FORT WORTH, TEXAS (FWAA) – Army West Point
coach and military veteran Mike Viti has been selected
as the eighth recipient of Armed Forces Merit Award
presented by the Football Writers Association of America
by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl,
the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in
June 2012 "to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm
of the sport of football."
Brant Ringler, executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed
Forces Bowl, and Matt Fortuna, FWAA president, announced Monday
during a teleconference that Viti was selected from a list of 38
nominations (33 individuals and five programs) as the 2019 recipient
by a seven-person committee made up of FWAA members and Lockheed
Martin Armed Forces Bowl officials.
"Coach Viti has distinguished himself as a collegiate football
player, an Army veteran and now as a coach," said Ringler. "More
importantly, Coach Viti has given of himself with his work with
Legacies Alive in support of families of our nation's fallen heroes."
Fortuna added, "Coach Viti joins a list of remarkable individuals
and programs that have been recipients of the Armed Forces Merit
Award. He has been successful in each phase of his life as a player
and coach at Army West Point, along with his service in the military
and his support of Legacies Alive. With so many deserving individuals
and programs, it is difficult to honor only one recipient annually."
Viti, who is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with
the Army West Point football, co-founded Legacies Alive (LA), a
501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The mission of the Legacies Alive
is to strengthen and support the Gold Star families of our nation's
fallen heroes and brings national awareness to the life and character
of all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Viti oversees
the strategic and executive direction of the organization.
"Legacies Alive has allowed me to passionately honor the sacrifice
and service of my heroes," said Viti. "The interactions I have had
with their Gold Star Families are some of the most powerful and
influential experiences I have had in my life. It has inspired me
to continue to connect our mission with more Americans so that our
country's sons and daughters forever connect the freedoms and liberties
they are afforded, with the sacrifice and service our fallen and
As a student-athlete at Army West Point (2004-2007), Viti earned
four varsity letters and was a team captain. As a fullback used
primarily as a blocker, he carried the ball 91 times during his
career for 321 yards and three scores while catching 30 passes for
198 yards. Viti also served as a Regimental Commander during his
Following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in 2008,
Viti was stationed in Oklahoma and Colorado after being commissioned
as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served with
the 4th Infantry Division as well as the 214th Fires Brigade. He
served in combat in Afghanistan where he was a platoon leader in
support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Viti has earned a bronze
star and a combat action badge.
After retiring from the military as a captain, Viti embarked
on Mike's Hike For Heroes, a cross country trek where he walked
one kilometer for every service member killed in action in the global
war on terror. He concluded the walk covering 7,100 kilometers or
4,400 miles beginning in Washington and wrapping up at the Army-Navy
Game presented by USAA in Baltimore, Md.
Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard was named
last November as the seventh recipient. A 1991 graduate of the United
States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received
the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation
presented to a senior college football player. He currently serves
on the selection committee for the College Football Playoff.
Nate Boyer of the University of Texas, Austin was the initial
recipient in 2012. Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University
of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University
in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in
2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University in
Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017
as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university's
partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between
the school's athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates
a large portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events worldwide. The
roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games,
the FCS opening-weekend game, 16 college bowl games, 11 college
basketball events, a college softball event, an esports event and
two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 375-plus
hours of live programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and
attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices
in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth,
Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and Tampa, ESPN Events builds relationships
with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing
unique experiences for teams and fans. For more information, visit
the official website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages.
The Football Writers Association of America
consists of the men and women across North America who cover college
football for a living. Founded in 1941, the membership includes
journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives
in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern
areas that include game day operations, major awards and an All-America
team. Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication
among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors
scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest.
Behind the leadership of President Matt Fortuna of The Athletic,
Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists,
the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper
at all levels. There are now over 1,400 members.