Last Wednesday, several athletes got the recognition they deserved at the Cornell Football Association annual awards banquet. Over 250 attendees, including players, coaches, parents, and administrators attended the event, and Andy Noel delivered the night’s keynote speech while Buck Briggs ’76 — CFA board member and Cornell radio announcer — served as master of ceremonies. In all, 19 players received awards recognizing their various contributions on the field, in the classroom, and to the local community.
The team’s Most Valuable Player award, the first presented, went to Senior Neil Morrissey. Morrissey, who earned All-Ivy League honorable mention after the season, led the Red’s defensive backfield and had a team-leading 94 tackles during the season, 52 of which were solo efforts. He also broke up a league-high 14 passes and received the Ivy League’s Defensive Player of the Week and the Eastern College Athletic Conference Player of the Week following his 24-tackle performance against nationally ranked Colgate.
On the offensive side of the ball, Junior offensive lineman Kevin Boothe led the pack and picked up three honors. His first two of the evening were the Offensive Red Helmet Award, which is the equivalent of offensive MVP, and the Sid Roth Award, given to “the down lineman who, through his attitude and play, has contributed the most to the success of the team.” Boothe, a first-team All-Ivy pick after 2003, proved formidable on the line, helping the team record 1,020 rushing yards and 2,167 yards in the air — the most for Cornell in three years.
Taking the floor for the third time, Boothe also received the Doc Kavanagh Training Room Athlete of the Year award, which he shared with senior quarterback Mick Razzano. The honor, given to the “the varsity player who gives his all throughout the season, distinguishing injury from pain,” recognized Boothe’s fortitude for playing with two broken hands during most of the season and Razzano’s perseverance through an abdominal injury which eventually sidelined him after only five games.
Despite the injury, Razzano managed to net 809 yards passing and two touchdowns. The quarterback also saw his name enter Cornell’s archives with the 10th most passing yards (2,502), seventh most career pass attempts (456), and the eighth most career completions (228).
Cornell’s offensive rushing leader, sophomore Josh Johnston, received the Most Valuable Back Award for racking up 446 yards on the ground, 76 off pass receptions, and scoring four touchdowns despite missing two games due to injuries. Johnston is also a member of Ivy League Honor Roll twice over and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team.
Finishing up the list of honorees for the offense was also senior quarterback D.J. Busch, who received the Monsour Jewelers Award for most improved player.
On the other side of scrimmage, senior Ryan Lempa took home the Defensive Red Helmet Award, recognizing him as the outstanding defensive player on the varsity squad. On the season, Lempa led the team in tackles for a loss with 8.5 and recorded three sacks and 48 tackles.
Junior outside linebacker Brad Kitlowski, a two-time All-Ivy honorable mention choice, earned the Charles Colucci Award for being the “non-senior who contributes the most to the success of the team.” Kitlowski finished the season with 71 tackles, second best on the team, and he also tacked 4.5 tackles for a loss, one broken up pass, and one quarterback sack to his stats page.
Three other defensive players also took home some hardware for their achievements. Senior defensive lineman Mike Stone was awarded the Robert Fenton Patterson award after overcoming a serious neck injury his junior year but returning to start all ten games his twilight season with the Red. Senior outside linebacker Jim Hilliard wrapped up the Bernie Olin Award for his gritty play and determination to bring down opponents. Junior cornerback Sean Nassoiy was given the Monsour Jewelers Award as the defense’s most improved player.
Special teams players, whose roles are often overlooked in games, got praise as well during the banquet. Senior Marschall Berkes got the unit’s highest recognition, the Jeff Stenstrom Award, given to “the non-kicker who contributes the most to the performance of the special teams.” Berkes battled back from injuries during his four years on the hill but saw action in all ten games in his final season, making four tackles
In recognition of his spirit, leadership on the team, and academic achievement, senior defensive lineman and team captain Kevin Rooney received the Enzo Montemurro Award and the Victor Grohmann Scholar-Athlete Award. Rooney, who graduated in December, 2003, led the Red in sacks with four and tackles for a loss. More notably, Rooney was the only Ivy League football player named to the first-team Academic All-American squad, and he also served as vice president of the Red Key honorary society while contributing to the team’s Big Red Readers program.
For his reliable contributions during the past four seasons, senior wide receiver Vic Yanz was recognized as the player with the most consistency throughout his career. Yanz had two 100-plus yard games this season and led the team with an average of 12 yards per catch.
For their game-breaking plays, senior wideout John Kellner and junior defensive back Kyle Thomas shared the Stone Travel “Big Play” Man of the Year Award. Kellner led the team in kick returns and receiving yards with 582, and the Evans, Colorado native had six 100-yard performances scattered throughout the season. He also had at least one catch in every one of Cornell’s contests this season, tying the school record for consecutive games with a reception. Thomas, on the other hand, was noted for breaking up plays on the other side of the ball. The Indialantic, Florida native finished the season fifth on the team in tackles with 56, including 36 solo stops. He also picked two passes, one in the team’s only win over Bucknell.
Last, senior center John Megaro went home with the Paul N. Hunt Citizenship Award for his “unselfishly contributing his time and energy to help others beyond the playing field.” In addition to starting all of the Red’s games this season and earning All-Ivy honorable mention for his play, Megaro featured prominently in local elementary schools, where he worked with youngsters through the Big Red Readers program.
Following the formal awards ceremony, CFA president Fred Devlin ’67 presented each senior with his jersey, framed and adorned with a plaque thanking him for contributing to the Cornell football program.
Archived article by Everett Hullverson