2013 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Awards: Morris County NJ’s Best and Brightest

Recently, I was given the honor of writing an article on the scholar-athlete award given to area football players. Thanks for reading my work and supporting these talented young men. 

                        ~Laura Byrne

The 2013 National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Award recipients sat in two long rows of tables, wearing identical black tuxedos, suited up for the final time as high school football players. I had an opportunity to talk to several individuals including Kyle Adams, a player for Roxbury, who will attend Harvard; Robert Thoma, from Delbarton, who is Amherst bound; Samuel Kaplan, Randolph, on his way to UPenn—and found their astounding accomplishments echoed in their stance, straight shoulders, and crisp responses. These are young men accustomed to listing their successes, yet not one spoke with conceit. The fact of their athleticism had long ago been established. Tonight’s banquet seat was earned after lessons learned on the gridiron were also applied to endless tests of both character and intellect.

Bob Mulcahey, former Rutgers athletic director, Bill Spoor, Penn State football player-turned-entrepreneur-extraordinaire, and Atlantic Health System representatives were among those who spoke in celebration of the counties’ best and brightest football players, identified through evaluation of three criterion: athletic talent, academic success, and community service.

With the introduction of each award recipient, the audience was dazzled by staggering statistics of yards rushing, passes completed, and post-season accolades, along with equally stunning GPA’s that hung around 4.0’s, as well as examples of community outreach, locally and nationally, in disaster relief and community-enrichment projects. Clearly, these young men understand that while scoring in the red zone is vital, playing four quarters is just as important. Their unrelenting intensity not only made their team better, when applied off the field it makes the world better.

It’s easy to think of the gifts these young men have received: tonight, a certificate from their congressman and a plaque from the National Football Foundation; and throughout their lives, a sound body and mind. But these are not young men who have taken these attributes for granted—this sport does not allow this. Injuries are too common. Greater talent always exists. The shadow of adversity and setback constantly threatens. Finding success amid the haze defines these players.

Tonight, there were no shoulder pads and helmets, no cheering crowds, or thunderous marching band. Tonight, there were just poised young men with level gazes who humbly thanked parents and coaches. And tonight was our chance to thank our award recipients for giving us hope that our future is in capable hands—those that make the big plays that our complicated and imperfect world requires.

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2013 Scholar-Athlete award recipients for the Morris County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame:

Boonton – Theodore Stammer

Butler – Brian Ensley

Chatham – Vincent Ziccolella

Delbarton – Robert Thoma

Dover – Jacob Pyrzynski

Farleigh Dickenson University – Charles Thomas

Hanover Park – William Julich

Jefferson Township – Daniel Brown

Kinnelon – Joseph Presti

Madison – Devin Koep

Montville – Parker Meytrott

Morris Catholic – Joseph Vidal

Morris Hills – Robert Sihlanick

Morris Knolls – Nickolas Patterson

Morristown – Ernest Stiner

Morristown Beard – Timothy Worts

Mt. Olive – Justin Mancini

Mountain Lakes – Scott Flynn

Parsippany Hills – Tyler Simms

Pequannock – Luke Foukas

Randolph – Samuel Kaplan

Roxbury – Kyle Adams

West Morris Central – Robert Hughes

West Morris Mendham – Matthew Kuhn

Whippany Park – Daniel Linfante


This award is given to celebrate your success and hard work, but it’s also given to inspire the younger football players in your community.

If you had one piece of advice for younger athletes what would you tell them? 

“To set goals as a freshman, make good choices, and don’t cut corners.”

Brian Ensley, Butler

“To do the best you can at whatever you’re doing.”

Daniel Brown, Jefferson Township

“To work hard, and focus on schoolwork.”

Kyle Adams, Roxbury

“To enjoy high school because the experience goes by quickly, and make sure academics are a priority starting freshman year.”

Robert Thoma, Delbarton

“Make no excuses.”

Samuel Kaplan, Randolph

“To surround yourself with good people, and set goals.”

Matt Kuhn, Mendham




Running For Boston


My daughter runs. She competes at the 1600 and the 800 so she trains by running 6 or 7 miles most days, timing herself as she goes, making sure she maintains a coach-determined pace. We visited France over Easter and she ran—along The Seine, across cobblestones, weaving through crowds. In the snow and rain, early in the morning or late at night, even loaded with homework and volunteer obligations—she runs.

Her hope is to PR—to set a personal record—which means shaving a second or two off a number she gave everything to achieve in her previous meet.

Running is about having the guts to work against something that has no compassion.

Running is about believing in your ability to improve, even incrementally, and despite setbacks and adversity.

Running is about the strength to do what hurts. It is about the pride to not get overtaken. It is about harvesting determination on a cellular level.

My son is a student at Boston College where a friend—a runner—lost her leg in the bombing. This friend was on a full scholarship, and participating in the marathon.

What happened to this young woman–to all of the victims–neither makes me sympathetic to terrorist ideals nor ready to condemn any political stances. This young woman makes me want to get in my car, drive to Boston, and help—with anything. I would give nearly anything to have been there yesterday.

Instead, and for Boston, I won’t get in my car.

Today, I will run.