Former Bulldogs Sanford, McConathy to be honored at NFF Awards Dinner

Leo Sanford will be honored March 2 at the annual National Football Foundation S.M. McNaughton Chapter Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport.

A pair of former Louisiana Tech icons will be honored March 2 during the annual National Football Foundation S.M. McNaughton Chapter Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport.

Former Bulldog footballer Leo Sanford and former Bulldog hoop star Mike McConathy will both be receiving honors at the event while nine of North Louisiana’s finest high school senior football standouts who completed their prep careers last fall will be recognized and awarded scholarships.

The elite group, nominated by their head coaches, are Hunter Addison of North DeSoto, Green Oaks’ Fred Benjamin, Elijah Harper of Red River, Christian Jones from C.E. Byrd, West Monroe’s Blake Loring, Adam. Parker of St. Mary’s in Natchitoches, Haughton’s Peyton Polk, Kam Robinson from Captain Shreve, Hayden Rolfe of Logansport and Northwood’s Mason Welch.

A special presentation will be made to Sanford, the North Louisiana chapter president and charter board member who has been on the NFF board since its creation in 1980. Sanford, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions and the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, was a star center and linebacker at Shreveport’s Fair Park High School and at Louisiana Tech before becoming a Pro Bowl player in the NFL with the  Chicago Cardinals and winning the 1958 NFL championship alongside Johnny Unitas for the Baltimore Colts.

McConathy, who served as basketball coach at Northwestern State for 23 seasons in a 41-year coaching career and starred on the hardwood for Louisiana Tech during his collegiate playing days, is receiving the chapter’s Distingushed American Award for his far-reaching impact on high school and collegiate athletics and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Previous winners include Sanford, Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, Denny Duron, Orvis Sigler, Bo Campbell, Carl Miklovich, Tim Brando, James Davison, Terry Slack, Billy Montgomery, Dr. George Bakowski, John Manno Jr., Ivan Smith Jr. and George Sirven, along with McConathy’s father Johnny McConathy and the namesake of the local NFF chapter, Milton McNaughton.

Also recognized will be Jess Curtis as the chapter’s Coach of the Year, for leading Many High School to back-to-back state championships, including an unbeaten season last fall. He is the new coach at Natchitoches Central.

Two traditional other special awards will be presented, as they have been annually since 1981. Longtime Byrd coach Mike Suggs will receive the chapter’s Contribution to Amateur Football Award. Among the distinguished list of prior recipients are Eddie Robinson, Lee Hedges, Bert Jones, Joe Ferguson, Alton “Red” Franklin, Stan Humphries, Doug Williams, Jimmy “Chick” Childress, Alan Carter, Rodney Guin, Broderick Fobbs, Joe Raymond Peace and Sam Goodwin.

Tickets for the event are available through Friday afternoon by contacting chapter secretary and event coordinator Toni Goodin at 318-347-4453. They are $45 for individuals or $360 for tables of eight.

One of the nine student-athletes will be recognized as the McNaughton Chapter’s nominee for the National Football Foundation’s nationwide scholar-athlete of the year honor, and will be spotlighted for the 2023-24 year in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

Another of the student-athletes will be recognized as the KTBS/Johnny’s Pizza House Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Five – Addison, Harper, Parker, Polk, and Welch – are eligible after being selected for last fall’s NFF Scholar-Athlete Watch List. Along with nine others, they each were spotlighted during Tuesday segments on the KTBS 6 and 10 p.m. sportscasts and on the station’s award-winning Johnny’s Pizza House Friday Football Fever weekly highlight show.

The event begins with a reception and silent auction at 6:30, with the program kicking off at 7 and dinner served a few minutes later. All proceeds support the scholarships and awards presented to the student-athletes.

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