The 16th Annual Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, an award given to the most outstanding role models among athletes, has announced the professional, collegiate, and high school honorees for its 2021 award ceremony, to be held April 29 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Heisman Trophy winner and philanthropist Danny Wuerffel will be the professional recipient. Bob Ryan, the famed sportswriter for the Boston Globe and analyst for ESPN, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.
Founded by Athletes for a Better World (ABW), a non-profit organization which celebrates the unselfish generosity of many participants in American sports, the Wooden Cup is unique in that it is open to all athletes in all high school, college and professional or Olympic sports. Annual nominations are open to every division and conference in college sports, and to athletes in public and private high schools across the country in partnership with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. The Wooden Cup is becoming one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports. Previous professional recipients include Jack Nicklaus, Pat Summitt, Drew Brees, Andrea Jaeger, Tim Tebow, Shannon Miller, Peyton Manning, and Mia Hamm.
In 1996, Danny won the coveted Heisman Trophy Award while playing football at the University of Florida. As quarterback he led the Gators to four SEC Championships and UF’s first National Football Championship under the leadership of legendary coach Steve Spurrier. Wuerffel set 17 NCAA and UF records, won the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards (nation’s top QB), as well as the Campbell Award, given to the nation’s top scholar-athlete. In 2014 Wuerffel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Drafted by the New Orleans Saints, Wuerffel played seven seasons in the NFL (Packers, Bears, Redskins). During his playing years, Danny continued to make service a priority in each city, but felt the strongest connection to the children and families living in New Orleans’ poverty stricken Ninth Ward, home of Desire Street Ministries. Wuerffel left the NFL in 2004 to join Desire Street, later becoming its Executive Director and relocating the headquarters to Atlanta to allow the organization to have a larger impact in the Southeast. Wuerffel felt called to serve leaders in under-resourced neighborhoods and continues to be a champion for inspiring community-led revitalization.
In 2005 the All Sports Association established The Wuerffel Trophy, college football’s premier award for community service. In addition to presenting the trophy to a deserving winner, the Wuerffel Trophy organization honors hundreds of college football players who excel in community service and celebrates their positive impact on society.
In 2020 the Wuerffel Foundation was established to inspire, support and honor community service leaders to make a positive impact in the world. Wuerffel speaks at corporate and non-profit events and consults to non-profit leaders and philanthropists. Wuerffel resides in Atlanta with wife Jessica and three children.
The 2021 Collegiate Wooden Cup recipient will be announced at the awards ceremony.
Finalists for the Collegiate Division are:
|Ryan Culhane||University of Dayton|
|Trent Forrest||Florida State University|
|Claire Kolff||Denison University|
|Bria Matthews||Georgia Tech|
The nationally recognized high school recipients for the 2018-2020 academic years are:
|Natalya Blair Newsome||Rogers High School, Newport, Rhode Island|
|Max David Friedman||Gerstell Academy, Reisterstown, Maryland|
|Najah Nicholas||Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy, Kenner, Louisiana|
|Cole Hagen||Corner Canyon High School, Draper, Utah|
The Spirit of ABW Award was begun in 2012 to be awarded only on occasion to those individuals who are deemed so exceptional and laudatory that they are worthy of special recognition and praise. This award has only been bestowed twice. The 2021 recipient is Rodrigo Blankenship for his academic accomplishments, citizenship, and achievements on the football field at the University of Georgia. He is currently a kicker with the Indianapolis Colts.
Master of Ceremonies Bob Ryan, the famed sports writer of the Boston Globe, has been named “Sportswriter of the Year” four times. He is a member of the College Basketball Writers and the New England Basketball Halls of Fame, has received both the Curt Gowdy and Dick Schaap Awards, and perhaps most notably, was the recipient of the Red Smith Award in 2015 for contributions to sports journalism.
John Wooden, who won ten national championships during the years 1964-1975 as basketball coach at UCLA, is commonly regarded as the greatest college coach of any sport who ever lived. Universally regarded as one of the finest human beings to ever grace the world of sports, his character, conduct and selfless gifts stand at the highest level by any standard. When Coach Wooden learned about Athletes for a Better World, he gave authorization to attach his name to this annual award, and he attended and addressed the inaugural event in Los Angeles in 2005. In his honor, the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup is presented to four distinguished athletes: one professional or Olympic, one collegiate, and a male and female from the American high schools, for their character and leadership both on and off the field.