National Football Foundation to Honor 11 Idaho Student-Athletes

April 29, 2020 / For Immediate Release

NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet canceled, awards still to be presented


MERIDIAN, Idaho –Eight high school and three collegiate student-athletes earned recognition from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Southern Idaho Chapter. The program honors superior athletic ability, as well as excellence in the classroom and community. The annual NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet has been canceled for this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Physical awards will be provided to the winners. Capsules on each of the award recipients are below.

This year’s Idaho high school honorees are Jake Beitia (Middleton High School), Browning Bennion (Sugar-Salem High School), Austin Bolt (Borah High School), Todd Hunsaker (Soda Springs High School), Chandler Jones (Oakley High School), Beau Nelson (Bishop Kelly High School), Jake Piscione (Rocky Mountain High School) and Daniel Uranga (Homedale High School).

On the collegiate side, earning this year’s Lyle Smith Award is Boise State’s Nicholai Pitman. Idaho State’s Kody Graves will be presented the Italo “Babe” Caccia Award. College of Idaho’s Josh Brown is the R.C. Owens Award.

The awards are determined based on the following criteria: outstanding academic achievement (40 percent); outstanding football ability, performance and attitude (40 percent); and outstanding campus leadership and excellent citizenship (20 percent). Nominations and recognition are coordinated by the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which, since 2003, has managed the NFF Southern Idaho Chapter.


Jake Beitia (Middleton High School)

A first-team all-state linebacker, Jake Beitia checked all of the boxes for the NFF Scholar-Athlete Award. Beitia was a three-time All-SIC honoree on the field and a four-time recipient of the SIC Academic Achievement Award with a 4.0 grade-point average. As a leading member of the Crafty Critters 4-H Club, Beitia racked up hundreds of hours of community service during his high school career. He now turns his attention to a different kind of service, with plans to attend the United States Naval Academy, study engineering and become a Naval pilot.

Browning Bennion (Sugar-Salem High School)

The 2019 3A State Player of the Year, Browning Bennion led Sugar-Salem to back-to-back state titles at linebacker and running back. “Browning encompasses everything that we are about on our football team. He has incredible work ethic and character on and off the field,” said head coach Tyler Richins. Bennion carries a 3.99 grade-point average. A decorated wrestler and rugby player, Bennion has served his community as a youth coach in all three sports, as well as his church group and helping to start a Junior ROTC program. Bennion has received his nomination and acceptance to West Point Military Academy and intends to study mechanical engineering while serving as an officer in the United States Army.

Austin Bolt (Borah High School)

The 2019 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, Austin Bolt led Borah as a dual-threat quarterback as a senior. Bolt threw for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,391 yardsa and 26 scores. He was also an all-state wide receiver as a junior and earned all-conference honors on the defensive side of the ball. Bolt is also a state champion in basketball and track. Outside of sports, he is an active member of Young Life and the Boise Rescue Mission. Bolt signed with Boise State to continue his football and academic career.

Todd Hunsaker (Soda Springs High School)

A three-year team captain at Soda Springs High School, Todd Hunsaker finished his career as a two-time team MVP and the 2019 District 5 Defensive Player of the Year. With more than 300 tackles in his career as a linebacker and nearly 2,000 rushing yards in the last two seasons at running back, Hunsaker was twice named all-state. In addition to carrying a 3.78 grade-point average, he devoted his time to his local 4-H club, robotics club, livestock club and numerous church groups. His future plans include following a path that merges the outdoors and the sciences, including working with a local fish hatchery and the forest service this summer.

Chandler Jones (Oakley High School)

A two-way star in the eight-man football ranks, Chandler Jones was a first-team all-state honoree on both sides of the ball as a senior. Jones was a three-time first-team all-state cornerback and after twice earning all-state honors as a wide receiver, made the transition to quarterback as a senior, where he totaled 2,795 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns. Jones has a 3.96 grade-point average, is an Eagle Scout and an active member of his church. He plans to seek a career in athletic training or physical therapy to help the next wave of athletes, just as healthcare professionals helped him throughout his career.

Beau Nelson (Bishop Kelly High School)

A two-year starter at quarterback for Bishop Kelly, Beau Nelson led the Knights to a 17-5 record, two trips to the 4A state playoffs and an appearance in the 2018 state title game. Bishop Kelly head coach Tim Brennan said Nelson is “as good a leader as I have coached in my 30-plus years of experience.” He carries a 4.11 grade-point average (3.926 unweighted) and has served as an active member of his community, leading youth football and lacrosse camps, as well as offering tutoring services to children and volunteering at the Humane Society. Nelson will continue his football career at Stanford, where he plans to study science, technology and society.

Jake Piscione (Rocky Mountain High School)

During Jake Piscione’s high school career, Rocky Mountain boasted a 41-2 record, including an undefeated run to the 2018 5A state championship.Piscione, a team captain in 2019, was named second-team all-state on the defensive line as a senior and took home multiple team awards. He was bestowed the program’s Uncommon Award two years in a row for his football and academic prowess. Piscione has a 3.9 grade-point average and devotes his time outside of school and football to being an Eagle Scout and volunteering at his church. He will attend Idaho State where he intends to study marketing and entrepreneurship.

Daniel Uranga (Homedale High School)

As a two-year starter at quarterback Daniel Uranga led Homedale to back-to-back conference championships and state title game appearances. Uranga was the Snake River Valley Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, and a second-team all-state selection, after throwing for 2,432 yards, 31 touchdowns and just two interceptions. “Daniel is a one-of-a-kind student-athlete,” said Homedale head coach Matthew Holtry. “He is looked up to by many in his peer group, as well as by the youth in our community.” A 4.0 student, Uranga intends to major in chemical engineering with his sights set on a career with an energy company.

Nicholai Pitman (Boise State University)

The recipient of the Lyle Smith Award is Nicholai Pitman from Boise State University. Pitman handled long snapping duties for much of his career playing for his hometown Broncos. A team leader in community service hours, Pitman committed his time to a variety of events in the Treasure Valley. After graduating in December with a 4.0 grade-point average and earning his degree in mechanical engineering, Pitman accepted a job with a local engineering firm.

Kody Graves (Idaho State University)

The Italo “Babe” Caccia Award goes to Kody Graves of Idaho State University. Graves led the Bengals in tackles last season with 99, adding 7.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions from his linebacker position. He was a third-team All-Big Sky selection in each of his final two seasons. An active member of the Pocatello community, Graves volunteered his time reading at elementary schools and helping underprivileged youth in the area. The Caldwell, Idaho native,  is training to continue his football career at the professional level and would like to coach when his playing days are finished.

Josh Brown (College of Idaho)

The winner of the R.C. Owens Award is Josh Brown from the College of Idaho. Brown started on the Yotes’ offensive line in all 45 games of his career and was honored as a consensus first-team NAIA All-American to cap his senior year. Off the field, he was a 2019 Academic All-District selection and was named to the Frontier Conference All-Academic Team three times. Brown participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Hula Bowl, and is currently preparing for a professional career. After football, he intends to earn his master’s degree and become an athletic trainer.


About the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame

Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include Football Matters®, the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, The William V. Campbell Trophy®, annual scholarships of more than $1.3 million and a series of initiatives to honor the legends of the past and inspire the leaders of the future. NFF corporate partners include Delta Air Lines, Fidelity Investments – a proud partner of the Campbell Trophy®, Goodyear, Herff Jones, New York Athletic Club, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Sports Business Journal, SportsManias, Under Armour and VICIS. Learn more at footballfoundation.org.


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