NEW YORK – Former Duke head coach Steve Spurrier was one of 13 individuals inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 on Tuesday evening at the New York Hilton Midtown.
Spurrier served as the head coach of the Blue Devils from 1987-89 and compiled an overall ledger of 20-13-1. The ACC Coach of the Year selection in both 1988 and 1989, he guided Duke to the ACC Championship and All American Bowl appearance in 1989.
The Heisman Trophy recipient in 1966 as a quarterback at Florida, Spurrier went on to serve as the head coach at his alma mater (1990-01) and South Carolina (2005-15) and finished with an overall collegiate coaching ledger of 228-89-2 with seven conference championships, 21 bowl game berths and the 1996 national crown. Spurrier is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as a player.
Spurrier becomes the fourth Duke head coach to be enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame, joining Howard Jones (inducted in 1951), Wallace Wade (1955) and Bill Murray (1974). In addition, former Duke head coach Mike McGee was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1990 and is joined by eight other Blue Devils including Fred Crawford (1973), Al DeRogatis (1986), Dan Hill (1962), Clarkston Hines (2010), Steve Lach (1980), George McAfee (1961), Ace Parker (1955) and Eric Tipton (1965).
A packed house of 1,600, including more than 80 current collegiate head coaches and 40 returning Hall of Famers attended the event, which took place at its new venue after a 58-year stint at the Waldorf Astoria. ESPN's Joe Tessitore entertained the crowd as the emcee for the annual celebration, which lived up to its historic role of bringing the college football community together at the end of the regular season to pay tribute to the game and its greatest legends.
The 2017 class was introduced by NFF Board Member Archie Griffin, a Hall of Fame running back from Ohio State. Members of the class included Bob Crable (Notre Dame), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), Kirk Gibson (Michigan State), Matt Leinart (Southern California), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Bob McKay (Texas), Dat Nguyen (Texas A&M), Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern), Mike Ruth (Boston College), Brian Urlacher (New Mexico) and coaches Danny Ford (Clemson, Arkansas), Larry Kehres (Mount Union [Ohio]) and Spurrier (Duke, Florida, South Carolina). NFF Chairman and Hall of Fame inductee Archie Manning (Mississippi) conducted the Official Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony.
The 10 players and three coaches bring the total number of players in the Hall of Fame to 987 and the number of coaches in the Hall to 214. Spurrier, just the fourth person ever to be inducted into the Hall as both a player and coach, responded on behalf of the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame coaches and touched on how important the honor is to all of the coaches.
"Thank you, I appreciate it for all of us and we thank the committee for our selection into the national College Football Hall of Fame," said Spurrier. "It's really maybe the ultimate honor for all of us college football coaches to be recognized as amongst the best. And there's been so many super great coaches all through the years."
He ended his speech with a simple message about the game: "College football, it's the greatest thing ever invented!"
Peyton Manning, Tennessee's all-time leading passed and just the second Campbell Trophy® winner to join the Hall of Fame, delivered the response on behalf of the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame players. Manning touched on the great honor of the Hall, his personal story of attending his father, NFF Chairman Archie Manning's induction as a kid and had personalized messages for each of his fellow inductees. Peyton ended his speech with a message about the importance of the game of football.
"Football has given each of us a gift and ultimately put our individual universes in motion," said Manning. "Now it's up to the class of 2017 to carry on the legacy of the game, including the valuable life lessons it teaches. It's up to us to live up to what it really means to say 'I'm a football player' and 'football matters.' Loving this sport is much more than donning shoulder pads and helmet to run on the field. Loving the college game includes sacrificing, the simple pleasures of being just a student in exchange for the rigors of being a true student athlete.
"Throughout television and its stadiums nationwide, fans see dramatic moments on the field," he continued. "But off the field, what they don't see are the caring and human connections that forge indelible bonds amongst our teammates. All 13 of us up here love this game. And tonight it's proof that the game loved us back. God bless you and God bless football."
The 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class boasted 10 First Team All-Americans, three coaches, one Campbell Trophy® winner, three unanimous First Team All-Americans, seven consensus First Team All-Americans, five winners of college football major awards, one coach with the highest winning percentage in college football history, the youngest coach to ever win a national title and just the fourth individual to enter the Hall as both a player and a coach.
The 2017 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments, joined the Hall of Famers on stage. Comprised of 13 of the most talented and brightest football players in the nation, each member of the class received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and was a finalist for The William V. Campbell Trophy®. Kathy Murphy, NFF vice chairwoman and president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments, led the presentation of the awards, while NFF Chairman Emeritus Jon F. Hanson had the honor of presenting the Campbell Trophy® to Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser.
"My entire life, my parents have challenged me to be the best I could be in everything I did," Kiser said in accepting the Campbell Trophy®. "They held me to the highest standard, the standard of being a Kiser. That meant A's were expected in school, and great effort and success were expected on the playing field. They provided me every avenue for me to uphold this standard, and I stand here in front of you today because of the many sacrifices they made for me throughout the years, and for that I am forever grateful.
"In college, I've worn the honor of being a student-athlete with great pride, representing the University of Virginia's football team on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, soliciting a level of prestige while at the same time carrying immense pressure," Kiser added. "I've always strived to prove that football players at the University of Virginia offer more than just athleticism on the field but also deserve and belong to be contributing members of the school community and to serve as role models in the Charlottesville community. This is not just an individual award, but a team award that I proudly accept in service of my fellow teammates at the University of Virginia."
Kiser personifies the student-athlete ideal, having already earned his degree while claiming Second Team All-America accolades in 2016 as one of the top defensive players in the nation. This season, he leads the ACC in tackles per game for the third consecutive year while helping the Cavaliers become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. An Academic All-American, Kiser graduated with a bachelor's degree in foreign affairs in May 2017 while boasting a 3.42 GPA, and he currently maintains a 4.0 GPA while working toward his master's in higher education. Winning the Campbell Trophy® increases his postgraduate scholarship to a total of $25,000.
The rest of the 2017 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class included Sam Benger (Carnegie Mellon [Pa.]), Braxton Berrios (Miami [Fla.]), Mason Hampton (Boise State), Justin Jackson (Northwestern), Justin Lea (Jacksonville State), Brad Lundblade (Oklahoma State), Marcus Martin (Slippery Rock [Pa.]), Chandon Sullivan (Georgia State), Blaise Taylor (Arkansas State), Marlon Walls (Stephen F. Austin), Chris Weber (Nebraska) and Jake Wieneke (South Dakota State).
NFF Vice Chairman and TV personality Jack Ford provided a special look back at the history of the NFF, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017. Tessitore introduced the two major award winners. UCLA Athletics Director Dan Guerrero received the NFF John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration while the Voice of the UTEP Miners Jon Teicher was presented with the NFF Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Columbia University team chaplain Father Thomas Valenti provided the Invocation while America's beloved tenor, Daniel Rodriguez, returned to sing the National Anthem and God Bless America. Rodriguez was joined for the National Anthem by Marla Kavanaugh, Margaret Kelly and Ciarán Sheehan.