The National Football Foundation (NFF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, longtime Army Black Knights football coach Earl Blaik and journalist Grantland Rice. Its mission is to promote and develop amateur American football on all levels throughout the United States and to cultivate leadership, sportsmanship, enthusiasm for competition, and the drive for academic excellence among America's youth.
In addition to supporting amateur football on the local level, the National Football Foundation also oversees the support, administration, and operation of the College Football Hall of Fame. Among its other programs and initiatives includes the facilitation of the Play It Smart program, which places a trained "academic coach" who turns football teams into learning teams in underserved high schools across the country, and the awarding of the William V. Campbell Trophy presented by HealthSouth Corporation, referred to in many circles as the "Academic Heisman". In spring 2007, the NFF launched the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, a recognition program for players who excel both on the field and in the classroom. Inductees must have been a starter in their final collegiate season and have earned a 3.2 cumulative GPA for their undergraduate degree. The Foundation also tabulated and released the Bowl Championship Series Standings each Fall and hosts an Annual Awards Dinner in December at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Archie Manning, a former Ole Miss Rebels football All-American and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, serves as the chairman as of 2020, and Steven J. Hatchell, the former commissioner of the Big 12 Conference and executive director of the FedEx Orange Bowl, serves as its president as of 2020. The foundation has 120 local chapters distributed among 48 states. Since 1956, more than 100,000 volunteers have become members.
Founded in 1959, the award is presented each season to the nation's top scholar-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics and leadership. Each year, between 15 and 17 scholar-athletes are chosen from the NCAA Divisions I (both I-A/FBS and I-AA/FCS), II and III and the NAIA and awarded a $18,000 scholarship. One of the recipients is chosen and awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy (formerly the Draddy Trophy).
Notable former National Scholar-Athletes in the NFL include Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M, 2011) and Joe Thomas (Wisconsin, 2006) and Super Bowl winners Peyton (Tennessee, 1997) and Eli Manning (Mississippi, 2003), Drew Brees (Purdue, 2000), Jonathan Vilma (Miami, 2003) and Dennis Dixon (Oregon, 2007). Non-sporting former recipients include Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actor Mark Harmon (UCLA), NASA astronaut and USAF flight test engineer Michael S. Hopkins (Illinois), former USAF pilot and incumbent Hampden-Sydney College President Christopher B. Howard (U.S. Air Force Academy) and NBC anchor Stone Phillips (Yale).
The Gold Medal, the NFF's highest honor, has been presented to seven U.S. Presidents, four U.S. Generals, three U.S. Admirals, one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 25 Corporate CEOs and Chairmen.
Presented on special occasions when a truly deserving individual emerges, the award honors someone who has applied the character building attributes learned from amateur sport in their business and personal life, exhibiting superior leadership qualities in education, amateur athletics, business and in the community.
The annual award is given to an athletic director who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football.
Note: * = posthumously