TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2010) — Ben Staggs, a senior offensive tackle from West Liberty University in West Liberty, W.V., will play among some of the best players in college football – in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams – at the 85th Annual East-West Shrine Game in Orlando on Jan. 23.
This accomplishment is a rare opportunity for a player from a Division II school. Staggs was afforded this opportunity after winning the Sixth Annual Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award, which is given each year to the best lineman, offensive or defensive, in the nation. His on-field efforts helped lead West Liberty to a best-ever 11-2 final record and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Super Region One playoffs.
The prestigious award was created in honor of Pro Football Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw, who was the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association from 1983 until his death in August 2008. During his career, he worked diligently to enhance, protect and defend the individual rights of professional football players throughout the NFL. The Manheim Touchdown Club sponsors the award.
“Gene was a highly respected guy who was known as a leader on and off the field, ” said Jack Hart, Executive Director of the East-West Shrine Game. “We met three years ago and he asked if we could get the winner of the award into our Game. Not only did this give the award added prestige, it said something about the quality of the outstanding players in Division II. ”
“We strive to create a positive NFL experience for the participants in the game, and it was very helpful to have a man like Gene involved,” Hart said. “He made it a point to attend the game and gave a very impressive presentation to the players. They really appreciated the advice he offered. We are pleased to have the winner of the award named after Gene in the East-West Shrine Game.”
Staggs is the fourth winner of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award to be invited to the East-West Shrine Game. Like the Division I players he will play alongside, he hopes to catch the eye of an NFL team.
For more information about the East-West Shrine Game, visitwww.shrinegame.com.
Noelle Anderson, (813) 281-8162, firstname.lastname@example.org