NEW YORK, N.Y. - Northern Arizona head football coach Jerome Souers was one of the recipients of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Salute to Excellence Award presented by the Fritz Pollard Alliance. Souers was honored along with 14 other NCAA head coaches. In his 16th season with the Lumberjacks, Souers led NAU to a 9-3 overall record and 7-1 Big Sky finish to place second in the conference. The Lumberjacks earned an at-large bid to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs to advance to the post season for the first time in 10 years.
"I'm truly humbled by this honor and would like to acknowledge the fact that there are a lot of people that contribute to the success of our program here at NAU," said Souers. "I'm grateful for the minority coaches that have opened the door for guys like me. I have a great deal of pride that I can be mentioned in the same breath as these coaches because my background and upbringing mean a lot to me. To be given an award for that is a special feeling and it will hold a unique place in my heart."
The Salute to Excellence Award is given to persons who display outstanding performance through the year on the field and in front offices in the National Football League and NCAA institutions. The award is named in honor of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., one of the co-founders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that passed away in 2005.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance has held this Annual Salute to Excellence Award since 2006 presenting the first awards at that year's Super Bowl to Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.
Pollard grew up in Rogers Park, Ill., where he was a three-sport athlete at Lane Tech High. He went on to play college football at Brown University earning legendary status by compiling a list of firsts… the first African-American player to lead his team to a Rose Bowl (1916), the first African-American player named to the Walter Camp All-America team as a back and the first African-American player selected to the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 after he was the first African-American player to play on a championship team in 1920, first to serve as a head coach (1921) and first to play quarterback (1923).
Additional FCS coaches earning the Salute to Excellence Award this year include Dino Babers of Eastern Illinois, Brian Jenkins of Bethune-Cookman, Dawson Odums of Southern, Oliver "Buddy" Pough of South Carolina State, and Rod Reed of Tennessee State.