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Article Published April 29, 2020
National Football Foundation Presents Scholar Athlete Honors
Press release from Bill O’Brien

The Casey-O’Brien New Haven County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame recently recognized 28 high school and prep school scholar athletes who played football last fall for their academic excellence, leadership, and citizenship. The class of athletes, which includes several players from local towns, were honored with awards as part of the chapter’s 60th anniversary. They were slated to be presented with their awards at the chapter’s annual awards dinner at the Fantasia Banquet Facility in North Haven, but the dinner was canceled. Since 1962, the chapter has honored 1,257 athletes.

The area athletes who were honored this year include East Haven student Mike Castellano, East Haven resident and Hamden Hall student Mike DeMatteo, North Haven student Joe Vitale III, Branford student Aiden MacNeil, North Branford student Aiden Ferrucci, Branford resident and Hopkins student Phil DeLise, Jr., Guilford student Evan Russell, and Daniel Hand student Isaiah McNeilly.

Additionally, the Casey-O’Brien chapter honored two longtime coaches who have ties to the area, George DeLeone and Chris Palmer, with the Distinguished American Award. DeLeone and Palmer have a combined total of 100 years of coaching experience between the collegiate and NFL ranks. In addition to coaching in college, DeLeone coached the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL.

Palmer coached at UConn and the University of New Haven (UNH), as well as the Browns, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. He recently retired as the athletic director at UNH.

This year, the Chapter Award of Merit was presented to Abbott Burrell and Scott Burrell from Hamden. Abbott Burrell played football at Hamden High School before graduating in 1986, after which he played at UConn from 1986 to 1989. Burrell has been a college football coach for the past 27 years, most recently at Central Connecticut State University.

Scott Burrell was one of the finest high football and basketball players in Connecticut while playing for Hamden High School. He went on to play basketball at UConn and then played in the NBA from 1993 to 2001, helping the Chicago Bulls win an NBA title in 1998. Burrell is now the head coach of men’s basketball at Southern Connecticut State University.

The chapter also honored Judge Arthur Hadden with an award. Hadden is a 30-year football official who has officiated six state championship games. The chapter’s Coach of the Year Award went to Don Durst, the head coach of the football team at Cheshire High School. Durst helped the Rams improve from a 3-7 record in the 2018 season to go 8-2 and earn a Class LL State Playoffs berth in 2019. Also, the Sheehan High School football team was presented with a plaque in commemoration of winning the Class S state title last fall.