DC Touchdown Club Scores Big

Awards Dinner draws capacity crowd to honor Beamer, others

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The DC Touchdown Club welcomed a capacity crowd of more than 250 and presented Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer with its Lifetime Achievement Award at its Awards Dinner on Friday night at Carmine’s.

“I know how fortunate I’ve been getting to stay in one place for 26 years,” Beamer told the crowd that included former Washington Redskins players, former Timmie Award winners, the former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton, the former Under Secretary of the Army Joe Reeder and DC Bowl Committee Chairman Bill Hall. “I don’t know if that will ever happen again.”

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was the night’s featured speaker and told the high school and college award winners that they “are truly the future of football.”

Among other awards, three Parade All-Americans received Local High School Player of the Year awards: Friendship Collegiate linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, who has signed to play at Maryland, was the Washington D.C. player of the year; Our Lady of Good Counsel defensive back Kendall Fuller, who has signed to play at Virginia Tech, was the Maryland player of the year; and Stone Bridge defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who has signed to play at Alabama, was the Virginia player of the year.

Also, Our Lady of Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy, who has led his team to four consecutive No. 1 finishes in The Washington Post, was presented the Local High School Coach of the Year award.

Howard University’s Gary Harrell was named the Local College Coach of the Year. University of Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano, who like his father, Paul, was an All-American for the Terrapins, was named the Local College Player of the Year.

Also, Reeder presented a check for $5,000 from the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund and a signed helmet from Minnesota Vikings star Jared Allen to SPC(R) Robert Murafsky. Murafsky lost his right eye when he was shot while on duty in Iraq in 2006; today he works as a security specialist at the Pentagon and is very involved in helping other wounded warriors.

To conclude the night, Beamer called longtime assistant coach Billy Hite up to the podium. Hite, a DeMatha High School graduate who won a Timmie Award as a high school player of the year in 1968, was surprised with the Local Personality Makes Good award.

“What an event,” DC Touchdown Club Executive Director Steve Beck said. “This is what it is all about, bringing together people from throughout Washington’s football community for a night of camraderie and story-telling.”

The DC Touchdown Club’s next event is its Golf Outing on June 7 at Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg, Va. For more information or to reserve a place in the outing, please contact Maureen Licursi at 202-776-2509 or mlicursi@militarybowl.org

A New Touchdown Club for Washington

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog writes about the emergence of the DC Touchdown Club. Full story with pictures can be found here on the Post’s website.

Thirty-six years ago this month, a Sports Illustrated profile of awards dinners paid particular attention to the Touchdown Club of Washington, calling it “the granddaddy of all sports banquets.” That year’s black-tie affair attracted 2,000 all-male attendees who ate filet mignon, Italian green beans and water chestnuts at the then-Sheraton Park Hotel; the guest list included Supreme Court Justice Byron White, brother of the president Billy Carter, Tony Dorsett, Ken Stabler, John Madden, Roger Staubach, Carl Yastrzemski, Adrian Dantley, Bruce Jenner and John Havlicek.

The year before, the same event attracted Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, Jack Kramer, Joe DiMaggio, Meadowlark Lemon, Fran Tarkenton, Abe Pollin and Johnny Bench, among others.

“I don’t know how in the world you ever talked me into this,” Hope told dinner chairman Charlie Brotman, according to the next day’s Post.

For decades, Brotman and pals attracted dozens of A-listers to this banquet, from Ronald Reagan to Mickey Mantle, from Richard Nixon to Sugar Ray Leonard.

“Every major coach, every major player —  and I mean EVERY one that we went after — came here. No exceptions,” Brotman told me this week. “We have never really been known as a sports town, because most of our teams have not actually been very successful. But with the advent of the Touchdown Club, every January we would have the greatest athletes in the United States here in town. For about a week, we were like the sports capital of America. “

The awards banquet circuit isn’t what it used to be, and the Touchdown Club dinner faded away sometime in the ‘90s. Now, there’s an effort to bring it back. The DC Touchdown Club– note the slightly different name – will hold its first dinner March 8 at Carmine’s in Chinatown, headlined by Frank Beamer, who will be given a lifetime achievement award.

Organizers are hoping to start anew by tapping into the previous Touchdown Club’s original roots in local prep and college football. The event will raise money for a local youth football cause, and will honor high school players of the year in the District (Yannick Ngakoue), Maryland (Kendall Fuller) and Virginia (Jonathan Allen), as well as Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy, Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano andHoward Coach Gary Harrell. Previous Touchdown Club high school players of the year will also be invited.

“It was a vibrant piece of the local football community for years,” said Steve Beck, the executive director of the Military Bowl, who is leading the resuscitation efforts. “This is something that the community really liked in the past, and I think it’s something that they’ll wrap their arms around again.”

Of course, it’s hard to replicate the celebrity power of the past, like the 1988 appearance by Sylvester Stallone, accepting the President’s Council on Physical Fitness award. Or the 1966 event, which featured then-Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Willie Mays and Red Auerbach.  Or the 1973 dinner, emceed by Howard Cosell and featuring Johnny Unitas, Bart Star, Sonny Jurgensen, Don Strock, John McKay, Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry.

The club was founded by Arthur “Dutch” Bergman in 1934; its symbol was the “Timmie” award, a trophy featuring a boy in uniform and sneakers. The new club hasn’t settled on a name for its trophy.

“What I would like for it to be, on a personal level, is something people could get together with their dad about: father and son, father and daughter, going and enjoying themselves together,” Beck said.

Organizers are hoping for more than 300 attendees at their initial effort, including several pros and retired players. They have consulted with Brotman, who supports their mission but cautioned that the world has changed since the banquet’s heyday. Athletes, he said, are less likely to show up at a banquet without an appearance fee. Friends can’t lean on friends to participate in quite the same way.

“I don’t think you can ever have the same success as something that was so historic, but they’re on the right direction, they’ve got the right idea,” Brotman said. “They’re trying to start the way the Touchdown Club actually started a century ago — go for the high school player, the prep school player, all local stuff. That’s the first domino to fall.”