NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith accepted a national award named in honor of the late Gene Upshaw.

WASHINGTON—NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice F. Smith was presented with the Gene Upshaw Memorial Trophy on Tuesday by the Manheim Touchdown Club (Pa.).

The inscription on the front of the trophy reads, “The Gene Upshaw Memorial Trophy is given annually to the top college lineman at the Division II level. The voters for this prestigious award are the Sports Information Directors at the 150 Division II colleges that play football. The Manheim Touchdown Club is proud to present this trophy to the National Football League Players Association in honor and memory of Eugene Thurman Upshaw Jr.—the best Division II lineman to ever play the game.”

Upshaw was Executive Director of the NFLPA for 25 years until his passing in August 2008. He was a 1987 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his long career with the Oakland Raiders.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a trophy in a 3-point stance,” Smith said as he held the trophy, which will reside in his conference room. “Wow. Thank you, guys. This is very cool,” he added.

Don Harris and Mike Williams, representing the MTC, were on hand at NFLPA headquarters to present the trophy to Smith. The MTC considered a few different designs, but decided on the current trophy because it “was far and away the best.”

“We just felt that we needed something special,” said Harris, past president of the MTC for nine years. “After the passing of Gene, we needed a trophy … to reflect his prominence not only as a player, but as an individual.”

The award was created in 2004. In May 2005, Upshaw attended the MTC’s annual awards banquet in Lancaster, Pa. Harris explained the history behind the award by citing Upshaw’s playing career, accolades and positive influence on others.

Harris said, “When we looked around, we needed a big name. Once he saw what we were trying to do, his comfort level went way up.”

Williams, head football coach at Manheim Central High School, is executive director of the MTC. He said bestowing the trophy in Upshaw’s honor is appropriate because it “symbolizes a great man.”

“It’s what we stand for; we’re all about character, scholarship and ability,” Williams said. “I think Gene epitomizes all of that.”

A complete history and past winners of the award can be found atwww.manheimtouchdownclub.com.

 

Author: Khalil Garriott, NFLPLAYERS.COM Editor Posted: 6/10/2010

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