By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
In a hallways of Yale University Curtis Martin and Luke Kuechly spent moments talking to one another sharing stories about life and football. Just down the hall there are “Old School” legendary sportscaster Chris Berman, former players Cornelius Bennet and Tony Dorsett signed autographs along with several others. Former Fremont High, standout David Fulcher was on hand with Raider great Lincoln Kennedy.
Fulcher, who attended Arizona State, was a member of the 1985 Walter Camp All-American team and former President of the Walter Camp Alumni Association. He played eight years in the NFL with the Bengals and Raiders and was a three time All-Pro (1988, 89, 90). He and his wife Judy have two kids (Kayla and David).
The 53rd Annual Walter Camp All-American weekend is America’s oldest All-American started by Camp in 1888. Camp is know as the “Father of American Football.” The Walter Camp Foundation was started in 1968 to carry on Camp’s vision.
Some 2,000 patrons gathered at the Lenman Center to recognize the top players in the country. The “New School” of players in attendance that were honored included: Bradlee Anae (Utah), Rodrigo Blankenship (Georgia) and Derrick Brown (Auburn). Berman received the Distinguished American Award – He’s been working with ESPN for six decades beginning in 1979. He’s been involved in 37 Super Bowls. From 1987 to 2005 the Brown graduate teamed with Tom Jackson and hosted NFL Primetime which still holds the record of Cable Television’s highest rated sports show.
“I’d like to thank the fine people here at Walter Camp truly first class organization,” said Berman. “I didn’t get here alone I want to thank my peers at ESPN and the State of Connecticut.”
Always versatile while at Brown as a commentator for WBRU radio he did football, ice hockey, basketball and baseball. He was inducted into the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
As a youngster Curtis Martin liked basketball. His mother encouraged him to play football. The family were not big sports fans but were attracted to the game after Martin excelled.
On this night he was given the “Man of The Year Award” which is given to the person that contributes to public service to community, country or fellow man.
Martin spent 11 years in the NFL rushed for over 14,000 yards. When you talk with him, stats are not a priority. The slim, trim and fit looking Martin looks as if he could play now.
“Its great to be recognized for things off the field,“ said Martin. “That means you’ve done something for people to take notice.”
During his playing days he founded the Curtis Martin Foundation. It’s goals are to provide financial-aid and hands on support to single mothers, youth charities and individuals with disabilities and more.
In 2014 he was named “Father of The Year” by the National Fathers Day/Mothers Day Council. He has also be lauded for setting aside nearly 20 percent of every paycheck for charity.
The former Pitt Panther may have personal reasons. “I have faced some tough people when I played in the NFL,” said Martin.” I faced Lawrence Taylor and other 300 pound lineman, but the toughest person I know is my mother. She was so tough every day before going to work she would put on her sunglasses and head out the door. The glasses would hide the bruises she got from my father who beat her all the time.”
Future Hall of Famer Von Miller accepted the Alumni Award – He founded Vons Vision for Young people to see with glasses. Thus far he has helped over 5 million youth.
JV Coach Robert Mendez Jr. at Prospect high near San Jose was born with tetra-amelia syndrome. He was honored with the Walter Camp “Perseverance Award”. He has coached as a JV assistant at five different high schools. It doesn’t slow his spirit nor his sense of humor. He cracked jokes while mingling the crowds during the social hour. “I believe you can do anything you want.” said Mendez. “Now I can tell everyone I went Yale.”
At a young age he was hyper and his parents had high hopes despite his physical differences. “I’d like to thank Prospect high. I love the kids there, and I really want to thank my parents for believing in me.”
Mendez was chaperoned and assisted by Walter Camp Volunteer Mike Fedikovich. “Everywhere we went in the city, people wanted to greet him and say hello take pictures, ” said Fedikovich .“Its really like being around a Rock Star.”
Also named to the 2019 team were USC’s Michael Pittman (Oaks Christian and Ohio states Wyatt Davis (St John Bosco). Joe Burrow and Coach Ed Orgeron were Player and Coach of the Year. They were unable to attend and sent in Videos because the were honored in the State of Louisiana on that evening.
It was just great to see all the outstanding players gather around the banner of Walter Camp, but it was even better to hear all the things they did off the field.