Andy Lukac and Andrew Kerin Honored at Annual Fordham Gridiron Club Dinner
Jan. 28, 2013
New York, N.Y. -
Andy Lukac, FCRH '51, a member of the Fordham football squad from 1948-50, and Andrew Kerin, FCRH '85, a former football Ram and a member of the Fordham University Board of Trustees, were honored with the Mara Family Award and the Walsh Award, respectively, at the annual Fordham Gridiron Club Dinner held at the J.W Marriott Essex House on January 25.
Also at the dinner, it was announced that the Kerin Family, led by Andrew and Annabel Kerin, Fordham College Rose Hill Class of 1985, have chosen to support Fordham Football in a unique and spirited way that will help raise the financial commitment to the program to an unprecedented level by agreeing to make an annual "challenge" grant of up to $50,000 by matching gifts to the Football Team Fund. For more information on the Kerin Family Challenge, click
The Mara Family and Walsh Awards honor members of the Fordham football family for their dedication and contributions to the program. The Mara Family Award is named in honor of the family of the late Wellington Mara, a 1937 graduate of Fordham, while the Walsh Award in named in honor of William D. Walsh, Fordham College class of 1951 and namesake of the Walsh Athletic Training Center as well as the Walsh Family Library on the Rose Hill campus.
Lukac, a member of the 1950 Fordham football squad that went 8-1, was presented the Mara Family Award by John Mara, LAW `79, president of the New York Giants and son of Wellington.
"It's a great pleasure to be here tonight," said Mara. "Fordham Athletics is very special to my family. Some of my earliest childhood memories are going to the Rose Hill Gym with my father for a basketball game. And it's an honor to present this award to Andy Lukac, a great player and who continues to show his love for Fordham, both on and off the field."
A 1950 football captain, Lukac guided the squad to an 8-1 record his senior year. Originally, Lukac had earned a scholarship to Notre Dame, but following a stint in the army after being drafted, Andy returned home and decided to play under legendary Fordham head coach Ed Danowski. Lukac played both offense and defense for the Maroon, but it was on defense where he really made a name for himself. In 1949, Lukac was named team MVP, leading the Rams to a 5-3 mark. He returned four interceptions for 62 yards as well as taking back 15 punts for 192 yards. Lukac was a durable and versatile athlete at Rose Hill, starting every game in his three-year career and playing outfield for the baseball Rams. He also coached high school football for 20 years in New Jersey and was inducted into the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992.
Lukac started his acceptance speech with his disbelief at being honored. "I was so surprised to get this award from the Gridiron Club. When I first got the call, I didn't believe it until I started getting some other phone calls congratulating me."
Lukac regaled the audience with stories of his days at Rose Hill, and his interactions with then assistant football coach Vince Lombardi. One of his favorite stories was when Fordham was traveling to Buffalo to face Canisius in 1948 and all three quarterbacks missed the train. The three Rams were able to catch the next train north and were greeted at the station by Lombardi.
"When they got off the train Lombardi asked them what happened. Billy White said to Lombardi, `well coach, we know you always want us to look like gentlemen but I couldn't tie my Windsor knot just right.' Needless to say Lombardi wasn't pleased with the excuse. Of course the next morning we had a mass and couldn't find Lombardi. But when the bells sounded to start mass, out he came as an altar boy!"
Lukac also mentioned how he stayed in contact with White while White was in Korea during the Korean War. He received the final letter from White before White was killed in action in 1953. A plaque dedicated to White and the Korean War veterans is located next to the University Church.
"It's an honor to receive the Walsh Award but I didn't do it alone," said Kerin. "When you get an award like this you realize that it's not about you, it's about the people who helped shape your life."
Kerin went on to thank his wife, children, teammates and friends before asking the current Rams to remember the lessons they've learned playing football. "For all the seniors here tonight, I know you've learned lessons in perseverance, resilience and you've learn to give your level best when you do what you love. I hope that as your life's journey continues they continue to shape you, that they shape the man, that they shape the community member, and that they shape the citizen."
Gridiron Club president Robert Holdman, FCRH '86, LAW '91, was brought up to introduce head coach Joe Moorhead. But before he did, Holdman acknowledged the seniors in the room, the players who were a big part of the football program's turnaround in 2012, going from a 1-10 record in 2011 to a 6-5 mark this past fall, the second largest turnaround in the NCAA FCS in 2012.
"When I a new coach comes in there's usually tension with the upperclassmen but when I look around this room I see a senior class that not only didn't do that, they embraced the new coach and each other," said Holdman. "The seniors in this room and coach Moorhead worked together to be successful. If you ask any senior here tonight if they would want to play another year they all would say yes, but not just to play football but to play for coach Moorhead."
Following dinner, head coach Joe Moorhead presented the special team awards to members of the 2012 football team with Andrew Milmore, FCRH '13, earning the inaugural Ty Campbell Award; Patrick Murray, GSB '13, winning the Macken Award for the second straight year; Brendan Melanophy, GSB `13, receiving the Danowski Award; Chris Watkins, GSB `13, being named recipient of the Lansing Trophy; Matthew Sconiers, GSB `13 and Ryan Higgins, GSB '13, earning the Bill Tierney Award and Michael Martin, GSB '11 and Carlton Koonce, FCRH '14, receiving the Rich Marrin, FCRH '65, LAW `68, Most Valuable Player Award.
Milmore, who joined with Daniel Avedesian and James Avedesian to establish the Fordham chapter of Uplifting Athletes last spring, served as president of the chapter and helped the group decide to associate their fundraising effort to benefit pediatric brain cancer research to honor Ty Campbell. He made sure that the Rams have been actively involved in the program by organizing fundraisers at home football games and the team wore gold gear at games his year, such as shoe laces and wristbands, to help raise awareness since gold is the ribbon color for pediatric cancers. Milmore is also a finalist for the 2013 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award.
The Macken Award was established in memory of Rams' special assistant coach Bob Macken, who passed away suddenly in June of 1992. Coach Macken was a key part of the Fordham staff for seven seasons, always handling the "little things" that are so vital to keeping a program going. He took special pride in working with the special teams, and his "Macken Pizza Party" for the top special teams plays of the year were a source of great pride for the team.
Murray just completed the most successful season for a Fordham kicker in school history, leading all of the NCAA in field goals with 25 and leading the Patriot League and ranking second in the NCAA in punting average (46.0). He set a new Fordham and Patriot League record with 25 field goals, shattering the former mark of 18 set by Fordham's Matt Fordyce in 2002. The 25 three-pointers was just one shy of the NCAA FCS record of 26 set by set by Tony Zendejas from Nevada in 1982 and matched by Northern Iowa's Brian Mitchell in 1990.
Murray connected on four field goals of over 50 yards this fall, the most 50-yarders of any NCAA Division I kicker. He booted a school-record 55-yarder at Cincinnati as well as connecting on a 52-yard field goal versus Lock Haven.
On the year, Murray converted 25 of his 30 field goal attempts and 30 of 31 PATs to amass 105 points, ranking third on the school's single season list and becoming the first Fordham kicker to score more than 100 points in a season. He also broke the Patriot League mark of 97 kick scoring points in a season set by Fordyce in 2002.
Over his career, Murray booted 38 field goals, sixth best all-time at Fordham.
As a punter, Murray averaged a school-record 46.0 yards/kick, with 18 of his 52 kicks traveling over 50 yards, including a season-best 65-yarder, while 14 of his punts were downed inside the opponent's 20. He closes out his career with 186 punts for 7,985 yards, an average of 42.9 yards/punt, the second best career punting average in Fordham history.
A three-year starter in the defensive backfield, Melanophy earned Academic All-Patriot League and Capital One Academic All-District honors in 2012. He was seventh on the squad this fall with 41 total tackles, 23 solo, with one quarterback hurry. He also intercepted two passes, broke up five others and had seven pass deflections. His top game of the year occurred at Bucknell when he finished with a season-high eight tackles. Melanophy also made seven stops, three solo, and picked off a pass in the Georgetown game.
Over his career, Melanophy has compiled 166 total tackles, 111 solo, with six tackles for loss and one sack. He also has three interceptions and 15 career pass deflections.
Watkins, a Second Team All-Patriot League pick and team captain, anchored the Fordham offensive line from his center position this fall, helping the Fordham offense average 435.7 yards/game, second best in the Patriot League and 18th best in the NCAA FCS while the Rams scored 31.2 ppg, second in the league and 32nd in the NCAA FCS. The Rams also had the second ranked passing offense in the Patriot League in 2012, averaging 279.6 yards/game, 18th best in the NCAA FCS.
Sconiers appeared in ten games this year, making 17 tackles, ten solo, including 2.5 for loss and one sack. His top game was a five-tackle performance, including one sack, in the win over Georgetown.
Over his career, Sconiers recorded 48 total tackles, 25 solo.
Higgins, who appeared in the 2012 FCS Scout Bowl, the 17th annual All American Bowl and the 2013 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, completed 255 of 387 passes this fall for 2,940 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 255 completions is the second best single season total in Fordham history, behind only John Skelton's 284 completion in 2009, while the 2,940 passing yards is fourth best.
In the NCAA FCS rankings, Higgins ranked 15th in completions per game (23.18), 16th in passing yards/game (267.27), 19th in total passing yards and 26th in total offense (257.00 yards/game). In the Patriot League, Higgins ranked second in passing yards/game and third in passing efficiency and total offense.
Over his career, Higgins completed 488 of 745 passes for 5,393 yards and 23 touchdowns. He graduates third on the Fordham career completions list and fourth in career passing yards, just behind current head coach Joe Moorhead in each of those categories.
Martin, a First Team All-Patriot League selection who was selected to play in the 2012 FCS Scout Bowl, led the Fordham defense in tackles for the second straight year, finishing the year with 104 total stops, 64 solo, including 9.5 for loss and four sacks, and he added four pass breakups and three quarterback hurries in 2012. He leads the NCAA FCS in forced fumbles per game (0.70) and ranked second in the Patriot League and 21st in the NCAA FCS in tackles/game (10.4). Martin also ranked sixth in the league in tackles for loss and tied for 13th in sacks.
Over his four-year career, Martin compiled 311 total tackles, 182 solo, including 14 for loss and 10.5 sacks. He also has two interceptions and nine pass deflections.
Koonce led the Patriot League and was fourth in the NCAA FCS in rushing yards/game (145.1) and had two 200-yard games in 2012, including a 250-yard contest at Columbia where he tied a Patriot League record with a 92-yard touchdown run. Koonce also led the Patriot League and was sixth in the NCAA FCS in all-purpose yards/game, averaging 173.6/contest.
Moorhead, a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award as the NCAA FCS National Coach of the Year who led Fordham to the second best turnaround in the NCAA FCS this year, then displayed the senior class a sample of their appreciation gift, a framed game jersey, and thanked all those for their support, especially the Gridiron Club. "Without the leadership of the Gridiron Cub and their decision to bring football back in the 1960's none of this would be possible and none of us would be here. We owe them a great deal of gratitude."
Moorhead then announced the formation of the Kerin Family Challenge by Andrew Kerin and his family who will match donations made to the football program over the next few years.
University president, Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J., then addressed the crowd, thanking the student-athletes for representing Fordham with character, on and off the field, and specifically thanking Moorhead for taking the head coaching position at Fordham.
"As we know, Joe Moorhead brought with him a background as a Ram, as a man for others. He was able to come back and share his ideals because he lived it, learned it and continues to live it today. He came in and inspired leadership and generosity of heart and to not accept anything less than excellence. Joe Moorhead was a source of inspiration not only to the team, but to the entire university and for that we thank you."
McShane then touted the history of Fordham University, reflecting on three of the biggest names in school history: Lombardi, Mara and Walsh.
"No other school in the country can claim Lombardi, Mara and Walsh as their own," said McShane. "Lombardi, who has the Super Bowl trophy named after him; Mara, a family name that stands for integrity, class and character; and Walsh, a man deeply devoted to Fordham football, a man who stepped up and gave a naming gift to the library, which is the most important building constructed since Keating Hall. It's not for nothing that these are the men for whom our awards are named and it's not for nothing that we keep coming back to honor those who lives are marked by the same characteristics and the same values."
The Fordham seniors then took the stage and wrapped up the night with a rousing rendition of the Fordham Fight Song.
The Rams open the 2013 season on Saturday, August 31, as they host the University of Rhode Island on Jack Coffey Field.