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Maxwell Awards: Dabo Swinney, Derrick Henry & Temple University steal the spotlight as Cam Newton is a no show

Tony Siragusa received an award for excellence in broadcasting.  (Photo Credit: Bill McCay)

Tony Siragusa received an award for excellence in broadcasting. (Photo Credit: Bill McCay)


The Oscars of Football, the 79th Maxwell Football Club Awards were held this past weekend at the lively Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. Players and coaches from all levels filtered into the 2,000 seat Broadway-style theater as they traded their pads and whistles for tuxedos and trophies.  Faces ranged from the fresh, young men who just committed to their college of choice to current and former players and coaches.  Even Mr. Invincible himself, Vince Papale, was on hand for a weekend that was truly a celebration of football.

The “First Fraternity of Football” kicked the night off with a cocktail hour (or three, but who’s counting), which included a silent auction chock-full of sports memorabilia, an open bar, and a live broadcast of Philadelphia’s 97.5 the Fanatic. Ron Jaworski, President of the Maxwell Club since 2012, was a gracious host, as the night would be best described as a football family reunion. Many flashes were to be seen as pictures were taken, hugs and handshakes given all around, and of course babbles of the playful banter that keeps the game alive.

To kick off the awards show Timmy Kelly, a young blind man, sang a beautiful rendition of our nation’s National Anthem as the evening’s MC Bonnie Bernstein followed along, glistening in a flawless sequin dress. Right there and then the audience knew they were in for a one of a kind night.

Temple University’s Head Coach Matt Rhule had the privilege of presenting the Chuck Bednarik Award to the Collegiate Defensive Player of the Year, one of his own, standout Linebacker Tyler Matakevich.

“Coach Rhule was the only one who believed in me.” Matakevich said. “I only had one scholarship coming out of high school.”

“It was a tremendous honor to present Tyler with the Bednarik award.” Rhule said.  “He is everything the award should be – he is tough, dedicated and a great player and I loved coaching him.”

Rhule also received an award, Tri- State Coach of the Year. Rhule, who is originally a NYC guy, he then moved to Pennsylvania; attended Penn State, played under Coach Paterno, and now, a “Philadelphian.”

“It was a tremendous honor for me to win the Tri- State coach of the year and to be mentioned in the same breath with all of the great coaches who have won the award before me.  I had a great team and a great coaching staff and that award represents all of them!” Rhule said.



(Photo Credit: Bill McCay)


The Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award was presented to USC Long Snapper, Jake Olson. Olson, who is blind, took the stage with his service dog along with his twin sister Emily.

Scott Shirley, Executive Director at Uplifting Athletes, presented the award to Olson.  “The Rare Disease Champion campaign is overwhelmed with inspiring stories about the power of sport, but presenting this award to Jake has literally changed my outlook on life. We are excited to empower him and his teammates to make an impact in the rare disease community.” Shirley Said.

Brandon McIllwain of Council Rock North High School in Pennsylvania, winner of the Jim Henry Scholar Athlete Award, was honored to have been chosen for such a prestigious award.  After attending the Maxwell Awards last year as a guest, McIlwain was motivated to win one of his own, which is exactly what he did.  As an award winner, his next goal is to become a repeat winner at the next level, just as Derrick Henry did this year.

“That’s a goal for me, any time you’re the player of the year that means you had a great season and that’s what I’m excited for.” McIlwain said.

Following a remarkable regular season going 15-1 and leading the Carolina Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance in twelve years, Head Coach Ron Rivera was present to accept the Greasy Neale Award for Professional Coach of the Year.  Rivera, the son of a 32-year US Army Veteran, notably and rightfully started standing ovations for the representatives of all three military service academies who were on hand to receive the Tom Brookshier Spirit Award.  Rivera’s support for our nation’s Armed Forces is substantial, and he consistently goes above and beyond to assist both veterans and active service members.

The Maxwell Award for Collegiate Player of the Year went to none other than Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry.  The University of Alabama Running Back thanked God and his family, along with his coaches and teammates for the opportunity and for all of the support that has been given to him. “I’m glad to be back, and plan to be back again.” Henry said after accepting the Maxwell Award.

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney, winner of the George Munger Award for College Coach of the Year closed out the show with a powerful speech used to remind us why we are all here. “Football brings everyone together; it is the ultimate team sport.”

He shared a personal experience where Swinney was alongside an injured player who was sent to the Emergency Room.   Upon arriving, Swinney saw a man who writhing with chest pain walking into the hospital.  Out of the corner of his eye, slumped over and grabbing his chest, the man caught a glimpse of Coach Swinney.  He immediately stopped his groaning and exclaimed “Coach Swinney!?  Hell of a season, man!  Hell of a season!” and proceeded to high-five the coach.   This garnered some laughs from the crowd, but Coach Swinney assured he offered the man help.

“It is a reflection of all of those who have come together.” Swinney said. “I am truly honored to be a part of a night of champions.”

As the night came to an end, Cam Newton’s trophy stood alone, as the winner of the Bert Bell Award for Professional Player of the Year, did not show.

Honored Guests:

Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers – Bert Bell Award – Professional Player of the Year

Ron Rivera – Carolina Panthers – Greasy Neale Award – Professional Coach of the Year

Derrick Henry – University of Alabama –  79th Maxwell Award – College Player of the Year

Tyler Matakevich  – Temple, Chuck Bednarik Award – College Defensive Player of the Year

Service Academy Football Teams –Tom Brookshier Spirit Award

Dabo Swinney – Clemson – George Munger Award – College Coach of the Year

Matt Rhule – Temple University – Tri-State Coach of the Year Presented by Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Joe Callahan – Wesley College- Brian Westbrook Tri-State Player of the Year Award Presented by Philadelphia Insurance Companies.

Tony Siragusa – Excellence in Broadcasting Award Presented by Tropicana Casino Resort

Jacob Eason – Lake Stevens HS – MFC National HS Player of the Year

Brandon McIlwain- Council Rock North HS – Jim Henry Scholar Athlete Award

Dana Marquez – Auburn University – Vicis Innovation in Safety Award

Jake Olson- University of Southern California- Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award

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