Freddie Solomon played his college football at the University of Tampa and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins for three seasons before joining the San Francisco 49ers where he helped win two Super Bowl championships. His career in the National Football League as a wide receiver came to a close after 11 years. Then the Sumter, SC, native known as “Fabulous Freddie”, came back to Hillsborough County to make a more lasting impact. Solomon devoted the next 12 years of his life to the youths of Tampa Bay, working with the Sheriff’s department to teach kids life lessons through football. His efforts impacted more than two decades of youths and his lessons are still carried on in the community. The Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award continues Solomon’s efforts to help make the world a better place by annually honoring a collegiate football player who has impacted the lives of others through giving and community service.
Awards Process: Each college football season colleges and universities can submit candidates for the Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award via an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The e-mail should contain details of the candidates’ recent community involvement and why the candidate should received the award. All nominations are then given to The Solomon Family on November 15th to determine which player receives the award which is sponsored by The DeBartolo Family Foundation.
2012 Asa Watson
Tight End, North Carolina State Wolfpack
There were plenty of cool places Asa Watson could have visited this past summer - beaches, mountains, and other alluring coves. So where did the NC State TE wind up? In Los Angeles, on Skid Row.
This was one of many projects Watson has participated in that led him to be name the first recipient of The Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award. It wasn't what Watson had intended to do. He had planned to attend Athletes-in-Action grueling Ultimate Training Camp in Colorado until a friend mentioned the LA, California mission trip. That's when the 6-4, 225-pound tight end changed his route.
"I decided in about 20 minutes God had totally different plans for me," said Watson. The son of a pastor, Watson spent three weeks in LA. He viewed the city's glitz and glamour districts, where prosperity abounds and hopes rise to skyscraper heights, and then, not far from the bright lights, he saw how the scenery and scent dramatically changed.
Around Skid Row he saw empty, dilapidated buildings and streets littered with stench and trash. Worse, he saw the abandoned and downtrodden, homeless and disabled people, pimps and drug addicts.
"It was like a different country", Watson said. I've never seen that much homelessness and deprivation in one area. It was shocking. We would talk to the people, pray with the people."
In a letter to his supporters, Watson wrote "God opened my eyes to poverty, racism, and social injustice. . . He also taught me about the vastness of his love, the need for the gospel and my personal need for grace."
2013 Matt Floyd
Quarterback, South Florida Bulls
Matt Floyd, a redshirt sophomore from Milton, FL, is very involved on the USF campus. He holds numerous leadership positions while balancing his time between his football obligations and being a highly engaged and productive member of the USF community.
The 2012 Big East All-Academic selection was nominated for the 2013 AIPAC student activist of the year award. A dual major in political science and international studies, he has served as vice president of The Order of the Golden Brahman leadership society, president and founding member of the CUFI cadre charter, a member of the USF National Hazing Prevention Board, a member of the USF Hillel, AIPAC pro-Israel activism cadre and a member of the 2013 New Traditions Competition Task Force.
While attending the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference in Washington D.C., Floyd was among a group from USF that received the "Top 5 Campus Advocates of the Year" award.
Floyd has made an impact off campus while serving as an intern for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and coaching little league football.
2014 Dylan Thompson
Quarterback, South Carolina Gamecocks
Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson not only does good on the field, but off it as well.
Thompson set a Carolina school record and led the SEC with 3,564 passing yards. His 274.2 passing yards per game led the league and his 3,492 yards of total offense was another school record. His 270 completions was the most in the SEC.
For his off the field work, Thompson was named to the SEC Comunity Service Team for his visits to hospitals and mission trips this past summer to Israel and El Salvador. He also went to several elementary, middle, and high schools to speak to the students. He was a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy and named the quarterback on the academic all-district team.
2015 Matt Dobson
Safety, Georgia Southern Eagles
Georgia Southern senior safety Matt Dobson, from Monticello, FL, had many great moments this season.
Dobson started all 12 games and finished the season with 62 tackles and three interceptions, returning one interception 100 yards to tie for the longest TD return in program and NCAA history. However, according to Georgia Southern, it was his pass breakup of the ULM game that helped secure the Sunbelt Championship for the Eagles.
Off the field, Dobson was a two-time Academic All-America selection by CoSIDA in 2014 and 2015. He carried a 3.71 grade point average and was named to the Georgia Southern President's List for posting a 4.0 in the 2015 spring semester. He was a four-year member of Georgia Southern's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
In the community, Dobson volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club and for Special Olympics. He also participated in Relay for Life and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in addition to Real Men Read and Red Ribbon Week at William James Middle School.
2016 Travis Rudolph
Wide Receiver, FL State Seminoles
Florida State junior wide receiver Travis Rudolph, a West Palm Beach native, has been a stalwart in the Tallahassee community throughout his three years here, regularly attending community outreach projects with his teammates and other Seminole athletes. In August of this year, one of Travis' visits became national news when he had lunch with Bo Paske, an autistic middle schooler that Travis saw eating lunch by himself one day.
Travis, who didn't know Bo or that he was autistic, sat with Bo to eat pizza during lunch. One of the workers at the school took a candid picture of the two, which made it's way to Bo's mother Leah's attention. She posted a heartwarming thank you on Facebook, a move that made Travis' unselfish act go viral. Travis and the FSU football team continued their relationship with the Paske's, with Bo and Leah frequently seen at FSU practices and games throughout the season. Prior to the season opener against Ole Miss, Travis surprised Bo with a personalized jersey and tickets to the game in Orlando.
Earlier this year, Travis and Bo's story was recognized by the Musial Award, given annually to the stories of sportsmanship and compassion throughout sports, joining the likes of Cal Ripken Jr. to earn this year's honor.
Steven McCartney, FSU Sports Information
2017 Greg Joseph
Kicker, Florida Atlantic Owls
It has been quite the year for Florida Atlantic kicker Greg Joseph. The senior almost didn’t have a college football career at all – choosing to walk-on with the Owls rather than take an offer at a lower school – but he has fought through that adversity to finish his career as a record-holder.
It was the game against Navy back in September where Joseph etched his name in the lore of Florida Atlantic football. In that game he made a 54-yard field goal – the longest kick in school history – but that was one of just three records set on that one play. Joseph also became FAU’s all-time leading scorer AND became the player with the most made field goals in school history.
Joseph’s biggest strength as a kicker is the power that he produces. He is not a player that is going to have field goals fall short because of a lack of distance, as he is likely to blast them and test the netting behind the uprights. His leg has been a big weapon for FAU during his career, with his ability to consistently drive the ball through the end zone on kickoffs and negating opponents’ kick return units entirely.
Community Service wise he is involved in all team and department functions but uses the summer to do more and often gets his teammates involved. Last summer he got the specialist and the offensive line involved with “Paint Your Heart Out”. They literally painted a home for someone in less than two hours. Joseph also serves as the President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and was on the Watch list for the Lou Grozza Award.
Ironically, Joseph was not really called upon as the Owls won Conference USA for the first time with a 41-17 victory over North Texas. Nor was his leg needed as the destroyed a massively overmatched Akron team 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl. Every player on the team though knows that they would not have been in those showcase events without their star kicker and that his departure will leave a massive hole in the lineup next year.