National Football Foundation Awards–Chicago Chapter

The National Football Foundation Chicago Metro Chapter held its annual awards ceremony at Halas Hall on February 18, 2019.  An overflow crowd watched the proceedings as we had the opportunity to hear about the terrific work that had been done by those being honored.

The introduction was given by Chris Kearney, the Chicago Chapter Board President, who spoke glowingly of the work that the award winners performed as well as the overall growth and development of the Chicago Chapter.  Kearney was particularly proud of the more than $250k in scholarships that had been granted by the Chapter since 2006.

Jeff Joniak, the voice of the Chicago Bears was the Master of Ceremonies and used his trademark voice, energy and passion to highlight the accomplishments of the winners.

The following awards were given out:


  • Vince Carso, Hersey HS, (Introduced by coach Joe Bardon)
  • Evan Holden, Batavia HS, (Introduced by coach Alvin Cole)


  • Reggie Corbin, University of Illinois (Introduced by Cory Patterson)
  • Chad Hanaoka, Northwestern University (Introduced by Pat Fitzgerald)
  • Eric Stevenson, Wheaton College (Introduced by Mike Swider)
  • Mathew Swaine, Illinois State University (Brian Hendricks)


  • Will Cichowski, Lockport Township
  • Darrin Cotton, Jr., Brooks College
  • Scott Tumilty, Willwbrook


  • Roldan Alcobendas, Eastern Washington

After the awards were completed, Joniak interviewed Pat Fitzgerald.  As the leader of Northwestern’s resurgent program, Pat has always demonstrated a commanding presence, but with a sense of humility and genuine humor that often escapes many of his brethren.  Among Fitzgerald’s important comments were:

  • Pat spoke about his journey and how many people make up your sphere of influence, including grade school and high school coaches
  • He spoke about the changes in the game and the athletes who play the game.  Social media has become a big influence and big distraction at the same time.
  • Pat believes that football reveals leaders.  The attitude you have coming up in the game is something that occurs when you invest your time, effort and sweat into the game.
  • He spoke about the concussion issues and how the game is safer than it has ever been. He made clear that it is not SAFE.  It is still a collision sport.  But that the effort made in improving equipment, baseline testing methods, concussion management protocols and medical advance mean that the players today are safer than at any time in history. He acknowledged that there is a still a long way to go and much more work to be done in this area.
  • He feels that the athletes have never been coached better as a result of organizations such as the Positive Coaching Alliance.  Developing men is an important element of his coaching style.
  • Accountability was a hot topic.  He says you did not get to select your parents or how they raised you, but you have the responsibility to be out there each day, representing them and the rest of your family. This same trait applies to teammates once you are playing sports.
  • He feels that the type of person you are is what separates you from others and that the way that you behave when nobody is watching is really the key.
  • As he wrapped up his time, Pat left with these 4 important takeaways:
    • Know Who You Are–so that you can be consistent.
    • You only have one opportunity to run the race-run it with EVERYTHING you have.
    • You have great influence over others-use it wisely.
    • Relationships are everything-develop them and guard them carefully.

Coach Fitz’ messages always carry such great weight and it is always a pleasure seeing him. We commend the great work done by all of these athletes and listening to the fantastic introductions by their coaches really gave us a great sense of their dedication and accomplishments.

Roy Kessel

Roy Kessel

Roy Kessel is the Founder of the Sports Philanthropy Network. Roy has worked in the sports business world for over 20 years including serving as an instructor in Northwestern University's graduate Sports Management Program. Having served as a sports lawyer representing athletes, entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, Roy has extensive experience helping organizations improve their strategy, marketing, communications and leadership development.
Sports Philanthropy Network

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