Tedy Bruschi added another chapter to his incredible comeback story recently when the Maxwell Football Club honored him with its prestigious Spirit Award. The award will be presented to Bruschi at the club's annual dinner March 3 at Harrah's Hotel and Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Spirit Award is given to an individual who made an important and lasting contribution to the community, and the Patriots linebacker becomes just the fourth recipient in the club's 69-year history.
The three previous winners are the late Reggie White, former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker and former Penn State defensive back Adam Taliaferro. Last year the club honored White, the former Packers and Eagles star defensive end, for his work helping the less fortunate. In 2001 Schweiker was named for his dedication during the coalmine cave-in in Central Pennsylvania, and in 2000 Taliaferro, who was paralyzed during a game while making a tackle, was recognized for his inspirational recovery.
Bruschi made national headlines with his dramatic return to the field after suffering a stroke last February just days after returning from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. After extensive rehab, he began the 2005 season on the team's physically unable to perform list, where he spent the first six weeks before being activated just before New England's Oct. 30 Sunday night showdown with the Buffalo Bills.
In front a national television audience on ESPN, Bruschi instantly returned to full-time status against the Bills, starting at inside linebacker and playing on special teams as well. He remained in the lineup through the ensuing eight games and helped resurrect a struggling Patriots defense.
A knee injury suffered at the Meadowlands against the Jets in the next to last game forced him to miss the regular-season finale against Miami, in addition to the team's wild card win over Jacksonville the following week. He did return to the lineup in Denver, where the Patriots season ended with a 27-13 loss in the divisional round. Bruschi finished the campaign with 72 tackles, two sacks, four passes defensed, three special teams tackles and one forced fumble.
Established in 1935 by former NFL commissioner Bert Bell, the Maxwell Club, located in Philadelphia, is an organization involved not only in football at all levels but the community in general. Its intentions are to help young people realize their potential, as leaders now, and as the future leaders of the country. Former Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski serves as the club's president.
The club has issued weekly awards to high school and college players since its inception, as well as their Maxwell Award, which goes to the nation's best college football player. Texas quarterback Vince Young was this year's recipient.
In addition to the player of the year, the club also offers the Bert Bell Trophy (professional player of the year – Seattle's Shaun Alexander), George A. Munger Trophy (college coach of the year – Penn State's Joe Paterno), Earle "Greasy" Neale Trophy (professional coach of the year – Indianapolis' Tony Dungy),Chuck Bednarik Award (college defensive player of the year – Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny) and the Francis J. "Reds" Bagnell Trophy (outstanding contributions to the game – former Texas coach Darrell Royal).