April 29, 2012
New York, N.Y. -
Ann Mara, wife of late New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, FCRH `37 and recipient of an honorary degree from Fordham University, and the Dan Somma, GSB '66, a former football Ram and one of the founders of the Gridiron Club, were honored with the Walsh Award and the Mara Family Award, respectively, at the annual Fordham Gridiron Club Dinner held at the Jumeirah Essex House on April 27th.
The 2012 dinner took on a NFL feel with Mara being joined by former Rams John Skelton, currently playing with the Arizona Cardinals, and Isa Abdul Quddus, a member of the New Orleans Saints. Also, the New York Giants 2012 Lombardi Trophy was on display.
The Mara Family and Walsh Awards honor members of the Fordham football family for their dedication and contributions to the program. The Mara Family Award is named in honor of the family of the late Wellington Mara, a 1937 graduate of Fordham, while the Walsh Award in named in honor of William D. Walsh, Fordham College class of 1951 and namesake of the Walsh Athletic Training Center as well as the Walsh Family Library on the Rose Hill campus.
Mara, the first lady of Fordham football, was presented the award by Frank McLaughlin, FCRH `69 Executive Director of Athletics, who recalled what a big role her late husband played in McLaughlin coming to Fordham when he was choosing a college. McLaughlin, a four-year letterman with et Fordham basketball program, also related how much of a fan of Fordham Wellington Mara was.
"The Maras have a great love for Fordham," said McLaughlin. "Mr. Mara loved Fordham so much he always had a Fordham Ram on his desk at his office. I used to laugh when he'd come to games and I'd see him waiting on line to buy tickets. He wanted to show his support and wanted no special treatment."
Mrs. Mara reinforced McLaughlin notion of Mr. Mara's love of Fordham.
"Fordham football means so much to the Mara family," said Mrs. Mara. "During our courtship, Wellington dragged me to Fordham football and basketball games. That was his idea of a good time."
She closed her acceptance speech with a remark about a certain NFL broadcaster who she had a run-in with during the 2012 Super Bowl.
"It's wonderful to receive this award," said Mrs. Mara. "The only sad thing is that Terry Bradshaw isn't here to present it to me."
Somma, a member of the Fordham Club Football program in the 1960's and a founding father of the Gridiron Club, was presented the Mara Family Award by Dr. Andy Cordaro, FCRH '66, the 2006 recipient of the Walsh Award and a teammate of Somma's on the Fordham football squad.
A member of the successful and nationally ranked rugby team in 1963, Somma and his teammates were encouraged to start a club football team at Fordham, returning the sport to Rose Hill for the first time since it was dropped following the 1954 season. It was that spark that reignited the football program and helped get the Rams to where they are today.
Somma, who was a team captain in 1965 and was named outstanding lineman following the Homecoming game with Seton Hall that fall, started speaking of the early years of the club team and how they were able to get the sport reinstated.
"It was all done by the students with great support from Father George McMahon," said Somma. "Most of the original football team was from the rugby team and it showed that first year. Our first game was at Maine Maritime, a 12 hour bus ride from Fordham. We went all that way only to get beat 42-0. But when we returned home the student support was unbelievable. The stands for our first home game were erected by students. Club football became relevant at Fordham after that."
Somma has remained active with both the football and rugby programs at Fordham, recently organizing a 50th anniversary celebration for rugby. But it was a football alumni game in the 1970's that was the genesis of the Gridiron Club.
"We had an alumni game in the mid-1970's,"said Somma. "We almost beat the varsity. But more importantly, with Rich Marrin as the driving force, we created the Gridiron Club."
Following dinner, head coach Joe Moorhead presented the special team awards to members of the 2011 football team with Patrick Murray, GSB '13, winning the Macken Award, Thomas Lloyd, GSB '12, receiving the Danowski Award, Jonathan Sheridan, FCRH '12, being named recipient of the Lansing Trophy, Connor Hartigan, GSB '12, earning the Bill Tierney Award and Andre Delaire, FCRH '11, receiving the Rich Marrin, FCRH '65, LAW `68, Most Valuable Player Award.
The Macken Award was established in memory of Rams' special assistant coach Bob Macken, who passed away suddenly in June of 1992. Coach Macken was a key part of the Fordham staff for seven seasons, always handling the "little things" that are so vital to keeping a program going. He took special pride in working with the special teams, and his "Macken Pizza Party" for the top special teams plays of the year were a source of great pride for the team.
Murray, who was named Second Team All-American by Beyond Sports College Network, Third Team All-American by the Associated Press and The Sports Network and NCAA FCS Punt Performer of the Year by the College Football Performance Awards, punted 49 times for 2,160 yards, an average of 44.1 yards/punt, tops in the Patriot League and third best in the NCAA FCS. He landed 21 of his kicks inside the opponent's 20 this fall and had 16 of his 49 punts travel more than 50 yards, including a season-long 73-yarder. The 73 yard punt, which came at Rhode Island, tied his career-high and was the second longest punt in school history (the Fordham record is 85 yards by Len Eshmont in 1939). Murray also booted a 73-yard punt at Colgate in 2009.
Murray's 44.1 punting average is the fourth best single season average in Fordham history while his 41.4 career punting average is second on the school's all-time list and his 5,585 career punting yards in sixth.
Lloyd was the recipient of the 2012 Danowski Award, given annually to the senior football player who through his leadership, sacrifice, and commitment to excellence upon the field of play and within the University community exemplifies the character of Danowski, a former Fordham player and head coach.
On the year, Lloyd recorded 28 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and he recovered two fumbles in ten games. But more than his numbers on the stat sheet, Lloyd was the vocal leader of the team, literally. He would be the one who led the team in the singing of the Fordham Fight Song.
In 30 career games, Lloyd made 53 total tackles, 19 solo, including 5.5 for loss and one sack.
Sheridan, a three-year starter on the offensive line, was named the 2012 recipient of the Lansing Trophy, named for Jim Lansing, a former player and coach who was a consensus All-American, in 1941. That was the same season that Fordham downed Missouri 2-0 to capture the 1942 Sugar Bowl. As a coach, Lansing won national club championships in 1965 and 1968, and became the school's first varsity coach since 1954 when the program was elevated to Division III in 1970. In five club seasons and two varsity campaigns, Lansing posted a 29-20-3 record.
Sheridan started every game at center in 2011, leading the offensive line, as well as starting at the position in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, he helped the Fordham offense average 176.0 rushing yards per game, second in the Patriot League and 31st in the NCAA FBS, as well as rank second in overall offense in the Patriot League (383.5 yards/game).
Connor Hartigan, a member of the offensive line, was awarded the Bill Tierney Spirit Award, presented annually to the Fordham varsity player who in the estimate of his teammates represents the spirit that Bill so unselfishly exemplified. A special Ram award was commissioned by Ernest H. Hammer, FCO '55, and created by David Hacker (a New York artist and a former formidable football player at California). The award is presented annually to the winner of the Bill Tierney Award. Tierney suffered a cardiac arrest brought on by viral myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, on October 12, 1996 while warming up for the Homecoming football game.
On the season, Hartigan appeared in all eleven games, starting eight games at left guard.
Delaire, who returned to Fordham for a fifth year in 2011 after missing the entire 2010 season due to injury, was named the team's Rich Marrin Most Valuable Player. The award is named in honor of the late Rich Marrin, founder and former president of the Gridiron Club, who received the Mara Family award in 2011.
Over the 2011 season, Delaire recorded 81 total tackles, 52 solo, including three for loss and two sacks. He also had one interception and one pass breakup as well as recovering one fumble. Delaire led the Rams in solo tackles and was second in total stops.
Over his career, Delaire registered 194 total tackles, 122 solo, including 12.5 for loss and 7.5 sacks.
Robert Holdman, FCRH '86, LAW '91 and the president of the Gridiron Club, then took the dais and told the audience of a special fund raiser that was recently hosted by the Fordham Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), Rep for Kids , which helped raise funds for the Michael J. Armstrong Foundation. Holdman is the general council for the charity.
"Everything about the event, from the planning, to soliciting food donations from local restaurants, was all done by members of the football team," said Holdman. "It was absolutely awe-inspiring experience, watching these guys run this event. That's the type of leadership that the seniors here tonight have given to the team. It's also due to the direction of coach Moorhead, who is working hard to improve the program."
Holdman introduced Moorhead, who thanked those in attendance for their support and congratulated the Mrs. Mara and Somma on their awards. He also had the members of the club team at the dinner to stand and be recognized.
"Without these pioneers, who had the vision to bring football back to Rose Hill, none of this would be possible," said Moorhead. "People like Dan Somma personified what it means to be a true man of Fordham."
Moorhead then turned his attention to the senior players. "I know personally how four years go by in the blink of an eye. A lot happened on and off the field to get us to where we are today. I urge you to expect success because you guys have earned it."
Ending his talk with remarks on the future of the program, Moorhead stated "We want to, and will, make Fordham University the number on FCS football team in the country. The journey starts on August 30th."
University president, Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J., addressed the crowd, honoring both award recipients and describing how must Mrs. Mara and Bill Walsh have in common. He spoke of the time when Walsh tried out for the football team in 1947 but was told by the coach "I'm sure there are many things you do well but football isn't one of them." That coach was Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi. Walsh then went to see an uncle on Staten Island and on the return trip to Manhattan aboard the Staten Island ferry saw the woman who would become his wife. He asked her out for a date the next week, to a Fordham football game!
McShane then noted how Skelton was quick to rise and assist Mrs. Mara when she took the stage to accept her award.
"It says volumes of the quality of the Fordham University football player," said McShane. "These players have a great sense of reverence and respect and are men who think that graciousness should be part of life."
McShane then turned his attention to the seniors, thanking them for representing Fordham with character and integrity and imploring them to continue their support after graduation.
"From the moment you arrived at Fordham you have made us proud," said McShane. "I know that it has been a tough year. Do not let this toughness and disappointment in any way make you think that our pride and faith in you is any less. Because for us, you are, and always will be worthy heirs of Wellington Mara, Vince Lombardi and Dan Somma."
The Rams open the 2012 season on Thursday, August 30th, as they host Lock Haven University on Jack Coffey Field at 7:00 p.m.