“IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, THE MIND CAN ACHIEVE IT.”
12th Annual Lott IMPACT Trophy Awards Banquet a Great Success
- Updated: December 14, 2015
NEWPORT BEACH, Ca. – Once again, it was a dazzling night, filled with celebration and recognition along with a dash of emotion thrown in.
For 12 years, the finest student-athletes in the nation have been honored at the annual Lott IMPACT Trophy Award Banquet here at the Pacific Club, the elegant 33-year-old club that is always so beautifully and tastefully decorated for the holidays.
A sold out crowd as usual witnessed an evening that was highlighted by Carl Nassib of Penn State winning the prestigious award, Kermit Alexander being given an honorary award for his amazing life journey and Martin Dugard, the best-selling author, capping off the night with a fascinating keynote address.
The players arrived early – the four finalists. They came from Pennsylvania (Tyler Matakevich from Temple and Penn State’s Carl Nassib), North Carolina (Jeremy Cash from Duke) and Ohio (Joshua Perry of Ohio State). Each of them proved even more impressive in person than on taped interviews.
In a year from now they will be professionals, perhaps on competing teams. But on this night, they were still young college men, being honored for their Impact, Maturity, Performance, Academic excellence, Community involvement and Tenacity. They were bright, outgoing, confident, polite and polished.
Nassib said he might pursue a medical career and at 6-7, 275 pound he would be the biggest MD in the state of Pennsylvania. Cash, who is working on a Master’s degree, wants to be an FBI agent, but he’ll likely spend about a dozen years patrolling the secondary of some fortunate NFL team.
Matakevich’s parents were there – and their son praised Mom and Dad as role models. So did Joshua Perry, whose father Jim, beamed with unabashed pride when anyone complimented him about his son.
Once the formal part of the banquet began, John Hamilton the Chairman of the Board of the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, the sponsors of the award, brought Kermit Alexander to the podium for a surprise honor.
Alexander the former UCLA All-American and NFL standout had rebuilt his life after the unspeakable tragedy that took four family members, including his mother, in a 1984 murder. Now the father of five adopted Haitian children, he was recognized for his perseverance and character.
Alexander was formally introduced by Jim Leonhard, a member of the Lott IMPACT Trophy Advisory Board and a finalist in 2004 when he was a star at Wisconsin. Jim recently retired after a 10-year NFL career and was a welcome addition to the ceremony.
Alexander’s remarkable story was met with a standing ovation. An autographed copy of his book “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” was given to each guest at the conclusion of the night.
FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt took over the emcee duties once the banquet went live on TV and Jenny Taft, another FOX Sports announcer, handled the interviews with skill and knowledge.
In one of the closest votes in history, Nassib narrowly won over a stellar finalist class.
He was the third Big Ten player to win the Lott IMPACT Trophy (James Laurinaitis of Ohio State and J.J. Watt of Wisconsin were the others) and the first from Penn State. He was also the first defensive lineman to win it since Watt in 2010.
Dugard, the co-author with Bill O’Reilly of the popular “Killing Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus, Patton and Reagan” books, is also the track and field coach at J Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano. He reminded the audience the importance of character in athletics.
Hamilton thanked the sponsors, notably Mercedes-Benz, for their support of the event, which allows the Foundation to donate more than $50,000 in university scholarships and double that amount in additional charities.