Gen. Odierno Named NFF Distinguished American Award Recipient
Gen. Raymond Odierno

Gen. Raymond Odierno

Aug 20, 2013

IRVING, Texas - Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the 38th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy will be presented with the National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award, it was announced on Tuesday. Odierno will be presented with the honor during the 56th NFF Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on Dec. 10.

One of the most prestigious honors presented by the NFF, the award recognizes an outstanding person who has maintained a lifetime of interest in the game and who, over a long period of time, has exhibited enviable leadership qualities and made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football in the United States.

"General Odierno's life has represented the embodiment of the motto of his alma mater, West Point: `Duty, Honor, Country,'" said NFF Awards Committee Chairman Jack Ford. "An athlete, a warrior, a scholar and, always, a leader, he has served his nation and his fellow soldiers well in both war and peace. We at the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame are honored to recognize him as our `Distinguished American.'"

Odierno became the 38th Chief of Staff of the United States Army on Sept. 7, 2011. He boasts more than 37 years of military experience since graduating from West Point, including service in Albania, Germany, Kuwait and Iraq.

An executive officer in operations for Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 1990s, Odierno returned to the Middle East in 2003 as the commander of the 4th Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and his troops captured Saddam Hussein outside of Tikrit in December 2003. "It was ironic that he was in a hole in the ground across the river from the great palaces he built using all the money he robbed from the Iraqi people... caught like a rat," Odierno legendarily said at the time.

Born on Sept. 8, 1954, Odierno grew up in Rockaway, N.J., playing tight end on a championship football team at Morris Hills High School.  At an imposing 6-feet-5 inches, he was recruited by West Point to play football and baseball, but Odierno suffered a knee injury his freshman year, which forced him to forgo football. He shifted his focus to baseball, earning three varsity letters as a pitcher for the Black Knights.

A lifelong football fan, Odierno recently strengthened his connection to the game, joining NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (who will coincidentally claim the 2013 NFF Gold Medal on Dec. 10) to announce a collaborative effort between the military and the NFL to combat brain injuries by sharing information and resources. Both organizations have placed special sensors in the helmets of soldiers and players to detect head trauma, and they are coordinating strategies and tests to ascertain if a concussion has been sustained.

"Having played football and been a senior commander in Iraq for almost five years, I've personally seen the impact of traumatic brain injury," said Odierno at the conference. "Roger and I got together on several occasions. He's passionate about taking care of his players. Our organizations make a really good match. I'm excited."

Military runs deep in Odierno's family. His father served in the Army during World War II, and his father-in-law was in the Navy on D-Day. His son Anthony, a West Point graduate and a retired captain in the Army, served in Iraq.

In addition to his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from West Point, Odierno holds a master's degree in Nuclear Effects Engineering from North Carolina State. He graduated from the Army War College and received a master's degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. Odierno has had two honorary degrees bestowed upon him; a Doctorate in Humane Letters from North Carolina State and a Doctorate of Laws from the Institute of World Politics. He was also appointed as an officer in the French National Order of the Legion of Honor.

A distinguished leader and protector of his country, Odierno has received some of the country's top accolades, including four Defense Distinguished Service Medals, two Army Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, six Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Meritorious Service Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Badge. He has also received the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal and Orders of Military Merit from Brazil, Columbia, Romania and Italy.

At the Dec. 10 event, Odierno will be honored alongside the recipients of the other 2013 NFF Major Awards, including Goodell, NCAA Vice President Dennie Poppe (NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award), Oklahoma Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Programs and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione (NFF John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration), and Florida State University broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff (NFF Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting).

In addition to the presentation of the NFF Major Awards, the 56th NFF Annual Awards Dinner will provide the stage for the induction of the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame Class from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS); the awarding of the 2013 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments; and the bestowing of the 24th NFF William V. Campbell Trophy to the nation's top scholar-athlete.

This year's College Football Hall of Fame FBS Class includes: Ted Brown (North Carolina State), Teddy Bruschi (Arizona), Ron Dayne (Wisconsin), Tommie Frazier (Nebraska), Jerry Gray (Texas), Steve Meilinger (Kentucky), Orlando Pace (Ohio State), the late Rod Shoate (Oklahoma), Percy Snow (Michigan State), Vinny Testaverde (Miami, Fla.), Don Trull (Baylor), Danny Wuerffel (Florida) and coaches Wayne Hardin (Navy, Temple) and Bill McCartney (Colorado). The 2013 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class will be announced on Oct. 31, and the winner of the Campbell Trophy will be announced live at the event.

For ticket information regarding the 56th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, please contact NFF Director of External Relations Will Rudd at 800.486.1865 or

Previous NFF Distinguished American Award Recipients:
2012 - George Bodenheimer
2011 - Dr. Archie Roberts
2010 - Tom Brokaw
2009 - Billy Payne
2008 - T. Boone Pickens
2007 - Rocky Bleier
2006 - Pat Tillman
2005 - Hon. Alan Page
2004 - Robert F. Casciola
2003 - Dr. Robert C. Khayat
2002 - George B. Young
2001 - Dr. James Frank
2000 - Arthur J. Decio
1999 - No honoree
1998 - Roy Kramer
1997 - No honoree
1996 - J. Donald Monan, S.J.
1995 - Tom Osborne
1994 - Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
1993 - Dick Kazmaier
1992 - Wellington Mara
1991 - Joe Paterno
1990 - Pete Rozelle
1989 - Edward "Moose" Krause
1988 - Joe Rodgers
1987 - Ike Sewell
1986 - John L. Toner
1985 - Bill Flynn
1984 - David Nelson
1983 - Leon Hess and Jimmy Stewart
1982 - Silver Anniversary - all honored
1981 - David Sonny Werblin
1980 - Fred Russell
1979 - John W. Galbreath
1978 - No honoree
1977 - Rev. Edmund P. Joyce
1976 - James A. Van Fleet
1975 - Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
1974 - Bob Hope
1973 - No honoree
1972 - Dr. Jerome H. Holland
1971 - Dr. Frank Boyden
1970 - Vince Lombardi
1969 - Archibald MacLeish
1968 - No honoree
1967 - No honoree
1966 - William Carpenter