INDIANAPOLIS – Northern Kentucky University women’s soccer student-athlete Sami Rutowski has been named the recipient of the Horizon League’s Bobby Fong Award. The award is named after the late Bobby Fong who served as the President of Butler University from 2001-11. The Bobby Fong Award is given to the student-athlete or team that best represents the Horizon League and its core values of integrity, respect and stewardship.
Rutowski has been a leader for the Norse on the soccer field serving as the team’s captain for the last two seasons. The midfielder started all 21 games for Northern Kentucky in 2016 and assisted on four goals as the team won the Horizon League Tournament and clinched the school’s first NCAA bid as a Division I institution.
Rutowski’s impact at Northern Kentucky has gone well beyond the soccer field. The senior has several volunteer programs that she is passionate about, including Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati and the Alternative School in Cincinnati. Over the last two years Sami has worked with an autistic student named Isaac after head coach Bob Sheehan learned about Isaac through his teacher. Isaac had shown little interest in school, but loved watching Northern Kentucky women’s soccer. After hearing about his interest in the team, Sami and her teammates made frequent visits to see him, bringing along his favorite candy, Mike-N-Ikes. Since the start of those visits, Isaac’s teacher has noted improved interest in school and a higher completion of homework.
“Sami’s determination and drive to not only be a great student-athlete, but create a lasting impact on the community would make Bobby proud,” stated his widow Suzanne Dunham Fong. “Sami seeks not only to excel, on and off the field, herself, but to make life better for all of those around her. Like Bobby, she leads by serving. She understands that she succeeds only when all succeed, and does all she can to make their success possible. In honoring her, the Horizon League honors his memory.”
Rutowski has also been very involved in campus initiatives, serving as Northern Kentucky’s SAAC representative to the Horizon League. In addition, Sami started the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at Northern Kentucky during her sophomore year and is currently the president of the group. Rutowski also leads campus tours for kindergarten- 8th grade students as well as Baptist Campus Ministries which connects new freshman to campus.
Having coached at Northern Kentucky for 20 seasons, Bob Sheehan understands how fortunate he is to have someone like Sami on the team calling the midfielder one of the most impressive young people he has ever encountered. Sheehan also credited Rutowski with creating a culture within the program that was necessary to transition from Division II to Division I.
Sami Rutowski is the daughter of Jeff and Kim Rutowski and was raised in Mason, Ohio. Rutowski is social work major and has made the President’s List in each semester enrolled. In 2016, she earned a spot on the Women’s Soccer Academic All-League team.
This is the second year of the Bobby Fong Award with Oakland’s Elena Popkey winning the inaugural award a year ago. As Butler’s President, Dr. Fong served on the Horizon League Board of Directors from 2001-2011, including a term as its chairman. Dr. Fong’s decade as the President of Butler University was marked by a new core curriculum and improved campus-community relationships. Under his watch, Butler sustained an athletic program distinguished by its balance between academic achievement and competitive excellence.