We’re always happy to pay tribute to the giants of the past whose shoulders we proudly stand on. With a tradition of recognizing and honoring the accomplishments of the brightest and best from our industry, we are happy to present the past winners below. If you’d like more information, feel free to get in touch.
Wilson Whitley was a standout defensive tackle for the University of Houston from 1972 to 1976, playing under defensive coordinator Don Todd. He led the Cougars to the Southwest Conference championship in football during Houston's first season as a conference member and won the 1976 Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman. Former President Gerald Ford presented him with the award at a ceremony in Houston, Texas.
Whitley's exceptional play at the college level earned him a first-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played alongside another Lombardi Award winner, Ross Browner, for six seasons. He was later named to the Southwest Conference "All Decade Team" for the 1970s.
Whitley's untimely passing at 37 due to a heart condition was a tragic loss for the football community. Despite his shortened career, his contributions to the sport were immense, and he was inducted into the University of Houston's Hall of Honor in 1998. Whitley was also a perennial candidate for the National College Football Hall of Fame until his selection in 2007.
Whitley's legacy lives on, as he is remembered not only as a great player but as a kind-hearted and humble person who touched the lives of those around him. He was a role model for young athletes, and his memory continues to inspire generations of football players.
Whitley passed away Oct 27, 1992. He was 37 years old.