Ohio State University defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell and director of player development Stan Jefferson will be honored by the Ashland University football program at the annual Purple & Gold Game, April 21 at 7 p.m. at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
Fickell will receive the Sportsman of the Year Award, while Jefferson is this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"I'm really excited about both guys being here," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "He's (Fickell) one of the toughest players that I've ever been fortunate to watch play the game as a coach. He's just done such a great job at Ohio State.
"Stan's like me. We're Mansfield guys. We grew up in this area, and this is our home. Stan feels the same way I do. I've watched Stan as a high school coach, recruited from his teams. He's had a great career there (at Ohio State). Just a perfect guy to honor, and a great tribute to him. We're excited to have him back here."
Fickell's first full-time coaching job was with Owens at Akron as defensive line coach from 2000-01. Fickell, however, is a Buckeye through and through – he was OSU's starting nose guard for four seasons, starting a school-record 50 straight games from 1993-96 before beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1999.
Following his stint with the Zips, Fickell returned to his alma mater, and has been an assistant from 2002-11, the Buckeyes' head coach in 2011 and then defensive coordinator/linebackers coach since 2012.
Fickell is one of three former Buckeyes who started The 2nd & 7 Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes reading by providing free books and positive role models to kids in need while encouraging young athletes of the community to pay it forward. Ashland's football team spent time in area schools reading to kids during the 2015 season.
"The work that he's done in terms of his foundation…is incredible," Owens said. "The number of books he's provided for elementary students throughout Ohio, and then programs who have started that program as a result, and we're one of them."
Jefferson, in addition to spending the last 12 seasons in Columbus, is a local football staple and has roots in the Ashland football program. He previously was the head coach at nearby Mansfield Senior High School, and was an assistant for the Eagles from 1982-92. Jefferson was an assistant on Ashland's first-ever NCAA Division II postseason team in 1986.
In 2015, Jefferson was named to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Fickell and Jefferson will be honored during pregame festivities, which also will include former Eagle linebacker and current Midview High School head football coach D.J. Shaw receiving the Martinelli Coach of the Year Award.
At halftime, the Gridiron Club Golden Helmet Award will be presented in memory of the late Dr. Don Rinehart to Jan Rinehart. Also during the break, the team's Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, national and program academic honorees will be announced.
The format of the 2016 Purple & Gold Game will be a regular scrimmage for a half, followed by a 20-minute 7-on-7 scrimmage and finishing with a 20-minute rookie bowl.
"Even in that first-half true scrimmage, we're going to pull a couple guys out and not play them," Owens said. "It's unusual for us to have so many guys who have so much experience at this point.
"Our guys deserve the hype of a game at the end of a hard spring. To go out there and get after it for a half, even if we're going to pull a few players, they're going to compete and have some fun with it."
This year's honorary coaches are Ashland faculty members. The current list includes Gordon Swain, Beth Patton, Randy Gearhart, Steve Pool, Dan Fox, Iyad Ajwa and Mark Hamilton.
There is a change to the silent auction during this year's game. It will begin at 6 p.m. at the Troop Center Study Lounge on the first floor. It will be open through the end of halftime, and auction winners will be announced in the third quarter.
Admission to the Purple & Gold Game is a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Members of the AU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will take donations at the gate.
ProGrass is the sponsor of the 2016 Purple & Gold Game.