For the second consecutive year, a custom award created by Bennett Awards was presented to the recipient of the Defender of the Nation Award. This recognition award was established by the Charlotte Touchdown Club, and is presented each year to a college football player from of the nation’s service academies and military colleges, which include West Point, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard Academy, The Citadel, Virginia Tech, VMI, Texas A&M, and Norwich University. This award recognizes an athlete from these academies that demonstrates exceptional leadership qualities on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, as well as exhibiting high standards of integrity by leading through example.
The most recent recipient of this award is VMI senior defensive back Greg Sanders. Sanders was twice named second team All-SoCon (All-Conference) and is a three-time SoCon Academic Honor Roll honors recipient. Following graduation, Sanders plans to commission in the United States Air Force.
In 2016, Bennett Awards worked with Skiver Advertising to create the custom award design these awards are based on. The main sculpture element of these awards is in the shape of a battle shield, which is based on the award sponsor’s logo (The Independence Fund). The shield sculpture is created from rustic bronze-plated pewter encasing light-stained oak wood. The pewter and wood combine to create contrasting positive and negative spaces in the shield. The service academy logos are sculpted into the back of the shield. The shield is then attached to a custom handcrafted ebony-stained mahogany sculpture that functions as both the stand and base for the shield sculpture. A plate is adhered to the award’s base with personalized engravings of the award name, presentation year, and logos of The Independence Fund and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
Sanders received his award at Bronco Nagurski Awards Banquet, which was held Monday, December 4, 2017 at the Charlotte Convention Center. The awards presentation was broadcast on CBS Sports Network.