National Football Foundation honors Tech's Askew, Brown and Wilmore

National Football Foundation honors Tech's Askew, Brown and Wilmore

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a gala night in the Music City Monday for Tennessee Tech University and its football program.

Senior Taylor Askew, head coach Watson Brown and former Golden Eagle linebacker Barry Wilmore were among the award recipients as the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame held its annual awards dinner.

Askew was Tech's winner of the Charles W. Hawkins III Collegiate Scholar-Athlete Award, Brown received the Roy Kramer Award for his contributions to football, and Wilmore, now a NASA astronaut, accepted the Fred Russell Distinguished American Award.

"This was really an outstanding event and Tennessee Tech had an awful lot to be proud of," said Mark Wilson, TTU Director of Athletics. "There were so many remarkable people recognized and the spotlight was really shining on the Golden Eagles.

"The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation does a fantastic job, year after year, and we are so proud to be a part of this event," he added. "There are so many great people in that organization, and they should be commended for hosting such a great event. I know it is very meaningful to every young man and his family."

Photo above right: Award recipients Barry Wilmore (second from left) and Coach Watson Brown (second from right) are joined by TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson (left) and University President Dr. Bob Bell (right) at the NFF Awards Dinner. Wilmore is holding a TTU football which he took with him into space in November.
-- photo by Thomas Corhern, Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

A packed banquet hall of more than 600 -- many of them dashing young student-athletes trimmed out in tuxedos -- had plenty of reason to celebrate as the 44th annual awards dinner saluted scholar-athletes and several other award winners.

A senior offensive lineman from Knoxville, Askew was the first from Tech to be recognized when the NFF announced the seven collegiate Scholar-Athlete award winners. A three-year starter and an Academic All-America selection, Askew is a seven-time member of the Athletic Direcrtor's Honor Roll, three-time OVC Medal of Honor winner and an OVC Scholar-Athlete. While Taylor was not able to attend the dinner, his father Jerry Askew received his award from Tennessee Titans Keith Bulluck and Tony Brown.

Jerry Askew, center, represented his son Taylor at the dinner and accepted the Scholar-Athlete award from presenters Keith Bulluck (left) and Tony Brown (right) of the Tennessee Titans.
-- photo by Rob Schabert

"Taylor is a great leader and example on our team of young players," Brown said. "His work ethic on and off the field is the best. I only wish I had several more 'Taylors' on the team. We are going to miss him as a he graduates and continues his education at law school."

Brown was the next Tech recipient to mount the stage, accepting the Roy Kramer Award from presenter Kevin Tucker. He is the latest in a list of Tech personnel to receive the Kramer Award including Emmett Strickland (1979), Dr. Arliss Roaden (1985), Bill Dupes (2001) and Brown's own grandfather, Eddie 'Jellie' Watson (1988).

The Kramer Award is presented to a local individual who has been instrumental in promoting the game of football with the highest level of leadership, integrity and participation. The award is named in honor of former SEC Commissioner and Vanderbilty Athletic Director Roy Kramer.

Tucker's eloquent introduction chronicled Brown's career from his success as an athlete in elementary school to Cookeville High School to Vanderbilt Univesity, and through his 36 seasons in coaching, culminating in the past three years at Tech.

"Watson Brown has shown so much leadership and integrity throughout his career, and it was really neat to see him receive the same award that his grandfather had received several years ago," Wilson said.

The third highlight of the night came when former Golden Eagle player and current Cumberland University coach DeWayne Alexander presented Wilmore with the prestigious Fred Russell Distinguished American Award.

Considered the highest honor presented by the chapter, the award goes to a local supporter of American values and the Nashville Community. The award is named in honor of Fred Russell, the former sports editor for the Nashville Banner from 1930 to 1998, who is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.

Wilmore was lauded for his career, which has taken him from playing linebacker for the Golden Eagles in Tucker Stadium in the 1980s into space as pilot of a recent NASA shuttle mission in November.

"Every time I've heard Barry speak I'm more and more impressed by his class, his dignity and his eloquence," Wilson said. "His message to the young men in the audience tonight was outstanding and inspirational, and you get a real sense of how proud he is to have been a football player, and to have been a Golden Eagle."

Three former NASA astronauts, Dr. Rhea Seddon, Dr. Rick Chappell, and Dr. Drew Gafney, were in the audience to show their support of Wilmore.