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Monday, August 31, 2009

The 'Fred Mitchell Award'

A new award has been created for Elite Division II and III College Kickers, and I have the honor to be associated with it.

Starting with the 2009 college football season, the annual Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker Award (also known as the Fred Mitchell Award) will be provided to the nation’s top collegiate place-kicker. The recipient will be chosen from among the approximately 150 Division II and 240 Division III football teams.

The Award is named for Fred Mitchell, the record-setting place-kicker who was also a Wittenberg University Athletic Hall of Famer, author, philanthropist and Chicago Tribune sports columnist. The recipient of the Fred Mitchell Award will be chosen based on excellence on the football field and in the community.

I have been asked to be on a blue-ribbon Selection Committee who will evaluate place-kickers that are nominated by Division II and III schools.

There are nine members of the Pro and/or College Football Hall of Fame on the Selection Committee including Tom Beck, George Blanda, Kevin Butler, Lou Holtz, Paul Hornung, Marv Levy, Steve McMichael, Don Pierson and Gale Sayers. Several former football players that are active in their communities are also on the Selection Committee including Carl Allegretti, Sean Gothier, Jeff Michalczyk, Mark Murphy, Rob Perry, Bob Thomas, Todd Wilkins, Rob Zvonar and myself (Coach Zauner).

There are also eight former college or NFL place-kickers on the Selection Committee.


Fred Mitchell is a long-time Chicago Tribune sports columnist who enjoyed a distinguished career as one of the nation’s first prominent small-college place-kicking specialists at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.

During the mid-1960s, Mitchell set the NCAA “College Division” record for career points scored by kicking while playing in the Ohio Athletic Conference for the legendary Bill Edwards, who later was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Edwards had previously served as head coach of the Detroit Lions (1941-42) and as an assistant coach to Paul Brown with the Cleveland Browns. It was with the Browns that Edwards tutored Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza.

Mitchell, who was named to the Lutheran College All-America team in 1968, was inducted into Wittenberg’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.

Mitchell played semi-pro football with the Columbus Bucks while teaching English and coaching football and track at Grove City (Ohio) High School. One of his players, defensive end Gary Burley, went on to play nine years in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons. Burley started in Super Bowl XVI for the Bengals.


This year, the Award’s Watch List will be released in August; the winner will be announced in mid-December; the school of the Award winner will receive scholarship funds and the Fred Mitchell Award trophy will be presented in February at the National Football Foundation Chicago Metro Chapter Awards Ceremony at Halas Hall.

I can only say it’s a gratifying feeling to be in the company of the talented people who will be selecting the recipient for this award. It is just more icing on the wonderful football career I have been so fortunate to have enjoyed over the years.

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