Springfield, Mass. - Nov. 29, 2018 - Springfield College alumnus John Cena '99 has been named the recipient of the 2018 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award in recognition of his leadership as a philanthropist. The prestigious award is given each year to an athlete or sports figure who embodies the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy and has used sports as a platform to make the world a better place.
Cena, who was inducted into the Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015 and was honored at Springfield College's 40 Under Forty Awards Celebration in 2017, has continued to live the College's Humanics philosophy, which calls for the education of the whole person—in spirit, mind, and body—for leadership in service to others.
"From his days as a student at Springfield College through today, John's dedication to philanthropy embodies the vision and values of Springfield College, a community where members work together in friendship and respect, committed to creating a better world, community by community," said Mary-Beth Cooper, President of Springfield College. "We congratulate him and take an additional measure of pride that he is one of us."
In 1998, Cena was one of three captains on the football team that was 9-2 and advanced to play in the NCAA Division III Championship. At season's end, the accolades rolled in for the senior, as he was named a Hewlett-Packard Division III First Team All-American, a Football Gazette All-American, an ECAC New England/Northeast Division III All Star, and a New England Football Writers Division II/III All Star. After graduating from Springfield College in 1999, Cena went on to become one of the most recognizable sports and entertainment faces on the planet. A 16-time WWE champion, Cena's charitable work is highlighted by his efforts with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as he has granted nearly 600 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, more than anyone else involved with the organization.
"From his unparalleled work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to his support for a variety of causes ranging from activism for military families to cancer research, John has made personal outreach and generosity of time and spirit his calling cards," said Sports Illustrated Executive Editor Stephen Cannella. "He might just be the most charitable person in sports, and his dedication to philanthropy richly reflects the spirit of the Ali Legacy Award."
Created in 2008, the Legacy Award was renamed in honor of Ali in recognition of his efforts promoting social justice as an all-time boxing great and cultural icon. Previous recipients of the award include Colin Kaepernick, Jack Nicklaus, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Magic Johnson.
"This award transcends the sports world, just like John has, and we could not think of a more deserving recipient. John's selfless attitude allows him to live the mission of Springfield College on a daily basis, providing service and leadership to others," said Springfield College head football coach Mike Cerasuolo. "Our football program is extremely proud of what John has accomplished as an athlete and even more importantly as a humanitarian. He has, and will continue to be, a role model for all students that call Springfield College home, as he's a testament that if you work hard enough, one person can make the world a better place."
Cena will be honored during SI's Sportsperson of the Year event, which will take place at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles on December 11.