Newsday's Gregg Sarra.

Newsday's Gregg Sarra. Credit: Howard Simmons

The Suffolk chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame   has named an award after longtime Newsday high school sports editor Gregg Sarra, the organization informed Newsday last week. The Gregg Sarra Trophy will be awarded to the top offensive and defensive high school football players on Long Island, as judged by a committee of retired head and assistant college coaches, chapter president Leonard Genova said in a letter to Newsday.

“Our board couldn’t think of a person more deserving, who has given more to the Long Island high school sports community — in particular the football community — than Gregg,” Genova told Newsday Wednesday.  “What he writes and talks about goes a long way to promoting amateur football, which is really at the core of what our organization is about. In terms of doing that for almost four decades, we couldn’t think of someone who [does] a better job.”

Inaugural winners will be selected this month and honored at the foundation’s annual Scholar Athlete Brunch, scheduled for April 23 at the Melville Marriott.

“I’m fairly overwhelmed, to be honest,” said Sarra, 61, who was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. “At the same time, I am extremely flattered and honored that the National Football Foundation chose to recognize my body of work covering high school football for Newsday.”

Sarra continued: “For parts of the past five decades Newsday gave me a voice in the Long Island community in all high school sports, especially football. I will be forever grateful. I’ve seen Long Island’s greatest players on the biggest stage in the Long Island Championships. There is nothing like high school football, a sport that galvanizes communities. It’s been a privilege to chronicle the last 37 years of high school football.”  

Sarra has overseen the growth of both the Newsday high school sports department and its multi-platform high school football coverage. Under his guidance, Newsday produces an annual preseason list recognizing the top 100 football players on Long Island, a 28-page preview section, weekly game coverages and features, weekly "Gridiron Greats" highlighting the top individual performances of the week, and a weekly highlight show produced in Newsday’s television studio.

“Gregg is synonymous with high school sports on Long Island,” said Hank Winnicki, Newsday's sports editor. “Everyone at Newsday is extremely proud of Gregg for this well-deserved honor.”

Said Sarra: "Without Newsday, and all its fantastic editors, staff reporters through the years, and our management’s vision to believe in what we do with our hyper-local coverage, the naming of this honor would not be possible.”  

The only players eligible for consideration for the Gregg Sarra Trophy will be the winners of the Hansen Award, which recognizes the most outstanding player in Suffolk; the Thorp Award, which recognizes the most outstanding player in Nassau; the Rich Reichert Award, given to the top Long Island Catholic school player; the Rob Burnett Award, given to Suffolk’s most outstanding defensive player; and the Flatley Award, which recognizes Nassau’s most outstanding defensive players.

This year’s eligible players include: Bayport-Blue Point quarterback Brady Clark (Hansen Award), Garden City running back Stevie Finnell (Thorp), St. Anthony’s quarterback Dante Torres (Reichert),  Bellport’s Jason Hunt (Burnett) and Farmingdale middle linebacker Trevor Gayron (Flatley).

“It’s so important because it helps promote the game and the sport,” Genova said of the Long Island-wide award. “ . . . It’s just another opportunity to highlight how great football is here. I don’t think that happens enough.”

The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, a nonprofit that promotes amateur football and recognizes academic and athletic excellence, was founded in 1947 and boasts 120 chapters throughout the country. The Suffolk chapter was started in 1995.