FORT WORTH, TEXAS (FWAA) - Bluefield College
defensive lineman and military veteran Collin O'Donnell
has been selected as the ninth recipient of Armed Forces
Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America
Coordinated 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 Doug Lesmerises, FWAA president, announced Wednesday
during a teleconference that O'Donnell was selected from a list
of 41 nominations (38 individuals and three programs) as the 2020
recipient by a nine-person committee made up of FWAA members and
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl officials.
"Collin has distinguished himself as a collegiate football player,
an Army veteran and now as a businessman," said Ringler. Lesmerises
added "O'Donnell joins a list of remarkable individuals and programs
that have been recipients of the Armed Forces Merit Award. With
so many deserving individuals and programs, it is difficult to honor
only one recipient annually."
O'Donnell, who maintains a 3.4 grade point average. is a captain
on the Bluefield College football team. In his first two seasons
with the Rams, O'Donnell has compiled 34 total tackles in 15 games,
including 16 unassisted stops. O'Donnell has 7.5 tackles for losses
(19.5 yards), one quarterback sack (seven yards) and two passes
Serving in the U.S Army from 2013-2016, O'Donnell was injured
in Afghanistan and after two years at Walter Reed National Military
Medical Hospital and seven operations to save his foot, he fully
rehabilitated and went back home to Buffalo, N.Y. where he began
training with the sole intention of playing college football.
While at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital, O'Donnell
was invited to the White House, where former President Barack Obama
personally awarded him the Presidential Call to Service Award for
his outstanding service to community.
arriving at Bluefield College in the Summer 2018, O'Donnell has
demonstrated constant leadership to the Ram football team as well
as service to the community.
- O'Donnell received the 2019 Richmond Touchdown Club Man
of the Year Award this past December, one of the highest honors
a College football player in the state of Virginia can receive.
- From his start in 2018 to spring 2019, O'Donnell volunteered
at nearly every community service event that football has offered,
as well as in his spare time.
- In 2019, on Martin Luther King Day, O'Donnell and several
players help pack food boxes at the Bluefield Mission for the
local hungry people of Bluefield, Va. and W. Va.
- In 2019. Collin took part in a local church organization
- The Mercer County (W.Va.) Hunger Challenge to feed displaced
Ugandan children, where he and his football teammates prepared
more than 1,500 meal packages.
- In the fall of 2019, O'Donnell took part in the Tazewell
County Business Challenge for entrepreneurs seeking to open
a new business. He proposed an extensive business plan and his
idea for a coffee and bake shop located in downtown Bluefield,
Va. O'Donnell won the small business grant and opened his Coffee
and Bake shop called "The Grind" this past May 2020. The recorded
town session for the business pitch is available on the Tazewell
County (Va.) Business Challenge Facebook page, Collin presented
- O'Donnell received Bluefield College's 2019 Champion of
Character award from the Mid-South Conference.
Army West Point coach and military service veteran Mike Viti
was the 2019 recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented
by the FWAA. A graduate of West Point, Viti is in his fifth seasons
at the school's fullback coach and 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.
Other recipient include Nate Boyer of the University of Texas
(2012), Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas (2013), Daniel
Rodriguez from Clemson University (2014), Bret Robertson of Westminster
College (Fulton, Mo., 2015), Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee
State University (2016) and Dr. Chris Howard from Robert Morris
Boyer (long snapper), McCoy (defensive lineman), Rodriquez (wide
receiver) and Robertson (defensive back) served in the Army before
playing collegiate football. A Marine, Rhodes played four seasons
at Middle Tennessee and participated in the 2013 Lockheed Martin
Armed Forces Bowl with the school.
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. A member of the College Football Playoff Selection
Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017
as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented
by the FWAA 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 portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events nationwide. The roster
includes four early-season college football games, 17 college bowl
games, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event and
two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 400 hours
of live programming, reaches nearly 64 million viewers and attracts
over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in more
than 10 markets across the country, ESPN Events builds relationships
with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing
unique experiences for teams and fans. or 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. Behind the leadership
of President Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com, 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.
Bluefield College is a Baptist liberal arts college in Bluefield,
Virginia. Founded in 1922 with an enrollment over 1,000, Bluefield
College offers 22 majors with bachelor and master's degree offered.
Nestled in the scenic Appalachian Mountains, Bluefield College's
82-acre campus is about 150 feet from the state line between Virginia
and West Virginia.
Armed Forces Merit Award
Complete release with
teleconference quotes (.pdf)
• 2020 Armed Forces Merit Award
• 2020 Armed Forces Merit Award nominees
the Armed Forces Merit Award logo (.jpg)