The most important individual award in the University of Dayton football program isn’t for most valuable player.
It’s for the UD football senior who best exemplifies the principles of sportsmanship and character. And during halftime of Dayton’s game on Saturday against Drake, the 57th recipient of the Lt. Andy Zulli Memorial Trophy will be announced in front of everyone at Welcome Stadium for Senior Day.
Senior linebacker Colin Monnier said the Zulli Award is one of the team’s “most prestigious” awards.
“That’s definitely a very special honor,”senior linebacker Colin Monnier said. “It’s just a huge honor. We talk about who might be possible candidates for it. Whoever wins that, it’s just a big honor.”
The award is named after Lt. Andy Zulli, who played two seasons for the Flyers in the early 1950s. He died in a military vehicle accident in Germany while serving in the Army. UD started the award shortly after Zulli’s death. Jerry Bush winning the first trophy in 1956.
Dayton head coach Rick Chamberlin said coaches look for a player who fits a wide-range of criteria.
“We’ve always said it’s our top award in our program because it so inclusive of so many types of characteristics,” Chamberlin said. “It’s not just being a great football player, which usually it’s not. It’s just a guy who loves playing football and being a Dayton Flyer.”
In 1985, ESPN football analyst and UD graduate Jon Gruden won the award.
Today’s game is also Senior Day for the Flyers, and Chamberlin said it’s always an emotional day for coaches and players.
“It makes you sad that they’re going to be leaving,” Chamberlin said. “You feel like a parent whose children are now going out into the real world and you’re going to be an empty nester. That’s why we want to make sure we have a great day for them.”
UD will honor 27 seniors and their families with player introductions before the game. Chamberlin said he still remembers his Senior Day as a Flyer in 1978 because having families around makes the day extra memorable.
“You always remember that,” Chamberlin said. “I think a big part of it is that your family is out there with you. I remember my mom and dad being out there and being able to hear their names introduced as I ran out. That’s special for a player, I think. Because they know, they’re not here at the University of Dayton without that family and the support that they give.”
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