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Norwich — Arizona Cardinals football player and 2005 Norwich Free Academy graduate Matt Shaughnessy was named Friday as the 2014 Native Son Award recipient by the Norwich Rotary and the Women’s City Club.
Shaughnessy, 27, an outside linebacker, played for the University of Wisconsin after graduating from NFA and was drafted in 2009 by the Oakland Raiders. He played for the Raiders for two years before joining the Cardinals. In March, he signed a new two-year contract with the Cardinals.
An NBC Sports online player profile called Shaughnessy “a versatile and valuable edge setter in the run game.” The same profile said last season, Shaughnessy posted 36 tackles, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and seven pass breakups while playing on 45.5 snaps per game.
Shaughnessy and his fiancée, Heather Heise, have a 5-month-old son, Barrett.
Shaughnessy’s hometown hasn’t forgotten the former NFA star. Last summer, he was honored by the Connecticut Tigers minor league baseball team with his own bobblehead doll. Shaughnessy said the doll was a good likeness but admitted he has changed a bit in his appearance since his NFA days.
Shaughnessy was unaware of the Native Son Award but said he was excited to be named the latest recipient.
The award is bestowed annually to a native of Norwich who has gone on to excel in his or her chosen career outside the area. After learning of some other recipients, including experts in science, education, arts, horse racing and other sports, Shaughnessy said: “To be in the same company as those people is pretty exciting.”
Shaughnessy was nominated by his father, Kevin Shaughnessy of Norwich.
“We had several qualified applicants this year, which made our decision a little challenging,” said Marie Osborne, Norwich Rotary vice president and chairwoman of the 2014 Nominations Review Committee.
Osborne said Shaughnessy will be recognized for being active in the community and charitable activities along with his football prowess.
Starting with his days at Wisconsin, Shaughnessy said he has been very active in the community, helping out at food shelters, making visits to hospitals and running football camps for youths. He continued those activities during his pro career.
Shaughnessy said he returns to NFA frequently when he visits his home. He’ll be at the school again on July 2 as the guest of honor at the annual Native Son Luncheon.
The luncheon will be held from noon 2 p.m. on July 2. The cost is $15 per person. Cash or check payment is required at the door. Registration is required and can be made at www.norwichrotary.org. For more information about the luncheon, contact Osborne at (860) 992-5581 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.