The Walter Camp Distinguished American

The Walter Camp “Distinguished American” award is presented each year to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done.  He or she may have a record of dedication to mankind that should not pass unrecognized and a life that has been dedicated to the preservation of the American ideal.   The recipient need not have participated in football but must be one who understands its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork, and one who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication.  He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence that distinguishes him or her from contemporaries, as well as someone who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.

Legendary sportscaster Chris Berman (Brown University) is the 2019 recipient of Walter Camp Football Foundation’s Distinguished American award. 

Past recipients of the Walter Camp Distinguished American honor include nationally-respected sportscasters Keith Jackson (1995), Pat Summerall (2004) and Verne Lundquist (2014), all-purpose television personality Regis Philbin (2003), former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1994), world-renowned entertainer Bob Hope (1985), former college coach Eddie Robinson (1982), and last year’s recipient, former NFL standout Archie Manning.

“Chris Berman is one of the most highly-respected and beloved sportscasters of his era,” Walter Camp Foundation president Mario Coppola said. “His knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for sports, especially for the sport of football, make him a worthy recipient.”

Hired at ESPN in October 1979, Berman has become one of America’s most respected and popular sportscasters. He has also been recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his peers and countless other organizations for his exceptional contributions to sports broadcasting.  Six times the versatile Berman has been selected National Sportscaster of the Year (1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2001) by the members of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Berman and his various shows have won 10 Emmy Awards and 12 CableACEs.

Berman received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 for his longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.  In December 2017, Berman was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. In 2016, he was honored with the Newseum Institute’s Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media – the first sportscaster ever honored. He was also inducted into the National Sports Media Association (formerly NSSA) Hall of Fame. In 2015, Berman was just the fifth on-air personality to be inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.

Berman – a veteran of 37 Super Bowls, beginning with the 49ers’ first NFL Championship in Super Bowl XVI – began working alongside Tom Jackson on Sunday NFL Countdown in 1987 when ESPN first acquired the rights to carry the NFL. Berman and Jackson teamed together every Sunday night in the fall from 1987-2005 to host the critically-acclaimed NFL PrimeTime, which still holds the record as cable television’s highest-rated sports studio show.   In September 2019, the duo returned to host NFL PrimeTime.

Berman also anchored ESPN’s annual NFL Draft telecast for 30 years (1987-2016).  Nicknamed the “Swami,” Berman’s prognosticating alter-ego, provided weekly NFL predictions and observations on SportsCenter since ESPN’s very first year in 1979.  In addition to his NFL coverage, Berman also covered major league baseball and golf for ESPN.  Berman regularly hosted SportsCenter in ESPN’s first 11 years, culminating in the network’s first Emmy Award in 1990.

On May 24, 2010, Berman was honored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a tribute for his more than 30 years contributing to the sports television industry.  Berman is also a golf enthusiast and has played himself in 15 motion pictures.

Berman graduated from Brown University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. His first broadcasting position came while he was a student at Brown as sports director for WBRU Radio and commentator for basketball, football, ice hockey and baseball games.

In November 1991, he was inducted into the Brown University Athletic Hall of Fame, and in May 2007 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from his alma mater.

Berman began his career as a disc jockey at WERI in Westerly, RI, hosting a news-oriented talk show and covering high school football and basketball games. One year later, he joined WNVR Radio in Waterbury, Conn., broadcasting high school football games, co-hosting a sports talk show and doing traffic reports.  Berman’s first television exposure came in 1979 when he joined WVIT-TV, an NBC affiliate in Hartford, Conn., as a weekend sports anchor.

Previous winners of the Walter Camp Distinguished American Award

Archie Manning – Ole Miss (2018)

Lee Corso – Florida State University (2017)

Mike Ditka – University of Pittsburgh (2016)

Tim Shriver – Yale University (2015)

Verne Lundquist – Texas Lutheran (2014)

Joe Theismann – University of Notre Dame (2013)

Tom Osborne – Hastings College (2012)

Floyd Little – Syracuse University (2011)

Chuck Bednarik – University of Pennsylvania (2010)

Robin Roberts – Southeastern Louisiana University (2009)

Len Dawson – Purdue University (2008)

Frank Broyles – Georgia Institute of Technology (2007)

Dick Vermeil – San Jose State University (2006)

Arthur Blank – Babson College (2005)

Pat Summerall – University of Arkansas (2004)

Bill Walsh – San Jose State University (2003)

Regis Philbin – University of Notre Dame (2002)

New York City Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Service Personnel and Port Authority Policy (2001)

Gene Upshaw, Texas A&I University (2000)

Glenn “Bo” Schembechler – Miami (Ohio) University (1999)

Steve Young – Brigham Young University (1998)

Steve Largent – University of Tulsa (1997)

Dick Ebersol – Yale University (1996)

Keith Jackson – Washington State University (1995)

Paul Tagliabue – Georgetown University (1994)

The Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh – C.S.C (1993)

Carm Cozza – Miami University, Yale University (1992)

Susan Saint James – (1991)

Alexander Kroll – Rutgers University (1991)

Texas E. (Tex) Schramm – University of Texas (1990)

Richard W. Kazmaier – Princeton University (1989)

Burt Reynolds – Florida State University (1989)

Y.A. Tittle – Louisiana State University (1988)

Sid Luckman – Columbia University (1988)

Weeb Ewbank – Miami University (1987)

Tom Landry – University of Texas (1986)

Bob Hope – (1985)

Major General William “Bill” Carpenter – U.S.M.A. (1984)

Tom Harmon – University of Michigan (1983)

Edward “Eddie” Robinson – Grambling State University (1982)

Harold “Red” Grange – University of Illinois (1981)

Hon. Alexander M. Haig, Jr. – U.S.M.A. (1980)

George S. Halas – University of Illinois (1980)

David A. “Sonny” Werblin – Rutgers University (1979)

James Crowley – University of Notre Dame (1978)