Florida gator Mike McNeely named 2014 NFF Legacy Award recipient - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Florida gator Mike McNeely named 2014 NFF Legacy Award recipient

This is a news release from The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. 

The National Football Foundation (NFF) announced today that Mike McNeely, a walk on special teams player and reserve receiver at the University of Florida, will be recognized with an NFF Legacy Award during the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, which will take place Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

McNeely recently achieved national attention after scoring a momentum-changing touchdown during a fake field goal attempt in the Gators' 38-20 upset victory against No. 11 ranked Georgia on Nov. 1. The play has brought the spotlight to an unassuming student-athlete who had selflessly contributed to the Gators' program for the past three years as a walk-on before finally earning a scholarship this past August.

McNeely, who has helped put himself through college by bagging groceries and working the cash register at the local Publix, has also excelled in the classroom. He amassed a near perfect 3.92 GPA in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, and he landed the President's Academic Award in 2013, annually given by the team to the top student-athlete. He recently learned that he has been accepted to the UF College of Medicine.

“Millions of kids play high school football,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Mike McNeely represents the power of football in creating pathways for them to follow their dreams of making it to the next level while getting a first-class education. Mike is somebody who has taken full advantage of every opportunity that has been given to him, and we hope that his accomplishments will inspire the next generation.”

“Mike's story is really important because it shows that one can walk on and play in the SEC, make an impact, excel in the classroom with a 3.92 GPA and gain acceptance into medical school…all while working 8 hours every Sunday at a local grocery store to help pay for college,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “It shows that student-athletes really can balance it all. Mike is an exceptional individual, and we are really proud to recognize his accomplishments as a person who embodies our mission and has created a legacy for the next generation.”

A native of Clearwater, Fla., McNeely played in all 12 games in 2013, seeing time on special teams and as a reserve receiver. In 2012, he played in the final four games of the season after recovering from an injury during the summer, and in 2011, he appeared in seven games. Before playing for the Gators, he set multiple records at Palm Harbor University High School as an All-Star receiver.

“Mike McNeely is the reason we do what we do in college athletics,” said Jeremy Foley, Florida Director of Athletics. “We provide opportunities for life-long experiences both on and off the field, and Mike has taken advantage of every one of those opportunities. We are honored that he is a Gator and forever proud of Mike and the many more student athletes like him around the country.”

“People ask me all the time what it is like to be a coach,” said Florida head football coach Will Muschamp. “I tell them we are really teachers. Our classroom is not just on Saturday's on the football field – it's about life. As much as I've mentored and provided guidance to countless student-athletes – Mike teaches us every day. His unwavering dedication and commitment to his education, our football team and his family should be a model for all of us.”

Throughout its history, the NFF has depended on the support of thousands of individuals and organizations to fulfill its mission of building leaders through football. The NFF Legacy Award, established in 2007, honors individuals and organizations who have made extraordinary contributions to the NFF and/or embody its mission. The past recipients of the award have never failed to answer a call of support from the NFF, and they have distinguished themselves as the most ardent proponents of football's unique ability to develop our next generation of great leaders. They truly stand in the vanguard of those who have strengthened the game for future generations.

Presented in years when worthy candidates emerge, the NFF is pleased to highlight the all-time list of NFF Legacy Award recipients for their unwavering support and leadership in the promotion of college football, including:

2007 ­­- Harold Alfond, founder of Dexter Shoe Co.

2007 - F.M. Kirby, former Alleghany Corporation chairman and emeritus NFF board member

2007 - The Atlantic Coast Conference led by Commissioner John Swofford.

2008 - Tom Hansen, former Pacific-10 commissioner

2008 - Jeffrey Orleans, former Ivy League executive director

2008 - Mike Tranghese, former Big East commissioner

2009 - No Honoree Recognized

2010 - Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executive vice president

2011 - Wright Waters, Sun Belt Conference commissioner

2012 - Eric Long, the general manager of the Waldorf Astoria

2012 - Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for college programing

2012 - Craig Silver, CBS coordinating producer for college football

2013 - Nate Boyer, University of Texas long snapper and Special Forces Green Beret

2014 - Mike McNeely, University of Florida special teams player and reserve receiver

Also at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, the NFF will induct the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class from the Football Bowl Subdivision; distribute $313,000 in scholarships to the 2014 Class of NFF National Scholar-Athletes, presented by Fidelity Investments; name the 25th recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments and prominently displayed at its official home inside the New York Athletic Club; and bestow its major awards to some of our nation's finest leaders. The honorees include:

2014 NFF Major Award Winners: Global humanitarian Dr. Tom Catena (NFF Gold Medal), NFF Vice Chairman George Weiss (NFF Gold Medal), Founder of Host Communications Jim Host (NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award), Duke University Director of Athletics Kevin White (John L. Toner Award), retired University of Michigan broadcaster Frank Beckmann (NFF Chris Schenkel Award), and University of Florida special teams player and reserve receiver Mike McNeely (NFF Legacy Award).

The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class: Dre Bly (North Carolina), Tony Boselli (Southern California), Dave Butz (Purdue), Shane Conlan (Penn State), Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech), John Huard (Maine), Darrin Nelson (Stanford), Willie Roaf (Louisiana Tech), John Sciarra (UCLA), Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina), Leonard Smith (McNeese State), Derrick Thomas (Alabama), LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU), Wesley Walls (Ole Miss) and coaches Mike Bellotti (Chico State [Calif.], Oregon) and Jerry Moore (North Texas, Texas Tech, Appalachian State).

The 2014 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class and Campbell Trophy Finalists: Terry Baggett (Army); Austin Damaschke (Concordia [Wis.]); Austin Hasquet (Northern Arizona); David Helton (Duke); Taylor Kelly (Arizona State); Nate Leonard (Texas at San Antonio); Tyler Lockett (Kansas State); Mike Mancini (Trinity [Conn.]); Charles Moore (Tarleton State [Texas]); Mark Murphy (Indiana); Jordan Richards (Stanford); Kevin Rodgers (Henderson State [Ark.]); Mike Sadler (Michigan State); Caleb Schaffitzel (Missouri State); Tyler Varga (Yale); Brandon Vitabile (Northwestern); Zach Zenner (South Dakota State).

For the seventh consecutive year, attendance at the event will exceed 1,500 attendees. Please contact NFF Director of External Relations Will Rudd at 972-556-1000 or wrudd@footballfoundation.com to inquire about the limited tickets that remain.

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