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2013 Event

2013 Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award

The Minnesota Chapter will present the 2013 Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award to T. Denny Sanford for his contributions to Minnesota football and enormous commitment to supporting the community.  One of the most well-known figures in the upper-Midwest and national business community, Sanford’s commitment to football in the region is immense.  

A native of St. Paul, Sanford graduated from St. Paul Central High School and went on to the University of Minnesota.  Upon his graduation in 1958 with a degree in psychology, Sanford began establishing himself as a well-respected member of the Minnesota and national business communities as well as a staunch supporter of youth football.

It was Sanford who started the “Back to Campus” football initiative at the University of Minnesota. In order to fund the campus stadium, Denny originally pledged $35 million for its construction and ultimately donated $6 million for the construction of the T Denny Sanford Athletic Hall of Fame bearing his name.

Through various charitable donations, Sanford has selflessly donated more than $850 million to philanthropic endeavors.  Sanford’s donations are too numerous to list, but notable donations include a $550 million gift to Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health System, in Sioux Falls, SD,  in 2007, which is now named Sanford Health.  Through Sanford Health, Sanford has worked tirelessly to continue to promote health and wellness in the upper-Midwest and the nation.  He has fostered a partnership with the Mayo Clinic, with their pediatric clinic in Rochester bearing his name.  His most recent major endeavor has been establishing the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation.

Sanford's dedication to athletic medicine is also well known.  Sanford Health has been recognized as a pioneer in sports medicine.  The company has worked with WebMD to sponsor the Fit for Kids program, designed to help prevent Type II diabetes through diet and exercise programs.

Sanford has been recognized by numerous organizations for his charity and his efforts in the sports community.  BusinessWeek listed him in 2008 as one of the top 50 philanthropists in the United States, while he was also awarded the Maud Booth Award from the Volunteers of America in 2011.  2012 saw Sanford recognized with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  Finally, the University of Minnesota recognized Sanford with their 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award for his contributions to the school's athletic programs and philanthropic work.

In short, T. Denny Sanford is perhaps one of the most selfless individuals the state of Minnesota and the region has ever seen, and the football community is enormously thankful to him for his continued support of its efforts.  The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation is proud to recognize his efforts with the Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award.

2013 Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award

The Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award will be presented to the 1963 St. John’s University Football team.  This year marks fifty since John Gagliardi, one of Minnesota's most legendary football figures, guided his St. John's University Johnnies to the school's first national championship.  The Johnnies finished the 1963 season with a 10-0 record (7-0 in the MIAC) and defeated Prairie View A&M (Texas) 33-27 in the NAIA championship game, which was played Dec. 14 in Sacramento, Calif. It was the first national championship for a Gagliardi-coached team.
Although 11 players from the 1963 Prairie View team went on to either sign free-agent contracts or be drafted to play professional football in some form or another (including legendary wide receiver Otis Taylor), the Johnnies lacked athletic scholarships and were largely a home-grown lot. Of the Johnnies’ top 34 players in 1963, 12 were from within a 14-mile radius of Collegeville and no fewer than 26 hailed from distances of 80 miles or less.
But it was a highly-skilled team. In eight regular-season games in 1963, Saint John’s outscored its opponents 298-45 and allowed only 12.8 yards rushing per game in an era of college football that was still primarily run-oriented.  Offensively, SJU averaged 396.1 yards per game with an average of 37.3 points per contest.
Following the 1963 regular season, 12 Johnnies were named All-MIAC, including the entire offensive backfield consisting of quarterback Craig Muyres ’64 and halfbacks Bernie Beckman ’64, Bob Spinner ’64 and Rich Froehle ’65.
The halfback tandem of seniors Spinner and Beckman, both two-time All-MIAC selections, combined for 20 touchdowns and 48 percent of the Johnnie scoring in 1963. Spinner led the Johnnies in both rushing yardage (78 carries for 619 yards and seven touchdowns), yards per carry (7.9) and receiving yardage (11 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns) for his second consecutive MIAC scoring title. Beckman followed with 96 carries for 558 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns to earn MIAC Most Valuable Player honors. Muyres ended the 1963 regular season with 473 yards passing and four touchdowns on the season, connecting with receiver Ken Roering ’64 on 12 occasions for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Tablet named the small Catholic college All-America teams just two days before the title game. Roering, Beckman, tackles Dave Honer ’64 and John McDowell ’64 were named first team, while Spinner and Paul Labinski ’65 were named second team. Gagliardi received Coach of the Year honors for the second consecutive season, though he shared the honor in 1963 with John Ray of John Carroll (Ohio).

2013 Sid Hartman Minnesota Media Award

Randy Shaver will be presented with the Sid Hartman Minnesota Media Award.  Shaver is one of the most well-known media personalities in Minnesota, and his efforts to promote prep sports in the state of Minnesota have made him one of the most revered figures in the sports community.

Shaver started his career with KARE 11 in 1983, coming aboard as a sports reporter.  One of his first efforts was to create the Prep Sports Extra.  The show was one of the first of its kind, dedicated to showcasing young athletic talent across the state of Minnesota.  As the show progressed, Shaver was eventually promoted to run the sports department.  The show’s 29th season began in the fall of 2012, and the show has displayed no signs of slowing down.  Shaver was recognized with a regional and national Edward R. Murrow award for sports reporting in 2006.  Shaver’s rise has continued, and he now can be seen weeknights at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. as the co-anchor of KARE 11’s evening news programs.

As one would expect, Shaver is still quite active in the Minnesota football community.  Besides the Prep Sports Extra, Shaver is the freshman head football coach for Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School.  His efforts at Benilde were recognized in 2004 upon his induction into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  He is also a member of the Cedar Rapids Jefferson Hall of Fame for his own high school football exploits.

Randy Shaver has also shown enormous devotion to the Minnesota community.  Having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in 1998, Shaver has beat the disease and is now cancer-free.  He founded the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund in 2003 to provide support for research, prevention, and treatment of those suffering from cancer across the state of Minnesota.  He hosts the annual Randy Shaver Celebrity Golf Classic, which raises funds for his charity.  Since its inception in 1995, the charity has raise nearly $4 million to benefit those suffering from cancer in Minnesota.

In 2012, Shaver partnered with the Minnesota Football Coaches Association to launch Tackle Cancer, a new initiative to help raise more funds for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.  The program asked high school football teams throughout Minnesota to host “Tackle Cancer” nights, during which youth football teams would take donations to support the charitable organization.  His continued efforts in the community and his dedication to providing a media platform for top prep athletes has endeared Shaver to the community and has more than earned him the Sid Hartman Minnesota Media Award.

2013 Fred Zamberletti Award

Scott Westermann is the 2013 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 strong impact in the athletic training profession.  Westermann has had a long career working in the Minnesota athletic community, beginning in 1988.  At various points in his career, he has provided athletic training services to several Twin Cities-area high schools, Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, and the National Football League as a concussion spotter during Minnesota Vikings games.

Westermann is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in physical education.  An active member of the Minnesota Athletic Trainers' Association, he has served as the Honors and Awards Chairperson since 2005.  Westermann is currently a certified athletic trainer with Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis.

2013 John Gagliardi Minnesota Football Legacy Award

The 2013 John Gagliardi Minnesota Football Legacy Award will be presented to Ron Stolski.  Stolski’s legendary football coaching career in the state of Minnesota began more than six decades ago.  It was in 1952 that he first agreed to coach a football team – his brother’s team of ten-year-olds in a Minneapolis park league.

Stolski never looked back.  His coaching career in Minnesota high schools began in Kensington in 1962.  He moved on to coach Slayton in 1964 before coaching Princeton from 1965-70.  1971 saw Stolski take the reins at Park Center, where he coached through 1974.  Stolski’s final coaching move was in 1974, when he joined the Brainerd High School coaching staff.  Since that time, he has amassed the most wins among any active 5A coach in Minnesota.  He has led his Brainerd squads to numerous conference and section championships.

Stolski’s commitment to fostering youth leaders in the state of Minnesota went far beyond coaching football players, though.  For 25 years, Stolski was responsible for all of the high school’s programs.  However, his dedication to football remained second to none.  He has served the Minnesota Football Coaches Association in numerous roles, including as a member of the hall of fame committee, president, and executive director.

When individuals refer to Stolski as a coach who “wrote the book,” they are actually correct.  Stolski participated on committees that helped write high school football playoff format in the state.  He has held positions on numerous other influential athletic bodies in the state of Minnesota, including president of the Minnesota State Athletic Directors Association, chairman of the Minnesota State High School League’s Region 8AA Committee, and many more.

Stolski has been recognized often for his efforts, as well.  He was named the Minnesota High School Athletic Director of the Year in 1996 and the Nike Minnesota Athletic Director of the Year in 1997.  In 2006, he was given the “Power of Influence Award” from the American Football Coaches Association.  The Minnesota Vikings Coach of the Year award was bestowed upon him in 2009, and the Minnesota Football Coaches Association named him Coach of the Year in 2011.  In 2012, he was given the Macalester College Distinguished Alumni Award and the Brainerd Elk’s Lodge Man of the Year Award.

Stolski has also earned his way into several halls of fame.  The Minnesota State Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, Macalester College Hall of Fame, Park Center High School Hall of Fame, Patrick Henry High School Hall of Fame, Brainerd High School Hall of Fame, and Minnesota Football Coaches Hall of Fame have all welcomed Stolski to their ranks.

When he’s not doing something centered around the gridiron, Stolski’s family keeps him quite busy.  He has been married to his wife Sharron for 52 years.  Together, they have four children, seventeen grandchildren, and give great-grandchildren.  Stolski’s dedication to providing guidance to future leaders through football in the State of Minnesota is second to none, making him a more than worthy recipient of the 2013 John Gagliardi Minnesota Football Legacy award.

2013 Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year

The 2013 recipient of the Bobby Bell Impact Player of the Year Award is Rayon Simmons Jr..  A true impact player for his team, superlatives scarcely do justice to Simmons Jr.'s career with the Winona State Warriors.  

Since joining the squad in 2009, the running back has set both the Winona State and NSIC all-time and single-season rushing records.  In 2012 alone, Simmons Jr. amassed 1,586 rushing yards, averaging more than five yards per carry.  He found the end zone 20 times in his senior season, 18 of those coming on the rush and two through the air.  Winona State's quarterback actually found Simmons Jr. 29 times through the air in 2012 for a total of 292 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per reception.  The running back's best single game of 2012 came against Augustana, a contest in which he gained 187 yards on the ground and 55 through the air.

Simmons Jr. has been recognized multiple times for his standout play for his school, beginning with an honorable mention to the All-NSIC team in 2009.  In 2010, he was announced as a member of the All-NSIC first team.  In 2011, he was named to the All-NSIC first team again, in addition to scooping up an All-Region nomination.  He was also recognized several times as a pre-season All-American.

2013 Bob Stein Scholar-Athlete Award Winner

The 2013 Bob Stein College Scholar Athlete Award will be presented to John Rabe.  Rabe, a native of Iowa Falls, Iowa, came to the Twin Cities as a recruited tight end for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.  A business and marketing education major with a management minor at the Carlson School of Management, Rabe was able to excel despite the challenges of a Division I football schedule and a rigorous business program.  Testament to his efforts in the classroom, Rabe was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team in 2012 as well as the Capital One Academic All-District Football Team for District 6.

Unquestionably one of the leaders on the 2012 Golden Gopher Football team, Rabe was named a team captain in 2012.  He donned maroon and gold for the Gophers 25 times in his career, starting 13 of those games.  While lining up as a tight end, Rabe tallied 18 catches for 179 yards and six touchdowns in Divisoin I football.  Perhaps Rabe’s most stellar performance came in 2012 against the University of Nevada Las Vegas, in which Rabe’s two overtime touchdowns helped lead the Gophers to a season-opening victory.

Rabe’s efforts in the community were also plentiful.  He has volunteered with several youth organizations, including the Fifth Annual Youth Day Out event at Jenny Lind Elementary School, the Hope Kids football clinic held at the University of Minnesota, and with Kids Against Hunger.  Rabe was also active with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to curing childhood cancers.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill had high praise for the graduating senior captain: “John Was a great role model to his former teammates and the young tight ends coming in at the beginning of the season. The work ethic John possessed Was one of the best I have seen.”

2013 Courage Award Winner

Connor Cosgrove of the University of Minnesota will be awarded the 2013 Courage Award.  Cosgrove was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 that, although it ended his football career prematurely, put him on the path to become an inspiration to his teammates and the entire Minnesota football community.

This past season, Connor decided to turn his battle into a source of strength for others affected by the disease.  The former wide receiver inspired more than 80 Gopher athletes and staff members to shave their heads at an event to promote cancer awareness.  Athletes included more than 60 of Cosgrove's football teammates and women’s volleyball standout Mia Tabberson.  Cosgrove lopped off his own locks as well, hair that he regrew after chemotherapy that helped put his leukemia into early remission after only 29 days of treatment in 2010.

Cosgrove's actions to raise awareness are certainly far and above the call of duty, but his attitude since his diagnosis is even more impressive.  When interviewed by the Pioneer Press, Cosgrove spoke about his will to take the diagnosis and treatment head-on and to keep focusing on January 13, 2014 - the date of his final scheduled chemotherapy session.  According to Cosgrove, "The biggest goal is to get through that day and to come out of this a survivor. That's been the only option since Day One. I won't stop until that happens."

8 High School Scholar Athletes Selected for 2013 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 2013 honorees are:  Justus Canfield (Irondale High School), John DeMarais (Winona Cotter High School), Shane Fenske (Blackduck High School), Rob LaRose (Holy Family Catholic High School), Daniel Polansky (Goodridge-Grygla High School), Kyle Schoeneck (Maple River High School), Zackary Sundly (North Branch High School), and Michael Witschen (Monticello High School).

Justus Canfield, Irondale High School

Justus Canfield, quarterback for Irondale High School, persevered through extensive adversity on his way to classroom excellence and All-Conference honors on the field.  Canfield gave his time extensively, helping with charities like Feed My Starving Children and volunteering with Children’s Hospitals in Pediatric Oncology for five years, all while also working full-time as a personal care attendant.  Canfield was also responsible for his team’s participation in a program called “Tackle Cancer,” in which his team raised funds for cancer research.  Canfield himself not only donated, but also volunteered his time to the organization’s summer events.  On the field, Canfield threw for nearly 700 yards, with seven touchdowns.  He also rushed for another 515 yards, accumulating 11 touchdowns on the ground.  Voted two years in a row as team MVP, he was named senior captain and led his team and was recognized by several Minnesota media outlets, including KARE 11 and the Star Tribune.  According to KARE 11 anchor Randy Shaver, “I cannot think of a more deserving young man than Justus Canfield.” 

John DeMarais, Winona Cotter High School

Winona Cotter High School’s John DeMarais is a scholar athlete who truly distinguished himself.  As his team’s starting quarterback, he threw for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in the last two seasons combined.  Named to 2011 and 2012 All-Conference teams, he also was recognized as an All-State honorable mention.  In the community, DeMarais volunteered as a piano accompanist with St. Mary’s Parish Youth Choir, also participating in a cross cultural ministry project summer mission trip to Michigan.  Even further, he also donates his time at Saint Anne’s Extended Care Facility.  According to his coach, “He is extremely focused and does a great job as a leader with our younger students and athletes. He is always able to share with them the right way to do things and to help them learn for themselves the lessons he has already mastered.”

Shane Fenske, Blackduck High School

First in his class at Blackduck High School, Shane Fenske performed just as well in the classroom as he did on the field.  Earning academic letters and a consistent place on the “A” Honor Roll, Fenske participated in programs like Knowledge Bowl and the National Honors Society.  He also lent his time to volunteering at community festivals, helped fundraise by selling donuts at school, cleaning ditches, and working with a blood drive.  His teachers consistently praise Fenske, saying, “He consistently sets the standard by which other high-achieving students measure themselves. His innate ability and work ethic combine to make him a truly outstanding student.”  On the gridiron, Fenske earned several honors.  A defensive end and offensive tackle, he was selected to his All-Conference team and named Defensive Lineman of the Year for the Northstar Conference-Eastern Division. 

Rob LaRose, Holy Family Catholic High School

Rob LaRose served with distinction in multiple positions on his Holy Family Catholic High School team and has truly made a difference in his community.  Playing as a running back, receive, quarterback, cornerback, and kick returner, the senior captain led his team to a section championship a runner-up for the state 4A title.  LaRose earned All-Section recognition and was an honorable mention for All-Conference.  LaRose has dedicated himself to his studies with as much gusto as he displayed on the football field.  He will graduate from high school as an AP Scholar with Honors and is currently enrolled in five AP classes.  His work in the classroom has earned him a place on the Academic Honor Roll every semester throughout high school.  LaRose also gave an enormous amount of time to help his community, volunteering with the Simpson House Homeless Shelter, Mary’s Wish, and volunteering to help fundraise at his hometown middle school.  Perhaps most impressive of all, LaRose taught English on a mission trip to Ethiopia twice. 

Daniel Polansky, Goodridge-Grygla High School

Daniel Polansky is yet another standout both on the field and in the classroom.  Polansky has the distinction of being the top of his Goodridge-Grygla High School class this year.  He participated in many other school activities, including Knowledge Bowl, Envirothon, the student council, and volunteering his time to help tutor other students.  Polansky also distinguished himself for his efforts on the field.  Although normally a running back, Polansky stepped in to play quarter back several times in his high school career.  In that time, Polansky thundered down the field for more than 2,000 yards total in his junior and senior years.  He didn’t stop there, however, taking shifts at middle linebacker and leading his team in tackles, too.  His exploits led to several nominations to All-Conference and All-State teams. 

Kyle Schoneck, Maple River High School

Maple River High School’s Kyle Schoneck has had quite the high school career.  A two-year offensive lineman and linebacker, Schoneck has been recognized as an All-Conference player in football as well as golf.  Schoneck is very active in his community, participating in Relay for Life, Hope for Homeless, and Pennies for Patients while also volunteering with his local food shelf.  He has also volunteered as a Salvation Army bell ringer, even helping with kitchen and grounds keeping work at his church.  A member of the National Honors Society, Schoneck is an A Honor Roll student who also earned Academic All-Conference and All-State honors.  According to his coaches, “Kyle Schoneck has earned a reputation as a hard-working, trustworthy individual who strives to excel at whatever he does. He responds with courage when challenged to produce his best.” 

Zackary Sundly, North Branch High School

North Branch quarterback Zackary Sundly combined stellar play on the field with excellent marks in the classroom to be named a scholar athlete.  In the classroom, Sundly excelled, also earning All-Conference Academic recognition.  He was also very active in the community, volunteering to play for his church band and at school-sponsored youth nights.  He also devoted time to coaching at youth football and wrestling programs.  On the field, Sundly also made a name for himself, earning All-Section and All-Conference honors while being named captain in his senior season. 

Michael Witschen, Monticello High School

Monticello High School's Michael Witschen has demonstrated dedication both on the field and off.  On the field, Witschen displayed enormous versatility, all in the pursuit of helping his teammates.  Playing wide receiver, tight end, inside linebacker, and outside linebacker, he was voted the top linebacker in the Mississippi 8 conference.  Witschen was a true standout, amassing the most tackles on his team during the season, placing him at 10th all time in his school’s history.  Off the field, Michael was nothing short of stellar.  Witschen found himself on the “A” Honor Roll every quarter of his high school career.  His extracurricular activities are extensive, including participating on math, FIRST Robotics, and Destination Imagination teams among many others.  Extremely active in the community, Witschen lent his time to pursuits ranging from Adopt-A-Highway efforts to serving as a Riverfest Community Volunteer.  His coach marveled that, “Michael truly does fit into that mold of not asking what can be done for him, but instead asking what he can do to help.” 

Picture Links for 2013 Awards Event Pictures

2013 Award Winners

Award Winner Affiliation Name of the Award
T. Denny Sanford Sanford Health 2013 Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award
1963 St. John’s University Football Team St. John's University 2013 Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award
Randy Shaver KARE 11 2013 Sid Hartman Minnesota Media Award
Rayon Simmons Jr. Winona State University 2013 Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year Award
Ron Stolski Brainerd High School 2013 John Gagliardi Minnesota Football Legacy Award
Connor Cosgrove University of Minnesota 2013 Courage Award Winner
Scott Westermann Fairview Health Services 2013 Fred Zamberletti Award
John Rabe University of Minnesota 2013 Bob Stein Scholar-Athlete Award
Justus Canfield Irondale High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
John DeMarais Winona Cotter High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
Shane Fenske Blackduck High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
Rob LaRose Holy Family Catholic High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
Daniel Polansky Goodridge-Grygla High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
Kyle Schoneck Maple River High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
Zackary Sundly North Branch High School 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner
Michael Witschen Monticello High school 2013 Scholar-Athlete Award Winner

Picture Links for 2013 Awards Event

Minneapolis, January 10, 2013 - The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation announced today that the Minnesota Vikings will be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2013 "Honoring Legends-Inspiring Leaders" Awards Event. This prestigious event honors outstanding individuals in Minnesota football, including legendary figures and the state's top scholar athletes.

“The Vikings are honored to partner with The National Football Foundation on their awards dinner,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “We look forward to the event that honors the best in football at all levels in Minnesota and recognizes leadership off the field.”

"We are thrilled to partner with the Minnesota Vikings as our 2013 presenting sponsor" said Sean Gothier, President of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation.  "This natural alliance will build upon the strong momentum of the Minnesota Chapter and the deep roots of the Minnesota Vikings."

This year will mark the sixth annual Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation's awards event.  In previous years, the annual awards dinner has attracted some of the biggest names in Minnesota football and is considered one of the premier football events in the state.   The event will be held at the University of St. Thomas on Sunday, April 28th.

About the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation:

Established and chartered in 2007, the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation has been recognized as one of the fastest growing chapters in the nation.  The mission of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation is to serve Minnesota and the nation by developing leadership, sportsmanship, competitive spirit, and academic excellence in America’s youth through promoting amateur football.