Courtesy UK Athletics

University of Kentucky senior offensive tackles Luke Fortner and Landon Young are two of the 114 nominees for The 2020 Wuerffel Trophy, known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service.” Named after 1996 Heisman Trophy-winning-quarterback Danny Wuerffel from the University of Florida, the Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to the FBS player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement. The 114 nominees are the most since the award began releasing a watch list in 2015.

Fortner, of Sylvania, Ohio, graduated in December of 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering and is currently working on a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Fortner put his degree to good use last fall when he, along with other UK engineering students, played a significant role in helping a team of Toyota Manufacturing engineers design, test and manufacture a specially-built push cart vehicle through a project called “Lift Them Up.” The push cart vehicle provides a Kentucky Children’s Hospital patient the chance to both accompany the Wildcats on the Cat Walk and attend a game at Kroger Field.

Because of his experience with project “Lift Them Up,” Fortner was compelled to continue making an impact at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. He began visiting the kids in September of 2019 as part of the “Tuesdays with the Wildcats” program, created by former Wildcat C.J. Conrad in 2018.

Luke Fortner. Engineers Day 2020. Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

When COVID19 hit, Fortner didn’t want to stop interaction with the kids so, along with teammate Max Duffy, they asked what they could do. With the help of the Child Life team at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, they set up a program called “In the Huddle with KCH.” For eight weeks, Fortner and Duffy taped a video of themselves answering questions from kids who submitted through the Kentucky Children’s Hospital Facebook Page. The video was then posted back to the KCH Facebook page every Tuesday morning to replace what would have been their in-person visit.

o   This opportunity was open to all Wildcat fans, not just KCH patients. During a difficult time for our nation, Fortner and Duffy provided a fun time for young fans to forget about the virus for even a short time to share a smile.

o   Questions ranged from why they got into football, why they chose UK and what their favorite football memory is to performing their favorite dance and naming their favorite Disney princess.

o   Questions were submitted from all around the state as well as submissions from Wildcat fans in Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to “In the Huddle with KCH,” Fortner and his teammates got creative in how they could continue their weekly visits with KCH patients. Each week, Fortner spends 1-1.5 hours on Zoom calls with patients who are currently “in-patient” at KCH. They discuss football, favorite hobbies, favorite color, etc. Patients are able to ask the players questions about anything and everything. Fortner and his teammates always offer up words of encouragement. Zoom calls are intimate because it’s just one patient with Fortner and his teammates for about 7-10 minutes each so the focus is all on one patient at a time.

More of Fortner’s community service projects:

·        Volunteered with other engineering students at UK’s 2020 “Engineers Day” to celebrate engineering and showcase the “Lift Them Up” cart

·        Volunteer at Urban Impact at the Woodhill Community Center, an organization that strives to enable youth to grow, succeed and lead

·        Volunteer reader at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary

·        Volunteer for Read Across America at Fayette County public schools

·        Volunteered with Habitat for Humanity

Young, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, is another one of the leaders for Kentucky football in terms of community service hours. Because of his work in the community, he was a nominee for the Wuerffel Trophy in 2019, while also earning spots on the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and the Southeastern Conference Community Service Team last season. Young graduated in December of 2019 with a degree in animal sciences and is currently working on a second degree in agricultural economics.

Cambridge Place named its dining hall the “Landon Young Dining Hall” for his support of the retirement home throughout his career. Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Here are a few of his community service projects:

·        Frequent visitor of a local nursing and rehabilitation center, Cambridge Place, providing joy to the residents … Because of his dedication to Cambridge Place, they honored him in February of 2020 by naming the dining hall the “Landon Young Dining Hall”

  • Guest speaker at local churches and elementary schools on seven different occasions, talking about life lessons, fighting through adversities, faith and football
  • Volunteered at Habitat for Humanity
  • Helped decorate Lexington’s Hope Center – a recovery program for women, with Christmas decorations
  • Volunteered with Lexington Christian Church to do yard work for members not physically able to take care of their yard
  • As an animal science major, has volunteered his time at a veterinary clinic in Cynthiana, Kentucky
  • Participated in a one-week service trip to the Ethiopia in May of 2019 where he helped delivered  essential nutrition, supplies, hope and love to families living in Korah, a slum made up of all the trash accumulated in Addis Ababa … Visited an orphanage with approximately 80 children and took teenagers from Korah to play arcade games and see the Avengers movie (the teens had never been out of their village, been in a movie theatre or even seen a movie) … Paired with a feeding program that supplies meals to government schools in Cherkos, a poorer region in Addis Ababa (the program began as a result of kids fainting and lack of focus in the classroom due to malnutrition at home, often missing breakfast in the morning and at night only leaving them with one meal per day) … Helped served meals to the kids during lunch and played in the schoolyard during recess.

Nominations for the Wuerffel Trophy are made by the respective universities’ Sports Information Departments and will close on October 15. A current list of nominees can be found at www.wuerffeltrophy.org beginning August 1. Semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 3 and finalists will be announced on Nov. 23.

The formal announcement of the 2020 recipient will be made at the National Football Foundation’s festivities in New York City on December 8. The presentation of the 2020 Wuerffel Trophy will occur at the 52nd All Sports Association Awards Banquet on February 19, 2021 in Fort Walton Beach.

Past winners of the award are:  Rudy Niswanger – LSU – 2005; Joel Penton – Ohio State – 2006; Paul Smith – Tulsa – 2008; Tim Tebow – Florida – 2008; Tim Hiller – Western Michigan – 2009; Sam Acho – Texas – 2010; Barrett Jones – Alabama – 2011; Matt Barkley – USC – 2012; Gabe Ikard – Oklahoma – 2013; Deterrian Shackelford – Ole Miss – 2014; Ty Darlington – Oklahoma – 2015; Trevor Knight – Texas A&M – 2016; Courtney Love – Kentucky – 2017; Drue Tranquill – Notre Dame – 2018; Jon Wassink – Western Michigan – 2019.

The Wuerffel Trophy is presented by Chick-fil-A® and is also supported by its corporate partners Dart Container Corporation/Solo Cup and Herff Jones.

The Wuerffel Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast more than 800 recipients, dating back to 1935. Visit www.ncfaa.org to learn more about the association.  

‑ GO CATS –

For more information contact:

Susan Lax

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