NEWBERRY COUNTY — Tonight marks the kick off of football season for some Newberry County teams, but it also marks the kick off of the Newberry County Touchdown Club, the goal of which is the overall promotion of local football.
Austin Willingham, president of NCTDC, said the club got started in 1999 by a group of local football lovers.
During their monthly meetings during the fall, high school and college football athletes are recognized during a dinner meeting, during which they also hear from a keynote speaker. Each meeting begins at 7 p.m.
Willingham said the speakers are usually decided throughout the course of the year, and are chosen by the board. Along with Willingham, the board includes Matt DeWitt, vice president of NCTDC, Jimmie Coggins, Brian Hare, Elyssa Haven, Jonathan Taylor, Joey Haney, Wilson Senn, Trey Taylor, Milton Price, Hugh Gray and Chris Martin.
“When I was approached by the board to become their new media chair, I was excited to work with the Newberry community in a way that I had not been able to before. I have enjoyed working with the NCTDC board and am excited about another season of football. I hope others will also join in the fun and get involved,” Haven said.
Three players from each football team are recognized at the meetings — one from the offense, one from the defense and one from special teams — after being nominated by their coaching staff and chosen by the board.
“We hope that it gives the student athletes satisfaction of a job well done. We hope that by giving back to them it shows that the community is behind them,” Willingham said.
Since the club started 17 years ago, Willingham said he has seen more involvement and interest from the community and that the scope of the speakers has changed. The club currently hosts 80 people at the regular meetings, with around 24 business sponsors.
“The NCTDC is a community organization that looks to honor student-athletes for their performances both on and off the field of play, and this county is so very lucky to have four solid high school programs at Newberry Academy, Whitmire Community School, Mid-Carolina and Newberry High, and a standout college program in Newberry College,” said DeWitt.
“All of these programs represent our county well, both on the field of play and in the classroom. We wish them all the very best heading into the 2016 football season,” he added. “We hope the community will come out to our monthly programs/meetings and help support Newberry County Football.”
Membership to NCTDC is annual. Individual memberships are $40 with advance meal ticket purchases costing $35. Business memberships are $125, and includes two people, with the advanced meal ticket purchase being $25. Guests are also welcome to attend and pay $12 for the meal.
The proceeds help cover the cost of the meetings — food, speakers, venue — and each school receives a yearly donation, Willingham said.
The group will meet Aug. 29 in Community Hall with Coach Todd Knight of Newberry College as the guest speaker; Sept. 26 in Henry Hall at Central United Methodist Church with speaker Jerome Singleton of the S.C. High School League; Oct. 24 in Henry Hall of Central United Methodist Church with speaker Phil Kornblut of Sports Talk Radio; and Nov. 14 in Henry Hall of Central United Methodist Church with speaker Woody Dantzler, a former Clemson quarterback.
The Newberry County Touchdown Club also hosts a watermelon cutting for Newberry College’s football team each year. This year’s will take place Aug. 20.
Contact Willingham for a membership form at [email protected] or 803-924-2164.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.