DC Touchdown Club celebrates the "Year of the Coach" at its 2014 Awards Dinner

A capacity crowd saluted four-time Pro Bowl linebacker London Fletcher and legendary local high school coaches Jim Fegan, Joe Gallagher and Willie Stewart at the DC Touchdown Club Awards Dinner on Thursday night at Carmine’s.

The program began with a Career Achievement Award for Fletcher, who passionately told the younger award winners to stay focused and work hard. Fletcher remembered showing up for one training camp during his early playing days and being issued jersey No. 66, normally a number given to linemen, not linebackers, before quickly making his mark and becoming one of the game’s all-time most dependable players.

The next award winner told a similar story. Maryland High School Player of the Year Ja’Whaun Bentley, a linebacker from DeMatha Catholic, could not help cracking a smile. Bentley, who was not interested in playing football when he was younger, eventually gave in after going to watch his younger brother’s practice. “I was given No. 66 too,” said Bentley, who has signed with Purdue. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Briar Woods record-setting quarterback Trace McSorley, a Penn State recruit, received the Virginia High School Player of the Year award. H.D. Woodson wide receiver and defensive back D’Andre Payne, who has already enrolled at Tennessee, joined the event via Skype and was all smiles as he was presented the D.C. High School Player of the Year award. Centreville’s Chris Haddock received the Washington Metro High School Coach of the Year award and Navy’s sensational quarterback Keenan Reynolds worked the crowd as he accepted the Washington Metro College Player of the Year award.

Then it was time for the stars of the show. Lifetime Achievement Award winners Jim Fegan, Joe Gallagher and Willie Stewart combined to coach high school football in the Washington area for 91 years, winning countless games, numerous championships and, most importantly, influencing the lives of countless teenagers.

Fegan was introduced by his former player and successor at Georgetown Prep, Dan Paro, who told of the way Fegan changed the culture at the North Bethesda school, commanding the respect of all.

Gallagher was introduced by Hall of Fame basketball coach Morgan Wootten, who recounted the lessons he learned after Gallagher hired him for his first high school coaching job as an assistant basketball and football coach at St. John’s.

Cato June, who played for Stewart at Anacostia and now is the coach at the Southeast Washington school, told of how Stewart was a father figure for his players. In 2012, when Anacostia named its football stadium after Stewart, June told of the discussion he had with Stewart’s son Troy regarding whether the stadium should be Stew Stadium (for Stewart’s nickname), Willie Stewart Stadium or some other combination. “I’m his son,” Troy Stewart said. “I’m his son, too,” June fired back.

With many of their former players in attendance, all three Lifetime Achievement Award winners regaled the crowd with stories from their coaching days, each tale seemingly better than the next.

To conclude the night, Jim Morhard, one of the survivors in the plane crash that killed Bill Phillips, made a special presentation on behalf of the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund. Morhard told the story of the plane crash and how he, Bill’s son Willy (who also was in attendance Thursday night) and two others survived the crash in the Alaska wilderness in dire circumstances. Morhard talked about serving others and one’s fighting spirit and determination before making a surprise presentation to SFC Jon Smith, who has had eight surgeries to repair a serious knee injury sustained in Iraq in 2008. Despite his injuries, Smith has remained in the army and now serves as a mentor, sounding board and advisor for wounded warrior care.

The DC Touchdown Club’s next event is the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund Golf Tournament on June 6 at Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg, Va. For more information or to reserve a place in the tournament, please visit dctouchdownclub.com or contact Lauren Schweitzer at 202-776-2130 or lschweitzer@militarybowl.org.

Bill Phillips Memorial Fund supports double-amputee Marine Corps Marathon competitor


Joe Beimfohr was under the weather much of this past week, but a severe cold did not dampen his spirit as the double-amputee handcycler competed in his 25th marathon.

Beimfohr finished this past Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours 4 minutes and 49 seconds.

“That’s the slowest I’ve gone in like five years,” said Beimfohr, who was injured by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq in 2005 and spent one year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. “But being sick, I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted to.”

Beimfohr’s schedule last week was limited because of the illness. While he participated in an exhibition in Gettysburg, Pa., and raced in the Army Ten Miler the previous weekend, he had to pass up planned rides on the C&O Canal and Washington & Old Dominion trails, as well as a trip to Baltimore.

Still, he had a great time during his 1 1/2 weeks in the Washington area, with his lodging arranged by the DC Touchdown Club and Bill Phillips Memorial Fund, with assistance from the generosity of Marriott. He stayed at the Renaissance Capital View in Arlington.

“It was very nice,” Beimfohr said. “It was a good week. I don’t get back to D.C. often, so I would have liked to take more advantage of it while I was there. But you can’t control when you get sick. … At least I was able to suck it up and finish.”

Freddie Uzeta and General James F. Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, at the starting line with Joe Beimfohr

Freddie Uzeta and General James F. Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, at the starting line with Joe Beimfohr


The DC Touchdown Club hosted the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund Golf Outing on Friday afternoon at Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club, raising money to help wounded warriors, former and current college athletes and others in need of assistance.

Following the round, DC Touchdown Club Executive Director Steve Beck welcomed participants to a post-golf reception in the clubhouse. In addition to awarding traditional prizes to golfers, Beck had a few other announcements, sharing details of what some of the proceeds will go towards:

“This is going to help them continue to live their lives, in spite of their injuries; help them be able to participate and be a part of things and a part of the community,” said Ayandria Barry, the soldiers’ advocate in the Army Wounded Warrior Program at Fort Belvoir. “Everything being done here is helping soldiers be a part of society and helping them feel like they can contribute to their families.”

Three members of the Fort Belvoir Wounded Warrior Golf Program participated in the outing. They were joined by several executives from throughout the region, as well as two of Bill Phillips’ sons, Willy and Paul. Phillips’ sister, Paula, greeted golfers upon their arrival and his widow, Janet, met with the participants in the clubhouse after the round.

Bill Phillips was 56 when he was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Alaska. His three older sons played major-college football: Andrew at Stanford, Colter at Virginia and Paul at Indiana, where he will be a redshirt junior this fall. Willy is a high school student.

“Bill was a generous man and he would have taken immense satisfaction in bringing everyone together for an event like today’s,” Beck said. “We are honored to be able to do this in his memory. Also, we want to thank the terrific staff at Raspberry Falls for their hospitality and support of our event.”

The foursome of Greg Kubasik, John Pobiak, Bob Hillerson and Terrell Richmond won the Captain’s Choice scramble with a net score of 14-under par 58. Wes Strang won the long drive contest, while Patrick Bulger won the closest to the pin contest.

The DC Touchdown Club’s next event is being planned for the fall. Visit www.dctouchdownclub.com for updates and more information.

DC Touchdown Club Scores Big

Awards Dinner draws capacity crowd to honor Beamer, others

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The DC Touchdown Club welcomed a capacity crowd of more than 250 and presented Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer with its Lifetime Achievement Award at its Awards Dinner on Friday night at Carmine’s.

“I know how fortunate I’ve been getting to stay in one place for 26 years,” Beamer told the crowd that included former Washington Redskins players, former Timmie Award winners, the former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton, the former Under Secretary of the Army Joe Reeder and DC Bowl Committee Chairman Bill Hall. “I don’t know if that will ever happen again.”

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was the night’s featured speaker and told the high school and college award winners that they “are truly the future of football.”

Among other awards, three Parade All-Americans received Local High School Player of the Year awards: Friendship Collegiate linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, who has signed to play at Maryland, was the Washington D.C. player of the year; Our Lady of Good Counsel defensive back Kendall Fuller, who has signed to play at Virginia Tech, was the Maryland player of the year; and Stone Bridge defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who has signed to play at Alabama, was the Virginia player of the year.

Also, Our Lady of Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy, who has led his team to four consecutive No. 1 finishes in The Washington Post, was presented the Local High School Coach of the Year award.

Howard University’s Gary Harrell was named the Local College Coach of the Year. University of Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano, who like his father, Paul, was an All-American for the Terrapins, was named the Local College Player of the Year.

Also, Reeder presented a check for $5,000 from the Bill Phillips Memorial Fund and a signed helmet from Minnesota Vikings star Jared Allen to SPC(R) Robert Murafsky. Murafsky lost his right eye when he was shot while on duty in Iraq in 2006; today he works as a security specialist at the Pentagon and is very involved in helping other wounded warriors.

To conclude the night, Beamer called longtime assistant coach Billy Hite up to the podium. Hite, a DeMatha High School graduate who won a Timmie Award as a high school player of the year in 1968, was surprised with the Local Personality Makes Good award.

“What an event,” DC Touchdown Club Executive Director Steve Beck said. “This is what it is all about, bringing together people from throughout Washington’s football community for a night of camraderie and story-telling.”

The DC Touchdown Club’s next event is its Golf Outing on June 7 at Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg, Va. For more information or to reserve a place in the outing, please contact Maureen Licursi at 202-776-2509 or mlicursi@militarybowl.org

A New Touchdown Club for Washington

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog writes about the emergence of the DC Touchdown Club. Full story with pictures can be found here on the Post’s website.

Thirty-six years ago this month, a Sports Illustrated profile of awards dinners paid particular attention to the Touchdown Club of Washington, calling it “the granddaddy of all sports banquets.” That year’s black-tie affair attracted 2,000 all-male attendees who ate filet mignon, Italian green beans and water chestnuts at the then-Sheraton Park Hotel; the guest list included Supreme Court Justice Byron White, brother of the president Billy Carter, Tony Dorsett, Ken Stabler, John Madden, Roger Staubach, Carl Yastrzemski, Adrian Dantley, Bruce Jenner and John Havlicek.

The year before, the same event attracted Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, Jack Kramer, Joe DiMaggio, Meadowlark Lemon, Fran Tarkenton, Abe Pollin and Johnny Bench, among others.

“I don’t know how in the world you ever talked me into this,” Hope told dinner chairman Charlie Brotman, according to the next day’s Post.

For decades, Brotman and pals attracted dozens of A-listers to this banquet, from Ronald Reagan to Mickey Mantle, from Richard Nixon to Sugar Ray Leonard.

“Every major coach, every major player —  and I mean EVERY one that we went after — came here. No exceptions,” Brotman told me this week. “We have never really been known as a sports town, because most of our teams have not actually been very successful. But with the advent of the Touchdown Club, every January we would have the greatest athletes in the United States here in town. For about a week, we were like the sports capital of America. “

The awards banquet circuit isn’t what it used to be, and the Touchdown Club dinner faded away sometime in the ‘90s. Now, there’s an effort to bring it back. The DC Touchdown Club– note the slightly different name – will hold its first dinner March 8 at Carmine’s in Chinatown, headlined by Frank Beamer, who will be given a lifetime achievement award.

Organizers are hoping to start anew by tapping into the previous Touchdown Club’s original roots in local prep and college football. The event will raise money for a local youth football cause, and will honor high school players of the year in the District (Yannick Ngakoue), Maryland (Kendall Fuller) and Virginia (Jonathan Allen), as well as Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy, Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano andHoward Coach Gary Harrell. Previous Touchdown Club high school players of the year will also be invited.

“It was a vibrant piece of the local football community for years,” said Steve Beck, the executive director of the Military Bowl, who is leading the resuscitation efforts. “This is something that the community really liked in the past, and I think it’s something that they’ll wrap their arms around again.”

Of course, it’s hard to replicate the celebrity power of the past, like the 1988 appearance by Sylvester Stallone, accepting the President’s Council on Physical Fitness award. Or the 1966 event, which featured then-Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Willie Mays and Red Auerbach.  Or the 1973 dinner, emceed by Howard Cosell and featuring Johnny Unitas, Bart Star, Sonny Jurgensen, Don Strock, John McKay, Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry.

The club was founded by Arthur “Dutch” Bergman in 1934; its symbol was the “Timmie” award, a trophy featuring a boy in uniform and sneakers. The new club hasn’t settled on a name for its trophy.

“What I would like for it to be, on a personal level, is something people could get together with their dad about: father and son, father and daughter, going and enjoying themselves together,” Beck said.

Organizers are hoping for more than 300 attendees at their initial effort, including several pros and retired players. They have consulted with Brotman, who supports their mission but cautioned that the world has changed since the banquet’s heyday. Athletes, he said, are less likely to show up at a banquet without an appearance fee. Friends can’t lean on friends to participate in quite the same way.

“I don’t think you can ever have the same success as something that was so historic, but they’re on the right direction, they’ve got the right idea,” Brotman said. “They’re trying to start the way the Touchdown Club actually started a century ago — go for the high school player, the prep school player, all local stuff. That’s the first domino to fall.”