In a society where news and social media outlets seem to revel in spotlighting whenever our youth makes a mistake, there is one organization whose sole purpose is to highlight the achievements of the young members of our community. Every year, the
Morris County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame makes it their mission to honor a young man from every high school in Morris County and one person from Farleigh Dickenson University who played football, worked hard in the class room and performed civic duties in their community.
Since 1995, chapter president Matt Sellitto has rallied a group of 30 or so board members who share his passion about bringing honor to our community’s youth. “The papers are so quick to put a kid’s name in the paper for doing something wrong. Our society needs to talk about the good things our young men and women are doing. That is what our organization is all about. We want to highlight these young people when they do something good, not when they make a mistake.”
So Sellitto and the rest of his close knit board members fly under the radar every year, quietly raising funds for a special night every April to formally celebrate their honorees. The money raised pays for a scholarships, keepsakes and an all expensed paid black tie affair especially dedicated to these special young men.
This year’s event took place last Thursday at the Madison Hotel. Morris Sussex Football’s own Laura Byrne covered the celebration to share how the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame is going out of their way for the special young people in our community and communities like ours across the country.
2013 Scholar-Athlete Awards: Morris County’s Best and Brightest
by L.A. Byrne
The 2013 National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Award recipients sat in two long rows of tables, wearing identical black tuxedos, suited up for the final time as high school football players. I had an opportunity to talk to several individuals including Kyle Adams, a player for Roxbury, who will attend Harvard; Robert Thoma, from Delbarton, who is Amherst bound; Samuel Kaplan, Randolph, on his way to UPenn—and found their astounding accomplishments echoed in their stance, straight shoulders, and crisp responses. These are young men accustomed to listing their successes, yet not one spoke with conceit. The fact of their athleticism had long ago been established. Tonight’s banquet seat was earned after lessons learned on the gridiron were also applied to endless tests of both character and intellect.
Bob Mulcahy, former Rutgers athletic director, Bill Spoor, Penn State football player-turned-entrepreneur-extraordinaire, and Atlantic Health System representatives were among those who spoke in celebration of the counties’ best and brightest football players, identified through evaluation of three criterion: athletic talent, academic success, and community service.
With the introduction of each award recipient, the audience was dazzled by staggering statistics of yards rushing, passes completed, and post-season accolades, along with equally stunning GPA’s that hung around 4.0’s, as well as examples of community outreach, locally and nationally, in disaster relief and community-enrichment projects. Clearly, these young men understand that while scoring in the red zone is vital, playing four quarters is just as important. Their unrelenting intensity not only made their team better, when applied off the field it makes the world better.
It’s easy to think of the gifts these young men have received: tonight, a certificate from their congressman and a plaque from the National Football Foundation; and throughout their lives, a sound body and mind. But these are not young men who have taken these attributes for granted—this sport does not allow this. Injuries are too common. Greater talent always exists. The shadow of adversity and setback constantly threatens. Finding success amid the haze defines these players.
Tonight, there were no shoulder pads and helmets, no cheering crowds, or thunderous marching band. Tonight, there were just poised young men with level gazes who humbly thanked parents and coaches. And tonight was our chance to thank our award recipients for giving us hope that our future is in capable hands—those that make the big plays that our complicated and imperfect world requires.
The 2013 National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete Recipients
Boonton – Theodore Stammer
Butler – Brian Ensley
Chatham – Vincent Ziccolella
Delbarton – Robert Thoma
Dover – Jacob Pyrzynski
Farleigh Dickenson University – Charles Thomas
Hanover Park – William Julich
Jefferson Township – Daniel Brown
Kinnelon – Joseph Presti
Madison – Devin Koep
Montville – Parker Meytrott
Morris Catholic – Joseph Vidal
Morris Hills – Robert Sihlanick
Morris Knolls – Nickolas Patterson
Morristown – Ernest Stiner
Morristown Beard – Timothy Worts
Mt. Olive – Justin Mancini
Mountain Lakes – Scott Flynn
Parsippany Hills – Tyler Simms
Pequannock – Luke Foukas
Randolph – Samuel Kaplan
Roxbury – Kyle Adams
West Morris Central – Robert Hughes
West Morris Mendham – Matthew Kuhn
Whippany Park – Daniel Linfante
IN THE ATHLETE’S WORDS…
This award is given to celebrate your success and hard work, but it’s also given to inspire the younger football players in your community.
If you had one piece of advice for younger athletes what would you tell them?
“To set goals as a freshman, make good choices, and don’t cut corners.”
Brian Ensley, Butler
“To do the best you can at whatever you’re doing.”
Daniel Brown, Jefferson Township
“To work hard, and focus on schoolwork.”
Kyle Adams, Roxbury
“To enjoy high school because the experience goes by quickly, and make sure academics are a priority starting freshman year.”
Robert Thoma, Delbarton
“Make no excuses.”
Samuel Kaplan, Randolph
“To surround yourself with good people, and set goals.”
Matt Kuhn, Mendham
CONGRATULATIONS to the 2013 Scholar-Athlete award recipients for the Morris County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame!