Oct. 18, 2005
Three returnees highlight the list of 12 college football standouts named as semifinalists for the 36th Rotary Lombardi Award, presented by Wachovia Bank. This year's dinner, which benefits the American Cancer Society, will be held on December 7 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Downtown Houston.
Linebacker Spencer Havner of UCLA, center Greg Eslinger of Minnesota and linebacker A. J. Hawk of Ohio State were each semifinalists in 2004. They are joined on the list by defensive end Elvis Dumervil of Louisville, offensive tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson of Virginia, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (Key-wah-new-ka) of Boston College, defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona of Tennessee, linebackers Paul Posluszny (Puz-LUZ-knee) of Penn State and DeMeco Ryans of Alabama, offensive tackles Joe Thomas of Wisconsin and Eric Winston of Miami, and defensive tackle Rod Wright, Texas.
Havner is the fifth leading tackler in Bruin history, and has scored more defensive touchdowns (four) than any player in UCLA history. Eslinger has been the cornerstone of a Gopher attack that has topped 300 yards in 33 of the last 34 games. Hawk is on pace to lead the Buckeyes in tackles for three seasons and become just the fifth OSU player to reach 400 career tackles. Dumervil leads the nation in sacks (16.5), including an NCAA-record six vs. Kentucky. Ferguson has anchored the Cavs attack from his left tackle position.
Kiwanuka was tabbed as the pre-season ACC Player of the Year, even though this season is the Eagles first in the league. Maheloa anchors a Vols defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this year. Posluszny this season became the first player since the Big Ten began weekly individual awards in 1987 to earn Player of the Week honors three straight weeks. Ryans is a four-year starter for the Crimson Tide and ranks eight on the school's all-time tackle chart. Thomas has been the spearhead for the Badgers rushing attack this season.
Winston, from Midland, TX, has bounced back from a knee injury to lead the Hurricanes attack. Wright, from Houston, anchors a Longhorn defense that is holding opponents to under 100 yards per game rushing this season.
This year's class of semifinalists includes eight defensive players and four offensive linemen. The Big Ten Conference leads the way with four semifinalists, followed by the ACC with three and the SEC with a pair. The Big XII, Big East and Pac-10 each have one player on the list. Louisville is the only one of the 12 schools represented who has not produced a previous finalist for the award.
Founded in the weeks following the death of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi from cancer in 1970, the Rotary Lombardi Award presented by Wachovia Bank has annually delivered upon the mission set forth by Marie Lombardi when she first granted the use of her late husband's name. Her only stipulation was that all net proceeds from the event be donated to the American Cancer Society and over $3.1 million has been generated since that time.
Former Texas A&M All-American and Houston Oiler All Pro Ray Childress is serving as the events Honorary Chairman of the 36th Rotary Lombardi Award presented by Wachovia. Tables and individual tickets are now on sale through the Rotary Club of Houston office (713) 973-9936.
This year's Rotary Lombardi Award is being presented by Wachovia Bank, which earlier this month announced a two-year presentation sponsorship agreement with the Rotary Club of Houston Foundation to support the event and its fund raising component.
The Rotary Club of Houston, in operation since 1912, is an association of more than 350 successful business professionals, all prominent in their individual fields of endeavor, who volunteer their efforts through the work of some two dozen club committees. Assistance is provided to such diverse groups as troubled youngsters, former prison inmates, business oriented high school students, families of cancer patients, deserving college scholarship candidates and the nation's cancer research efforts. The club's most recent community project is the East End Healthy Children's Collaborative which provides much needed access to primary health care for residents on Houston's East side.