club, which he co-founded.  He served on several athletics advisory boards under other athletic directors at the University of Minnesota, such as Rick Bay, Mark Deinhart, Paul Giel, and Joel Maturi.  Current Athletic Director Norwood Teague has included Moe on the recently-formed University Athletic Advisory Board Executive Committee, and he is also a board member of local construction firm Mortenson Company, which built TCF Bank Stadium.  Moe's family continued the tradition of involvement in Golden Gopher athletics, with two of his seven children competing for the university

2014 Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award

The Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award will be presented to the 1964 Concordia - Moorhead Cobbers football team.  This year marks fifty since the Cobbers rose to become the top team in the nation.

The '64 Cobbers fought their way on the gridiron to one of the more memorable seasons in college football history.  Concordia's season in conference play was one marked with resounding victory.  The Cobbers went undefeated in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.  Not only did they never drop a game, the squad blanked its competitors on four separate occasions in the 1964 season.  In one game, they managed a 49 point margin of victory.

Concordia's postseason exploits were remarkable as well.  At that time, the NAIA selected its post season competitors through a committee that met after every week.  The Cobbers were ranked second in the nation to end 1964 regular season play and would face Linfield in the national semifinals.  After taking Linfield to task in a 28-6 victory, the Cobbers advanced to the Championship Bowl.  The game, held in Augusta, Georgia, famously ended in a tie.  The Cobbers would later be ranked above opponents Sam Houston State (Texas) to be named the nation's top collegiate football team in 1964.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Concordia's legendary squad.  The team ended the 1964 season with a 10-0-1 record.  Coach Jake Christiansen would be named both NAIA and MIAC Coach of the Year, while Bob Braun, Paul Brynteson, and Bob Nick were named to the All-Conference team.  Said Jim Christopherson, assistant coach on the 1964 team and eventual inductee into Concordia's Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, "I am very proud to be a part of that championship team. It was a great group of guys and they played as a hard as they could in every single game and every single practice. It is truly an honor to have the team recognized for the NAIA Championship in 1964 and receiving the 2014 Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award.

2014 Sid Hartman Media Award

Michele Tafoya will be presented with the Sid Hartman Media Award.  Tafoya has become one of the most recognizable women in sports broadcast journalism during a career which had its beginnings in Minnesota.

After completing undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1988 and a master's degree at the University of Southern California in 1991, Tafoya embarked on her sports broadcasting career.  Those early years took her to Minnesota, where she worked for KFAN-AM radio on broadcasts including the Minnesota Vikings and Gopher women's basketball.  She also worked as a sports anchor and reporter at WCCO-TV and with Midwest Sports Channel on Minnesota Timberwolves broadcasts.  In 1994, Tafoya joined CBS Sports.  She began working on various college basketball broadcasts, as well as reporting and hosting CBS Sports Spectacular.  Tafoya became the first woman to call play-by-play for an NCAA tournament basketball game in 1996.  Her play-by-play work for the still-young WNBA on the Lifetime network earned her the 1997 American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Award for "Outstanding Achievement by an Individual On-Air TV Personality."  While with CBS Sports, Tafoya also covered NFL and college football games and co-hosted late-night coverage of the 1998 Olympic Games.

In early 2000, Tafoya joined ESPN and ABC Sports, primarily working as a sideline reporter on Monday Night Football.  In her time with the network, she would also become the head sideline reporter for NBA broadcasts, a substitute host on Pardon the Interruption, play-by-play and studio host on men's and women's NCAA basketball broadcasts, and a reporter for ESPN's flagship SportsCenter.  In 2009, Tafoya returned to the Twin Cities with WCCO Radio, joining as the host of the station's evening commute show.  Tafoya would spend over two and a half years on the Twin Cities airwaves interviewing guests both inside the sports community and of interest to the entire state of Minnesota.

Since joining NBC Sports in, Tafoya has covered some of the largest sporting events in recent memory.  A regular member of the Sunday Night Football team, she can be seen weekly reporting on contests from the sidelines of some of the NFL's marquee match-ups.  As part of NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XLV, Tafoya was an integral member of what became the most watched sporting event in United States history.  Tafoya's work was met with critical acclaim as she was recognized with the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality.  In 2012, she was a part of the network's coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games.  She continues to feature for NBC's Sunday Night Football, and her recent work led to a Gracie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement - On-Air Talent: Sports Program.  According to WCCO-TV Sports Director Mark Rosen, "Michele’s preparation is second to none. She always has laser focus on everything she does, but she does it with a sense of humor.  She is intense but always the consummate pro.

2014 Outstanding Cheerleader Award

Christina Gekas-Taylor, a rookie on the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader Team this past season, will be the first to receive the Outstanding Cheerleader Award.

While attending college at the University of Kansas, Gekas Taylor's love of dance led to travel to several destinations, including India and South Africa, where she was a cheerleader for cricket teams.  Her experience at Kansas helped her win a place on the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders as a rookie for the 2013 season.  Since she joined the MVC, she has been able to perform for hundreds of thousands of Vikings fans and travel with the team to represent the NFL in London this past fall.

Gekas Taylor has been a lifelong dancer, and her commitment to that community extends beyond her appearances with the Vikings.  In the past, she has coached the dance team at Park Center Senior High School.  She currently works as a counselor for social and emotional support at the same high school, and she works with students to help them plan and prepare for post-secondary opportunities

2014 Fred Zamberletti Award

Chuck Barta is the 2014 recipient of the Fred Zamberletti Award. The award, named for the legendary athletic trainer for the Minnesota Vikings, honors an outstanding Minnesotan athletic trainer who has had a strong impact in the athletic training profession.  

Chuck Barta attended the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, obtaining his degree in athletic training in 1988.  It was during his college years that he first began contributing his skills to the Minnesota football community as a student athletic trainer with the Minnesota Vikings during the team's annual training camp in Mankato, MN.  Once he graduated from UW-L, Barta joined the Minnesota Vikings organization as an assistant athletic trainer.  During the offseason, he worked with the Institute for Athletic Medicine in Eden Prairie while also volunteering with the Minnesota Junior Olympic team as an athletic trainer.  In 1989, he also temporarily filled the co-head athletic trainer role for the University of Minnesota football program.

During his time with the Vikings, Barta made numerous contributions both to the team and to the national football community.  Specifically, as a member of the NFL's cardiovascular health subcommittee, Barta's expertise led to improved health and safety standards for players league-wide.  Barta and Zamberletti received the NFL Athletic Training staff of the year award in 1996.  In total, Barta would spend 18 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.   The last 7 years with the Minnesota Vikings, he served as the team's head athletic trainer. 

In 2006, Barta joined the Fairview Sports and Orthopedic clinic in Burnsville, MN, as a triage coordinator.  He served as clinic supervisor at both the Rogers and Blaine FSOC clinics before assuming his current position of project manager consultant for Fairview's Orthopedic Service line.  Through Fairview (or IAM), Barta is the current Head Athletic Trainer for the Minnesota Lynx WNBA organization.  He is beginning his 8th season with the Minnesota Lynx, and was instrumental in bringing home two World Championships.  He is also a member of National Athletic Trainers Association and Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association (MATA) and served as vice president of the MATA from 1990-92

2014 John Gagliardi Football Legacy Award

The 2014 John Gagliardi Minnesota Football Legacy Award will be presented to George Wemeier.  Wemeier has spent decades playing and coaching football in the state of Minnesota, and the successes he has had in the process nearly speak for themselves.

George Wemeier made a name for himself in the Minnesota football community beginning with his play for Macalester College.  A member of his alma mater's hall of fame, Wemeier cleared the path for four years for two subsequent members of the hall of fame, Earl Bowman and Robert Engwer.  His work on the defensive line earned him plaudits as well, including all-conference recognition in his senior season.  

After Wemeier's playing days had come to a close, he completed two years of military service and then moved swiftly to the sidelines with Braham, where he also taught.  Wemeier's then accepted an assistant coach's role with Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, a position he maintained for nine seasons.  In 1966, Wemeier took over as head coach at Minneapolis' Washburn High School, where he brought the school to football prominence.  In his tenure as head coach, the Millers achieved a combined record of 131 wins while only suffering 33 losses and 2 ties.  In that time, the Millers won eight Minneapolis City Conference Championships, six Twin City Championships, and four Mythical State Championships.  His Millers also won the inaugural Minnesota State Football AA Championship in 1972, winning the title again in 1977.  His work at Washburn would eventually see Wemeier inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In 1984, Wemeier left Washburn to join the college coaching ranks, beginning as an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota working with quarterbacks.  His next step was at Augsburg College in 1992, taking another assistant coaching role with the football team.  Wemeier would then spend nearly a decade as an assistant coach at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.  In 2005, he joined Hamline for the season as an assistant coach as well.  Finally, in 2007, Wemeier returned to Washburn as an offensive coordinator.

Wemeier is now a member of several halls of fame, including the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, Macalester College, and Washburn High School.  His contributions at all levels of football in the state of Minnesota have more than earned him the John Gagliardi Minnesota Football Legacy award.

2014 Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year

The 2014 recipient of the Bobby Bell Impact Player of the Year Award is Ra’Shede Hageman.  One of the most feared defensive tackles in the country, Hageman has been a standout for his University of Minnesota Golden Gophers squad.  He is projected to be an early-round selection in the upcoming 2014 NFL Entry Draft.

Hageman began to catch the eye of football recruiters while at Minneapolis' Washburn High School.  Playing as a tight end, Hageman was recruited to the University of Minnesota.  Under Jerry Kill's coaching staff, Hageman began to make NFL draft scouts take notice in his junior season.  Hageman quickly became a leader on the defensive side of the ball, earning praise and recognition from many.  He was named to many pre-season watch lists ahead of the 2013 season, his final in a Gopher uniform.

Hageman did not disappoint in a memorable 2013 for Gopher football.  The versatile defensive lineman faced double-coverage on many snaps during the 2013 season.  Despite the extra attention that opponents paid to neutralizing him, Hageman still recorded 26 solo tackles along with 12 assisted tackles for an average of 2.92 tackles per game on the season.  Hageman also recorded 13 tackles for loss in his senior season.

One of Hageman's most memorable plays of his senior year came against Northwestern, arguably helping the Gophers "turn the corner" on their season.  Hageman's interception in mid-October at Northwestern helped the Gophers to victory in that game, setting the tone for three more consecutive victories on the way to an 8-4 record.  Hageman's athleticism was also on display in special teams action this season, with the big defender notching two blocked kicks or punts.

Hageman's leadership and on-field production for the Golden Gophers has earned him the 2014 Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year Award.  Shortly after the 2014 Minnesota Football Honors Awards Event, Hageman will embark on his journey in the National Football League.  Hageman has also dedicated much of his time to charitable events in his time with the Gophers, endearing himself to the Minnesota football community and establishing himself as a promising role model for the state's youth football players.

2014 Bob Stein Scholar-Athlete Award Winner

In four years of football at Bethel, J.D. Mehlhorn collected numerous accolades for his on-field production.  In 2012, he was named to the MIAC First Team, All-Conference as well as the D3Football.com All-West Region Third Team.  Leading into his senior season in 2013, he was recognized as a member of the Division III All-American First Team.  His stellar play in his last season at Bethel would earn him a spot on the MIAC Second Team, All-Conference.  In Mehlhorn's four years as a safety for Bethel, he helped lead his team to three NCAA playoff appearances, during which time the team put together a 6-3 overall record.  Tellingly, Bethel University has been ranked in the Division III Top 25 poll since October 10, 2010, due in part to Mehlhorn's contributions.  

Mehlhorn's accomplishments in the classroom match his exploits on the football field.  Mehlhorn double majored in biokinetics and physics in addition to a minor in mathematics.  His academic awards are numerous, and they include the 2010 NASA National Space Grant.  According to NASA, this award is given to "…students pursuing careers in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, or STEM…"  Mehlhorn appeared on the Bethel Dean's List from 2010 to 2013, and he was a recipient of the Bethel Presidential Scholarship between 2010 and 2014.  He was a recipient of the David A Parod Memorial Scholarship in 2013, and received the 2012 Stephen F. Nelson Memorial Scholarship as well.  He made the MIAC Academic All-Conference team for three seasons, the 2012 and 2013 Capital One Academic All-District teams, and the 2013 CoSIDA Academic All-American team.  Finally, he was named a semifinalist for the 2013 William V. Campbell award.  

The Bethel University product also devoted a great deal of time to the community.  Among other activities, he taught underprivileged children in Slovakia how to play football as a part of the GoodSports International program.  His efforts in the community have been well-documented, notably with his selection for recognition during the AllState Sugar Bowl for outstanding service while maintaining high academic standards.

2014 Courage Award Winner

Peter Westerhaus was a hard-nosed 6-3, 235-pound linebacker/tight end who as a Holy Family Catholic High School senior was selected the state’s 2010 Mr. Football Award winner while leading his school to the state Class 3A title game. Westerhaus figured to be bound for similar collegiate success when he signed a national letter of intent with the Gophers in 2011.

But his dreams of college football glory ended before he ever played a down for the Gophers. Westerhaus was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which led to a weight loss of 85 pounds.

For his strength in facing his adversity, Westerhaus has been named the Courage Award winner by The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Westerhaus and other award winners will be 2014 Minnesota Football Honors Awards Event.

Westerhaus as a senior linebacker/tight end at Holy Family had 139 tackles and 49 receptions for 789 yards and 11 TDs.  He said the values he learned on the playing field have helped him cope with his illness.

“Football taught me to battle through adversity which I have used throughout this illness because things don't always go your way, " he said. “Football is just the greatest game. I used to sleep with a football as a kid. It is such a wonderful game.’’

Westernaus said he was “very honored’’ to receive the Minnesota Chapter’s Courage Award. Westerhaus attended games and practices with the Gophers last year whenever he was able, but his struggle with the disease is ongoing.

"Currently I am showing some improvement, although as my doctor says we are at a crawl with still some rough days ahead,’’ Westerhaus said.

8 High School Scholar Athletes Selected for 2014 Awards Event

Eight high school seniors from across the state of Minnesota will receive recognition as outstanding high school Scholar-Athletes. These Scholar-Athletes, as nominated by their football coaches, were evaluated on their academic achievement, football ability and performance, leadership, attitude, and service to their community. Remarkably, the average GPA among the finalists was 3.90.   The 2014 Class includes; Andrew Blake (Pine City), Austin Swenson (Spring Lake Park), Brett Brenden (Rothsay), Bronson Bruneau (Lakeville North), Jack Dummer (Edina), Josh Sitarz (Totino-Grace), Michael Strand (Barnesville), and Tobias Knight (Minneapolis Washburn High School).

Andrew Blake, Pine City High School

Andrew Blake, a linebacker for Pine City High School, combined a stellar season on the gridiron with excellent academic performance and involvement in the community in 2013.  A two-year starter at linebacker, Blake also started on the offensive side of the ball at guard in his senior season to help his team.  A captain for the Dragons in 2013, Blake was an All-Conference honorable mention and recipient of the Derek Rootkie Award from his school.  In the classroom, Blake challenged himself by taking several Advanced Placement (AP) classes, including U.S. History and Psychology.  He performed admirably, earning a place on the Principal's List each quarter of his high school career.  Further, he attended the Nobel Conference as a junior while also participating in National Honor Society (NHS).  He was the president of his NHS chapter his senior year.  Blake has been very active in the community, lending his time to Feed My Starving Children, Habitat for Humanity, and his local homeless shelter and food shelf.  Perhaps most notably, he has been on three mission trips to help underprivileged children and hurricane victims.  Andrew's parents are Dan and Joanne.

Brett Brenden, Rothsay High School

Rothsay's Brett Brenden had an excellent year in the classroom and on the field.  A starting running back and linebacker, Brenden was named a 2012 North Tri-County All-Conference player and a 2013 All-Conference Honorable Mention.  As a captain, he also led his conference in multiple statistical categories.  His work in the classroom was even more outstanding than his impressive play on the gridiron.  Brenden was named to the 2013 Academic All-State team and was at the top of his high school class, having maintained that as a freshman.  He has also been on the A Honor Roll throughout high school and was a member of the National Honor Society.  Brenden's work in the community was also notable, having devoted a great deal of time as the vice-president of the Oscar/Trondjhem 4-H Club.  He was also a leader with Students for the Community Energy Challenge, an effort through the Otter Tail Power Company to help reduce energy consumption.  Brett’s parents are Kevin and Julie.

Bronson Bruneau, Lakeville North High School

Bronson Bruneau, a long snapper and tight end for Lakeville North High School, excelled in the classroom.  Ranked first in his class, Bruneau took a total of 10 AP classes during his high school career, earning nearly perfect grades in the process.  He has been recognized several times for his academic achievements, with awards including the Harvard Book Prize, Rotary Student of the Month, and AP Scholar with Distinction.  On the field, he was an All-Conference honorable mention in his senior season, helping his Lakeville North team to an 11-2 record his junior year and an 8-3 record.  His efforts in the community are also outstanding.  Because of his commitment to public service, Bruneau was awarded the Congressional Gold Award this past June.  He volunteered at two local hospitals for over 400 hours, at his church, blood drives, and with charities including Feed My Starving Children.  Bruneau will attend Duke University next year, majoring in mechanical engineering with preferred walk-on status with the school's football team.  Bronson's parents are Phil and Kelly

Jack Dummer, Edina High School

A corner back and strong safety for Edina High School, Jack Dummer was voted "Best Defensive Back" in his senior year by his teammates, who also voted him team captain for the 2013 season.  Dummer's play on the field earned him an All-Conference nod from the Lake Conference in his senior season as well.  Further, he was given the Bill Nyrop Award in his senior season; this distinction recognizes multisport athletes who excel in each sport and are active in the community.  His community service included many hours spent working with the 212 Leadership Cabinet, the Sober Squad, and his church.  In the classroom, Dummer proved to have a flair for engineering.  In fact, he will attend the University of St. Thomas next year having already put three engineering courses under his belt to help him reach his goal of getting a dual degree in business and engineering.  Jack's parents are Dale and Jackie.

Tobias Knight, Minneapolis Washburn High School

Tobias Knight, an outside linebacker and fullback for Minneapolis' Washburn High School, was a "true asset to [his] team," according to his head coach.  A two-year starter and an All-Conference winner for the Millers, Knight led the team in tackles his senior season.  While on the team, the Millers went 23-11.  Knight did not confine his athleticism to the football field, however, participating in wrestling, baseball, and lacrosse as well.  In the classroom, Knight excelled, participating in International Baccalaureate classes and providing tutelage to other students.  He intends to major in economics or finance and was selected to participate in the Accounting Career Awareness Program accounting summer camp in Minneapolis prior to his senior year.  Knight is also an active member of 4-H, and he enjoys showing livestock and other animals at the Minnesota State Fair each summer.  Tobias' mother is Jacie.

Josh Sitarz, Totino-Grace High School

Totino-Grace linebacker Josh Sitarz has had a distinguished high school football career.  An All-Conference honorable mention in 2012, Sitarz made the 2013 All-Conference team while also being named by his teammates as the season's MVP.  A co-captain in 2013, Sitarz also competed for the Totino-Grace basketball team while participating in several other extracurricular programs.  Sitarz is also an ambitious student.  He intends to major in pre-med at St. John's University this coming fall.  While at Totino-Grace, Sitarz excelled in the classroom, frequently appearing on the A Honor Roll and participating in National Honor Society.  His coaches and advisors note that he is "put simply, a 'difference maker'" in his community.  A volunteer in Totino-Grace's campus ministry program, Sitarz frequently gives his time and advice to others in his school community.  Beyond Totino-Grace, he has devoted time to volunteering at Feed My Starving Children and a nursing home in addition to teaching children with disabilities to play basketball.  Josh's parents are Rick and Robyn.

Michael Strand, Barnesville High School

Michael Strand, a multiposition player for Barnesville High School, has had stellar results on the football field and in the classroom.  A Minnesota Mr. Football finalist and member of the Vikings All-State team, he has been voted to the All-Section team twice and the All-Conference team three times  He was also voted Most Valuable Offensive Player and team MVP in 2012 and 2013.  Playing running back, defensive back, and punt returner, it is clear that Strand embodied the team player mentality.  Strand also shone brightly academically, and he will graduate as the valedictorian of his class this spring.  He participated in several academic extracurricular activities, including a state champion Economics Challenge team as well as Knowledge Bowl.  He will attend Minnesota State University Moorhead, studying business administration and marketing this coming fall.  Additionally, Strand has devoted significant time to his community, volunteering in a wide range of capacities, including cleaning ditches, delivering valentines to the elderly, working at a homeless shelter, and collecting food for the local food shelf.  Michael's parents are Bryan and Meg.

Austin Swenson, Spring Lake Park High School

Spring Lake Park quarterback Austin Swenson proved to be a leader both on and off the field.  The senior captain amassed several football honors in his high school career, including being named to the All-Conference team twice.  His work in the classroom also earned him a place on the Academic All-Conference and Academic All-State teams.  A true standout in the classroom, Swenson was named an AP Scholar with Distinction in 2013, capping off several years spent on the Knowledge Bowl team, three years of academic letters, and recognition as a member of the Minnesota American Legion Boys State House of Representatives.  Swenson has also served his community admirably as an Eagle Scout, volunteer at Feed My Starving Children, table washer for the American Legion, and numerous other roles.  In particular, duties as an Eagle Scout included the role of senior patrol leader and scout in charge for several Scout trips.  Swenson is an active member of his church and has volunteered at its vacation bible school often.  Austin's parents are Anthony and Diane.

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