On Friday, June 20, former Cleveland Browns defensive back Frank Minnifield will be honored by the Kentucky Chapter of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the eighth recipient of The Blanton Collier Award for Integrity On and Off the Field.
Minnifield, a former standout at the University of Louisville, was nominated for the award by members of the Blanton Collier Sportsmanship Group and the Collier family. The event will be held at the Brown Theatre in Louisville, as part of a weekend-long celebration.
Known as a man of great integrity on and off the field, Collier frequently stated, “You can accomplish anything as long as you do not care who gets the credit.” In establishing the Blanton Collier Award for Integrity On and Off the Field, the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame annually recognizes those in the world of pro football who carry on that legacy, as a model for all those who come after them, in a world where integrity is too often compromised.
Past awardees are a virtual Hall of Fame of pro football legends, including Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Tony Dungy and the Manning and Harbaugh families.
As this year’s nominee, Minnifield easily meets the standards of integrity required for this honor. Considered too small for college football, he was a walk-on at Louisville, winning a scholarship and leading the nation in average yards per kickoff return. After college, Minnifield spent two years in the USFL before joining the Browns as a free agent. With the Browns, he joined Hanford Dixon to become one of the greatest defensive back duos in the history of the game.
Nicknamed “Boom” for his hard-hitting ability, Minnifield was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (1986 –89), and was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team as selected by the voters of the Pro Football Hal of Fame. During his nine seasons with the Browns (1984–92), the team made five playoff appearances, including three trips to the AFC Championship Game.
Following retirement from the NFL, Minnifield became a highly successful businessman in his hometown, known as well for his humanitarian concerns as for his business acumen. A man of amazing vision and creativity, he recognized the contribution of Kentuckians to the National Football League, and founded the Kentucky Chapter of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to honor those contributions, to elevate the standing of the game of football in the state of Kentucky, and to benefit deserving charities.
His ability to envision and connect ideas and individuals for positive accomplishment led to the establishment of the Blanton Collier Award for Integrity On and Off the Field, and contributed significantly to the origins of the Blanton Collier Sportsmanship Group of which he is a founding member. In 2012, the University of Louisville, the college where he had to earn a scholarship as a walk-on, named him the Chairman of their Board of Trustees.
The Kentucky Chapter of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is now in its 13th year of honoring football players with Kentucky roots who have played in the National Football League. While Kentucky is often considered a “basketball state,” the number of professional players who were born in Kentucky, or played high school and/or college football in Kentucky comes as a surprise to many people. The Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame honors those individuals, and offers support to the tradition of football at all levels within the state.
When the KYPHOF was still in its infant years, it recognized that former Browns head coach, Blanton Collier, was born in Millersburg, Kentucky, graduated from Paris High School and Georgetown College, where he played midget football, and received his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Kentucky, where he was well on his way to a doctorate when the war intervened.
Collier spent 17 years teaching higher math and history and coaching all sports at Paris High School before enlisting in the navy and moving toward his destiny in professional and college football – and his reputation as the “teaching coach”. Known as the “old professor,” Blanton was credited by Browns Hall of Fame Quarterback, Otto Graham, with “teaching me everything I know.” Along with Paul Brown, he implemented the practice of film and playbook study that still exists today and is reputed to have been responsible for the early success of the Browns.
In between coaching stints with the Browns, Collier was the head football coach at the University of Kentucky where he assembled a staff that included Don Shula, Howard Schnellenberger, Bill Arnsparger, John North, Chuck Knox, Ed Rutledge and George Boone – providing the NFL with a coaching legacy that lives on today.
Perhaps legendary Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman summed up Collier’s importance to the game best when he said, “If Paul Brown is known as the organizer, and Vince Lombardi the motivator, then Blanton Collier has to be known as the teacher of record.” Zimmerman one of the deans of American sports writers also said, “I just can’t shake the feeling that this old man with the hearing aids might be the best of them all.”
For more information regarding the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame go to: www.kyprofootballhof.org
For more information regarding the Blanton Collier Sportsmanship Group go to: www.coachcolliergroup.org