Why We Honor the Long Snapper, The “Unsung Hero” of Football and Life

The Patrick Mannelly Award inspires the type of celebration that Bernie’s Book Bank hopes every child will someday enjoy.

The Patrick Mannelly Awards 2021
by Darrin Utynek
April 07, 2022

On Saturday, December 12, 2021, Bernie’s Book Bank welcomed guests for the third annual Patrick Mannelly Award (PMA) presented by Zebra Technologies. Long considered one of the NFL’s best long-snappers, Patrick Mannelly had an illustrious 16-year career spent exclusively with the Chicago Bears from 1998-2013. Mannelly set franchise records for most seasons and games played (245). A model of excellence and consistency, he helped the Bears win four division championships and one NFC title. In 2019, Mannelly was approached by Kevin Gold and Chris Rubio to co-found the Patrick Mannelly Award as a way to honor the Long Snapper, an unsung hero deserving of recognition.

Each year since, Bernie’s Book Bank has worked with Patrick Mannelly, the award’s namesake and current member of our Board of Directors, to celebrate college athletes who have exhibited a high level of success on and off the field.

“It is an exciting time to watch these young athletes launch their careers,” Mannelly shared recently when preparing for the 2021 PMA Dinner. And I must agree.

At Bernie’s Book Bank, we often talk about becoming a partner and not your charity. The partnership with the PMA is another great example of two organizations coming together to better serve their communities and fulfill their missions. The PMA wanted to find a partner to help highlight the achievements of these amazing student athletes on and off the field, and we saw this as a great opportunity to reach another audience and highlight our mission and those we aim to support.

In fact, we also take this opportunity each year to celebrate high school athletes across all sports who best exemplify the values of excellence, integrity, effectiveness, teamwork, and balance. We call this winning lineup the #65 Honor Roll, and all candidates are nominated by their coaches, with winners selected by Bernie’s Book Bank and Patrick Mannelly. This year, fourteen high school athletes made the list, and all were honored along with the collegiate PMA recipients at the 2021 dinner, which was co-hosted by Zebra Technologies at the Bernie’s Book Bank Processing Center in Lake Bluff, IL.

Missed the 2021 Awards Ceremony? Here’s What Else Happened

Over 150 guests attended in person and virtually to celebrate Cal Adomitis of the University of Pittsburgh, who was named the top collegiate Long Snapper in the nation. He was chosen by an esteemed selection committee for the top honor, earning sincerest congratulations from the other two finalists, Damon Johnson of University of Southern California and Alex Ward of University of Central Florida (UCF). The finalists were judged on their snap speed, accuracy, consistency, mental approach, athleticism, coverage skills, and impact on their team and communities.

Award dinner guests enjoyed a lively discussion with Lance Briggs (Chicago Bears alumnus, 7-time Pro Bowler and named one of the Top 100 Bears of all time), Frank Thomas (White Sox alumnus, Baseball Hall of Famer) and Sarah Woldmoe (Chicago Red Stars starting midfielder, UCLA alumna) in conversation with David Kaplan from ESPN Chicago/NBC Sports. Guests also heard from Therese Van Ryne, Senior Director of External Communications at Zebra Technologies, who shared information about “Zippy’s Special Gift,” the book she authored to benefit the children served by Bernie’s Book Bank. 

Therese Van Ryne, Senior Director of External Communications, Zebra,  and author of Zippy`s Special Gift, an award-winning children`s book

Zebra, a long-time strategic partner of Bernie’s Book Bank, truly embraces the organization’s mission to empower under-served children to read their way to a better life. Zebra’s ongoing support includes event sponsorship, team volunteer sessions, generous donations of technology and time. Leveraging its world-class technology and processes has enabled Bernie’s Book Bank to gain efficiencies in book processing and management.

Zebra also has deep roots in the world of football, serving as the Official On-Field Player-Tracking Provider of the NFL since 2015, hosting NFL externs each spring, and working with additional nonprofits such as Vincent Country to extend its support to under-served children.

We’re grateful to the Zebra team for a true strategic, philanthropic partnership. It’s support in hosting a successful in-person and online PMA event was tremendous, and Zebra’s support has made an enormous impact on the children who receive our free books. We look forward to future collaboration on our daily mission, as well as special programs such as PMA.


Did You Know?

All proceeds from the 2021 PMA event benefited Bernie's Book Bank, the leading provider of books to under-served Chicagoland children.

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Darrin Utynek
Darrin Utynek is the first Chief Executive Officer of Bernie’s Book Bank. Prior to joining the team as CEO, Darrin served as Chief Operating Officer of the American Red Cross.
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