O'Brien, Rhule to speak at National Football Foundation awards dinner

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Two collegiate football coaches with local ties, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Temple’s Matt Rhule, will be co-featured speakers March 17 at the 16th annual football awards banquet sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.

The banquet honors the athletic and academic achievements of high school football players in central Pennsylvania and players from 10 area colleges. Special awards also recognize high school and college coaches, game officials and a member of the news media.

This is the first time the banquet has had co-speakers. Chapter President Rob Oshinskie said the chapter officers wanted to ask O’Brien to return after his well-received appearance last year just months after being named Penn State’s head coach. He said the chapter also wanted to invite Rhule, a former Penn State football player and State College native, who became a head coach for the first time when hired by Temple in December.

“We asked both if they would be willing to share the podium and speak to our high school athletes, and they agreed,” Oshinskie said. “We are honored to have coach O’Brien back after what he did to make Penn State’s 2012 season one of the greatest in school history. Coach Rhule was a student-athlete in central Pennsylvania and should be a role model for all the student-athletes in our chapter area. 

This year’s event is set for noon at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel at University Park, starting with a silent auction and doors opening for dinner at 1:30 p.m. Forty-five scholastic student-athletes will be recognized at the banquet, with at least 16 student-athletes receiving a $1,000 scholarship towards their college education. 

Since initiating the awards banquet in 1997-98, the Central Pennsylvania Chapter has given $157,000 in scholarship money while honoring 516 deserving student-athletes from 60 high schools located in the following area counties: Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Elk, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union. During this same period, the chapter has honored 59 collegiate athletes from 10 area colleges and universities. 

O’Brien led Penn State to an 8-4 record last season in his first year as the 15th head coach in Nittany Lions history. O’Brien’s team won eight of its last 10 games and was second in the Big Ten Leaders Division with a 6-2 mark. He earned a trio of national Coach of the Year honors and was the Big Ten Coach of the Year. Before joining Penn State, O’Brien was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach of the New England Patriots, and previously had been an assistant coach at his alma mater Brown, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.

Rhule had been an assistant at Temple for six years, rising from defensive line coach to offensive coordinator (2008-10), leaving after 2011 to be an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants. Prior to Temple, Rhule had coached at Albright, Buffalo, UCLA and Western Carolina. Rhule was a four-year walk-on at Penn State and became a three-time Penn State scholar-athlete, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors in 1997.

Tickets for the Central PA Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Awards Banquet are $25 each and $250 for a table of 10. Deadline for ordering tickets is March 1. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets should contact Bill Nichol at 467 Nimitz Ave., State College, PA 16801. Make checks payable to Central Pennsylvania Chapter NFF/CHF.

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Last Updated February 08, 2013