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Gene Washington Honored with Big Ten Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award

Gene Washington waves to Spartan fans after his name was added to the Spartan Stadium Ring of Fame in 2011.

Nov. 27, 2013

ROSEMONT, Ill. - Michigan State's Gene Washington was named the recipient of the Big Ten's Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award, while Purdue's Drew Brees was honored with the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award, the conference announced on Wednesday.

The awards recognize Big Ten football players that have achieved success in the areas of humanitarianism and leadership after their college careers have ended.

Washington helped lead the Spartans to consecutive Big Ten and national championships in 1965 and 1966. Twice named a first-team All-American, he spent his time away from the field helping counsel students as they started their careers. Drafted eighth overall in the 1967 NFL Draft, Washington went on to become a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro honoree in 1969 with the Minnesota Vikings. During his time with the Vikings, Washington began working with 3M in 1969, developing and directing the company's first in-house diversity career fair program. In addition, he assisted Michigan State Student Affairs from 1968-72, helping create the school's first diversity career fair program involving nationwide employers. Washington returned to 3M in 1988, spending 22 years as a conduit for minority engineering candidates making their way into corporate America. A recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1967, Washington also claimed an NCAA title in the 60-yard hurdles in 1965 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

A two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honoree, the 2000 Maxwell Award recipient and 2001 Big Ten Medal of Honor winner, Brees founded the Brees Dream Foundation in 2003. The organization has committed and/or contributed more than $17 million to charitable causes and academic institutions in the New Orleans, San Diego and West Lafayette communities. A co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition since 2010, Brees was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2006 and the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2010. He became one of the many faces of the New Orleans community following the Hurricane Katrina tragedy by establishing numerous charitable foundations to help the area in its recovery. Brees, whose name appears on the Big Ten's Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year trophy, guided the Boilermakers to the Big Ten Championship in 2000 and their first Rose Bowl Game berth since 1967. Drafted in 2001, he played five seasons with San Diego before moving to New Orleans in 2006, winning the Super Bowl and being named the game's MVP in 2009.



The Ford-Kinnick Leadership and Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian awards are part of the Big Ten's annual awards program. The Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award is named for Michigan's Gerald Ford and Iowa's Nile Kinnick. The Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award is named for Minnesota's Tony Dungy and Indiana's Anthony Thompson. For more information on these awards, including biographical information on the namesakes, visit

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