Thirty years is a long time. But, compared to what?
It is longer than the age of most people reading this right now. It is longer than schooling to get where you want to be. It is “getting older” if you participate in sports up to, and through the professional ranks. It is a measure of time that, in a given instance, speaks volumes.
It is when I thought that the then Division IAA was deserving of more recognition and no longer thought of as “those other guys,” the ones that, in fact, sent as many prestigious and talented football players to the NFL as 1A. But no one really thought about it until game intros were made with name and school, which only elicited a “Where the heck is that?” from the viewing audience in the stadium or in their dens. It was too early for man caves.
Having played (basketball) and attending a Division III school you did not have to preach to me about anonymity. That is when, 30 years ago, when no one really cared, I created and founded the FCA Awards for football, inaugurating same with The Walter Payton for best player of the year. The greatest has become worn and difficult to determine but although “Sweetness” might have been, and you can argue the point, one of the greatest to have ever played the game is certainly not in doubt. The Payton quickly became second to only The Heisman in prestige and being sought after.
Shortly after that, I introduced the Eddie Robinson Trophy for coach of the year. He and I became friends, as was the case with Walter, and two finer people are not likely to be found anywhere soon. Progression then led to the Buck Buchanan for defensive player of the year in honor of a man that was taken from us too soon but not soon enough or his skills to be seen and admired. His heart was as big as he was. And, when Walter passed, Connie – his wife, and Georgia Buchanan joined us on the dais whenever they could.
One more was necessary, we were lacking the Freshman of the Year and the man who is arguably the greatest to play the game, Jerry Rice, lent his name to that award in recent years. And, just last year, I was honored with The Mickey Charles Award in my name for someone who combines academic excellence with athletic achievement on the gridiron. Perhaps not destined for the NFL but honors in medicine, business, medicine, academics await.
There you have it, the original FCS Awards, founded by yours truly, now in their 30th year, the acknowledged benchmark for FCS football. Others will try to imitate, lay claim to lesser versions and/or believe that putting forth awards of their own signals replacement. As the very people vying for these awards, The FCS Awards, would likely say, “Not!” or “Get a life!” A bit harsh? Perhaps but thirty years when no one else really cared speaks volumes and brings privilege.