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Kentera to receive Lifetime Award at N.F.F. Banquet

February 26, 2010

Larry Kentera, long-time defensive coach at Arizona State University, head coach at Northern Arizona University, and the man who brought American football to the nation of Serbia, will accept the Pete Altieri Lifetime Achievement Coaching Award at The Scottsdale Plaza Resort National Football Foundation Valley of the Sun Chapter 29th Annual Scholar-Athlete Banquet on Saturday, March 6.

Kentera coached the Arizona State defense under head coach Frank Kush from 1966 to `78. Many top players under Kentera's stewardship were drafted by the National or American Football Leagues, including Bob Bruenig, Curly Culp, Michael Haynes, Al Harris, and Ron Pritchard, all of whom were All-America selections or made Pro Bowl appearances. Harris, the former defensive end at ASU and the Chicago Bears, has been quoted as saying Kentera "was the most influential person in my life."

In 1985, Kentera was named as head coach of Northern Arizona. Among his staff of assistants were four who would go on to head coaching positions in the NFL: Bill Callahan of the Oakland Raiders, Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings, Marty Mornhinweg of the Detroit Lions, and Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Five years ago, the U.S. government through its agency USAID asked Coach Kentera to help organize and development American-style football in the strife-torn nation of Serbia, a section of the former Yugoslav Republic. Partly due to Kentera's efforts the number of teams in Serbia has grown from three to 22 since 2005.

"Our group heard the Serbs were beginning to play some but without any pads," relates Kentera. "So, we figured they were playing touch or maybe flag football, but when we got there we discovered they were smashing into each other with no helmets, no shoulder pads, just like it was fourth down at the one yard-line.

"We had brought some equipment donated from several schools like ASU and NAU and the Arizona Cardinals, and some of those guys were so glad to be given a helmet they never took it off.

"The Serbs tend to be big, and they really are tough because they've been at war off and on for years and years. It won't be too long before American colleges could think about looking to recruit there," he added.

The coaching fraternity can be a small one at times. A few years ago, Coach Kentera joined Phoenix sports attorney Ted Updike to finalize a player contract at the San Francisco 49ers headquarters. Former Oakland Raiders coach and legendary broadcaster John Madden had his motorcoach parked in front. Updike and Kentera asked if they could look inside, and once they stepped aboard, Madden himself jumped up to make a joyous reunion, shouting, "Wow, Larry Kentera! We coached against each other way back in junior college."

Indeed, Kentera coached Palo Verde Junior College of Blythe, Calif., to five conference championships in eight years way back in the 1950s. Coach Kentera follows former Arizona State head coach Bruce Snyder, who as the 2009 Altieri Award winner, made one of his last public appearances at last year's Valley of the Sun Chapter banquet before losing his battle to cancer.

Kentera will share the dais this year with the seven living founders of the Fiesta Bowl, Shaw Courage Award winner Darius Leopaul of Phoenix Central High School, chapter leadership award winner Nikki Balich-Cammarata, and, most importantly, the 41 scholar-athlete student football players. Each scholar-athlete was nominated by his coach and named by a blue ribbon panel of the chapter. All are top students and are active in community service as well as having shown leadership on their school's football team.

A limited number of tickets remain for the March 6 event that will take place at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort (7200 No. Scottsdale Road). The theme will center on the 40th anniversary of the Fiesta Bowl and honor its founders. The Saturday evening affair will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a colorful tailgate reception and collectibles auction, an outdoor concept very well received as an inaugural party last year. The dinner and awards program will take place inside starting at 7:00 p.m. Individual tickets are priced at $75, with tables of 10 available at $750. Higher priced luxury seating locations also are available. Guests are requested to wear business attire. Questions will be answered and reservations taken by calling (602) 320-4839 or (602) 502-6493.