Wednesday June 3, 2009
ATHENS------ Former University of Georgia football star Billy Payne was named Wednesday the recipient of the Distinguished American Award presented by the National Football Foundation (NFF).
Payne, former President and CEO of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and current Augusta National Golf Club Chairman, will receive the award at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 8, 2009, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
The award is “presented on special occasions to someone who has applied the character building attributes learned from amateur football in their business and personal life, exhibiting superior leadership qualities in education, amateur athletics, business and in the community.”
Payne becomes the 38th recipient of the award joining a list that includes former honorees Vince Lombardi, Bob Hope, Jimmie Stewart, Pete Rozelle, and the late Pat Tillman.
A 1969 graduate of UGA, Payne lettered three years for the Bulldogs at receiver and defensive end. He led the team in receptions his sophomore season before moving to defensive end where he became an All-SEC and All-America performer. He played on two SEC championship teams (1966 and ’68). His career included intercepting a pass thrown by NFF Chairman Archie Manning who played for Ole Miss.
Payne was honored with postgraduate scholarships from the NCAA and NFF and later earned his law degree from UGA in 1973. He practiced real estate law until 1988 when he was named president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. He launched a successful bid to bring the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta and continued his leadership role becoming the first person in modern history to land an Olympic bid and remain as president and CEO through the games themselves.
He became chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters Tournament, in 2006. In 1997, the NCAA honored Payne with the Theodore Roosevelt Award, the most prestigious honor given to an individual by the NCAA. He is a member of the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and twice has been named Georgian of the Year.