LAS VEGAS (Dec. 5, 2023) – The ARIA Resort & Casino played host to an all-star cast of history’s greatest football legends and the sport’s most promising student-athletes during tonight’s 65th National Football Foundation (NFF) Annual Awards Dinner Presented by Las Vegas.
More than 1,600 people in attendance and countless more watching on ESPN+ saw the induction of the star-studded 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class, which took center stage as its members received college football’s ultimate honor. The NFF also honored 16 of the game’s top student-athletes, who collected postgraduate scholarships as members of the 2023 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Presented by Fidelity Investments®.
The festivities began with Oregon quarterback Bo Nix claiming the 34th William V. Campbell Trophy® as college football’s top scholar-athlete and receiving a $25,000 postgraduate scholarship. The evening culminated with the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame induction and heartfelt remarks from Texas LB Derrick Johnson, Florida QB Tim Tebow and Coach Paul Johnson on behalf of the 2023 Class.
The 65th edition marked the third-consecutive year the NFF Annual Awards Dinner was held in Las Vegas, and the NFF announced that the event will return in 2024 and 2025. Standout broadcaster Charles Davis, who currently works for the NFL on CBS and the NFL Network, 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 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class was introduced by NFF Board Member Archie Griffin, a Hall of Fame running back and two-time Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, while NFF Chairman and Hall of Fame inductee Archie Manning (Mississippi) conducted the Official Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony.
The 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class included Eric Berry (Tennessee), Michael Bishop (Kansas State), Reggie Bush (Southern California), Dwight Freeney (Syracuse), Robert Gallery (Iowa), LaMichael James (Oregon), Derrick Johnson (Texas), Bill Kollar (Montana State), Luke Kuechly (Boston College), Jeremy Maclin (Missouri), Terance Mathis (New Mexico), Bryant McKinnie (Miami [FL]), Corey Moore (Virginia Tech), Michael Stonebreaker (Notre Dame), Tim Tebow (Florida), Troy Vincent (Wisconsin), Brian Westbrook (Villanova), DeAngelo Williams (Memphis), and coaches Monte Cater (Lakeland [WI], Shepherd [WV]), Paul Johnson (Georgia Southern, Navy, Georgia Tech), Roy Kramer (Central Michigan) and Mark Richt (Georgia, Miami [FL]).
The 18 players and four coaches bring the total number of players in the College Football Hall of Fame to 1,074 and the number of coaches to 230. Johnson, Tebow and Coach Johnson, captured the emotion of the night in their insights on behalf of the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class.
“Whenever you can tag Hall of Fame to an accomplish – big deal, big deal,” said Derrick Johnson. “And when you do that, you can get to a level of excellence. It’s not all about you.
Somebody helped you to get there…the best thing about football is it’s the ultimate team sport. At the end of the day, the guy next to you can do their jobs really good and helped you out. So, you don’t go into this alone.”
“That’s the thing about football,” Tebow said, echoing Johnson’s remarks. “None of us are here on our own. We’re here because there are so many people that influenced us and inspired us, lead us and encouraged us and picked us up when we were down.”
“I would just like to second what both Tim and Derek both said,” Coach Johnson remarked. “Nobody ever gets here by themselves. And when I started my coaching career in high school 40 years ago, and I had the opportunity to coach high school, junior college, FCS, Academy, and then the power five, so I kind of checked every box. And, certainly, along the way, I had the opportunity to work with so many tremendous players, assistant coaches… And I feel like I’m up here representing all of the players and coaches that I had the opportunity to lead.”
Click here to watch the full remarks for Johnson, Tebow and Coach Johnson.
The 2023 class included 18 First Team All-Americans, four coaches, 10 unanimous First Team All-Americans, eight consensus First Team All-Americans, ten multi-year First Team All-Americans, 11 winners of college football major awards and three national coaches of the year.
The 2023 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Presented by Fidelity Investments® joined the Hall of Famers on stage. Comprised of 16 of the brightest and most talented 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®. NFF Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Murphy led the presentation of the Scholar-Athlete Awards while NFF Vice Chairman Jack Ford had the honor of presenting the 34th Campbell Trophy® to Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.
“I have always loved football and playing it has brought opportunities in the community and the classroom,” Nix said in his acceptance speech. “I appreciate that this honor recognizes the full range of work that we do outside of football, and this wouldn’t be possible without all of the support I’ve received.”
Click here to watch Bo Nix’s full acceptance speech.
Graduating magna cum laude from Auburn in 2021 (where he was the three-year starting quarterback from 2019-21) with a 3.62 GPA, Nix is currently pursuing a master’s in Communications at Oregon, holding a 3.91 GPA. A three-year captain (two years at Oregon and one at Auburn) and a four-letterman, Nix led the Ducks (11-2) to an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game this season, and he will now lead the No. 8 Ducks as they face No. 23 Liberty (13-0) in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
The other members of the 2023 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Presented by Fidelity Investments included Cooper Beebe (Kansas State); JD Bertrand (Notre Dame); DeWayne Carter (Duke); Loobert Denelus (Benedict [SC]); Jacob Dobbs (Holy Cross); Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State); Zach Frazier (West Virginia); Owen Grover (Wartburg [IA]); Leo Lowin (Army West Point); Ladd McConkey (Georgia); Davius Richard (North Carolina Central); Luke Schuermann (Johns Hopkins [MD); Taulia Tagovailoa (Maryland); Liam Thompson (Wabash [IN]); and Zak Zinter (Michigan).
Click here to watch the video presentation, highlighting all the finalists.
The night also saw the presentation of NFF Major Awards to several individuals, including College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock (Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award), BYU Athletics Director Tom Holmoe (John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration) and HBCU play-by-play announcer Charlie Neal (Chris Schenkel Award for a distinguished career in broadcasting). NFF Legacy Awards for extraordinary contributions to the NFF and its mission were presented to AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry, NFF Campbell Trophy Summit Founder Mark Flynn, and Atlanta Hall Management Chairman A.J. Robinson.
Steve Hill, the CEO/President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the event’s presenting sponsor, provided the official welcome while the invocation was done by Tyrone Jones, the lead pastor at Church for The City in Yuma, Arizona. American Idol semifinalist Shilah Phillips performed the National Anthem, and internationally acclaimed soprano Marla Kavanaugh took the stage to sing “God Bless America.”
The NFF also recognized North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard and Howard defensive back Kenny Gallop Jr., as the 2023 MEAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. MEAC Commissioner Sonja O. Stills formally announced them earlier in the day as the top 2023 MEAC players during the NFF Annual Awards Press Conference.
The five 2023 NFF Chapter Leadership Award recipients, one from each region of the country, were also recognized for their leadership at the local level: Branan Allison (NFF Bill Ireland/Las Vegas Chapter); Jay Fallon (NFF Joe Yukica/New Hampshire Chapter); Keith Kilgore (NFF Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter); Bob Mancuso (NFF Nebraska Chapter) and Matt May (NFF Greater Baltimore Chapter).
Earlier today, Auburn Senior Associate Athletics Director Kirk Sampson moderated the NFF Annual Awards Press Conference. Streamed on ESPN+, the press conference featured insights from the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class and the announcement of the 2023 MEAC Players of the Year. Click here to watch a replay.
Rafanelli Events, led by President Deborah Farley, served as the event coordinator for the 65th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Presented by Las Vegas. The Award Dinner was executive produced by Ariadne C. Villarreal of The A-Team Events Management. The videos featured in the program were produced by Annabel Hardin of Dallas-based LDWW.
The NFF corporate partners, who all support the NFF Annual Awards Dinner, include Bruin Capital, Catapult Sports, Delta Air Lines, Fidelity Investments, Hanold Associates Executive Search, Jostens, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, New York Athletic Club, “The Original” Bob’s Steak & Chop House, The Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation and Sports Business Journal.
Other event sponsors and supporters for the event included iSix, Las Vegas Raiders and Allegiant Stadium and Riddell.
“Tonight’s 65th NFF Annual Awards Dinner in Las Vegas was spectacular,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Many people came together to support this year’s event as we celebrated an outstanding group of honorees. I want to thank all of our corporate partners and sponsors, especially the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and CEO/President Steve Hill for serving as the event’s presenting sponsor. Football transforms lives, opens doors and instills the characteristics in our young people that make our country great. When you listen to the accomplishments of tonight’s honorees, you know that the Future For Football remains bright.”
A replay of tonight’s event can be watched on ESPN+ by clicking here.