It was a special evening at the Columbia Restaurant on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday (January 17) as Junior Vandeross '22 was recognized as the 2021 Bill Minahan Award winner.
With family, coaches, alumni, and several members of Jesuit's last State Champion football team from 1968 in attendance, Vandeross accepted the award from former Jesuit faculty member Martha Minahan. Martha's late husband, Bill Minahan, coached the legendary 1968 team, and he led Jesuit football to 132 wins from 1966-85 while helping produce legions of 'Men for Others' as a coach and athletic director at Jesuit.
The Minahan Award is given annually to the Hillsborough County football player who most demonstrates "extraordinary perseverance as well as leadership, selflessness, passion, loyalty, excellence on the field and service to others." It was established for the 2014 football season; Minahan had passed away on Dec. 30, 2013. Vandeross is the first from Jesuit to receive the honor in its eight years.
In the Siboney Room at the Columbia, longtime former Tampa Tribune sports reporter Joey Johnston served as emcee. Vandeross, whose father died when he was 3, has persevered through significant adversity to earn a full scholarship to the University of Toledo, where he will play wide receiver for Toledo offensive coordinator Bob Weiner ’83. Johnston read off Vandeross’ many accomplishments before announcing him as the winner over two other finalists.
Vandeross’ mother, Nina Vandeross, and grandfather, Luis McGee, accompanied him, as did Xavier Lopez ’21 and his parents Denis and Mary Lou Lopez, who have befriended Vandeross during middle school and high school. Jesuit head coach Matt Thompson and his wife, Tracy, and assistant coach Gary Givens also were on hand. Skipper Peek ’76, who played for Bill Minahan and was Jesuit’s first Guy Toph Award winner as Hillsborough County’s Most Outstanding Player, was among several other alumni in attendance.
Five members of the 1968 State Championship team also were on hand. They are L-R on the homepage: Ray Kearney '69, Dr. Kent Corral '69, Greg Harlow '69, Leonard George '69, and Dr. Steve Krist '69, pictured along with Vandeross, Thompson, and Givens. The event and the recognition for Vandeross tied together a 53-year-old circle, connecting the 1968 State Champions and their legendary coach through the 2021 State Champions and their Minahan Award-winning star player.
Vandeross had a sensational season, leading Jesuit in receptions (53), receiving yards (932), and receiving TDs (10), while finishing in the Top 10 in the State in punt return average (26.1) and scoring 15 total TDs. He was named 1st Team All-State in 2020 as a junior and is expected to be All-State again for this past season. Vandeross also was Jesuit's punter and played defensive back - where he had played his freshman and sophomore years at Jesuit - in some key situations.
See photos below from the Minahan Award ceremony.
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