SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Shortly after learning they would face No. 15 West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl, the Orange gathered Sunday night in the Grand Ballroom at Drumlins Country Club for the Syracuse Football Senior Recognition and Honors Banquet.
Players, coaches, supporters of the football program, and Syracuse Athletics staff came together to celebrate a 9-3 regular season and the program's first bowl berth since 2013. They also toasted a 2018 senior class that guided Syracuse to a second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic Division and helped return the program to national prominence.
The banquet program featured remarks by Syracuse Director of Athletics John Wildhackand Orange head coach Dino Babers. The evening was hosted by "Voice of the Orange" Matt Park.
When Babers spoke, he didn't challenge his team to defeat West Virginia. He simply reminded them of what's possible.
"I'm not going to challenge a bunch of men who have already met a million challenges," Babers said. "This is a bowl game. It gives us an opportunity to do something we haven't done in a long time around here and that's win 10 football games. You have an opportunity to put icing on the cake and go double digits."
Fourteen individual awards were presented during the two-hour celebration. The night's biggest honor went to record-setting quarterback Eric Dungey, who was the recipient of the Bill Horr Most Valuable Player Award. Named for Syracuse's first football All-American, the Bill Horr Award was first presented in 1946.
The program also introduced a new honor Sunday – the Jim DaRin Award for Courage.
The 2003 winner of the Syracuse Football Club's Zunic Award, DaRin played one year for the Orange as a sophomore in 1976. Before his junior season, DaRin was severely injured in an accident at the Miller Brewing plant where he worked during the summer. A keg exploded sending shards of metal all throughout his body. DaRin survived, but one metal rod went through DaRin's neck, severing one of his vocal chords. He endured 12 surgeries on his spinal chord and a ruptured artery near his heart.
Babers presented the inaugural DaRin Award to tight end Rex Culpepper, who won his battle with testicular cancer earlier this year.
Culpepper joined DaRin on stage and said the former Syracuse center's story resonated strongly with him.
"It hits home because life is a fragile thing and every day really is a blessing. Receiving this award is an amazing thing and you're an inspiration to me," Culpepper told DaRin. "Thank you."
2018 Syracuse Team Award Winners
Joe Szombathy Award (Outstanding Special Teams Player) – Sterling Hofrichter
Ray Martino Award (Loyalty, Enthusiasm, and Perseverance) – Dontae Strickland
Pat Miller Award (Outstanding Athlete, Student, and Citizen) – Matt Keller
Thomas S. Pirro Award (Character and Coachability) – Koda Martin
Joe Alexander Award (Excellence in Football, Scholarship, and Citizenship) – Cody Conway
Tim Green Award (Outstanding Defensive Lineman) – Alton Robinson
Coach "Mac" Award (Intensity, Focus, Effort, and Attitude) – Kielan Whitner
Duffy Daugherty Award (Player's Player, Coaches' Player) – Aaron Roberts
Ben Schwartzwalder Award (Exemplary Football Player) – Chris Slayton
Mark Hoffman Award (Outstanding Back) – Moe Neal
Bill Maxwell Award (Most Improved Offensive Player) – Jamal Custis
Ted Dailey Award (Most Improved Defensive Player) – Ryan Guthrie
Bill Horr Award (Most Valuable Player) – Eric Dungey
Jim DaRin Award for Courage – Rex Culpepper