Photo courtesy of USC Athletics
DALLAS, Texas – Recognizing one of the most impressive classes in the storied history of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards Program, The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced today the 2012 recipients of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments, a leading provider of not-for-profit workplace retirement savings plans in higher education. The honorees also comprise the list of finalists for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Selected from a nationwide pool of 147 exceptional semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA, the 15 class members are:
Management Info. Systems
Mount Union (Ohio)
West Texas A&M
Biology & Chemistry
Finance & Manag. Accounting
Nuclear Engineering & Physics
Public Policy Studies
Saint Xavier (Ill.)
“This year’s class contains some of the finest student-athletes to ever compete in college athletics in any sport,” said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. “They have an average GPA of 3.67, which showcases their commitment to excellence in the classroom as well as on the field. Without exception, they embody what it takes to be great leaders. We are proud to hold them out as examples for future generations to emulate.”
The NFF’s National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. This year’s class members finds themselves in good company, as past National Scholar-Athletes include former NFL standout Derrick Brooks (Florida State); actor Mark Harmon (UCLA); NASA astronaut Leland Melvin (Richmond); former Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips (Yale); chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Billy Payne (Georgia); famed NFL quarterback Steve Young (BYU); and Heisman Trophy winners Terry Baker (Oregon State), Gary Beban (UCLA), Doug Flutie (Boston College) and Tim Tebow (Florida).
“The 2012 National Scholar-Athlete Class represents all that is right about college football,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton (Campbell winner) and Eli were NFF National Scholar-Athletes in 1997 and 2003, respectively. “They have displayed the same competitive fire to win in the classroom that has distinguished them as some of the best football players in the country. In addition, each has found time to give back with an impressive list of leadership roles in their respective communities. Ensuring that they continue their education with an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship is a privilege, and we know that they have only begun to reach their potential.”
Each member of the 2012 National Scholar-Athlete Class will travel to New York City to be honored December 4 during the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports. They each receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, and one member of the class will also be announced live at the event as the 23rd recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.
Named in honor of Bill Campbell (the chairman of Intuit, a former player and head coach at Columbia University, and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal), the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $7,000 increase in postgraduate funds for a total scholarship of $25,000. A total distribution of $300,000 in scholarships will be awarded that evening, pushing the program’s all-time distributions to more than $10.1 million.
In 2011, the NFF and Fidelity Investments launched a multi-year initiative between the two organizations to celebrate the scholar-athlete ideal and a joint commitment to higher education. As part of the initiative, Fidelity became the first presenting sponsor ever in the 54-year history of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards program. Fidelity also helped launch the NFF Faculty Salutes Initiative, which recognizes the contributions of the faculty athletics representatives at each of the institutions with an NFF National Scholar-Athlete. As part of the initiative, the NFF will present each of the faculty representatives with a plaque and a $5,000 check from Fidelity Investments to support the academic support services for student-athletes at each school.
2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Highlights
· 3.67 Average GPA
· 13-of-15 Team Captains
· 13-of-15 Academic All-Conference Athletes (with one player attending an independent school)
· 10-of-15 All-Conference Athletes (with one player attending an independent school)
· 8 Academic All-America Selections (Burkhead, Driskill, Jones, Nearhoof, Peterson, Te’o, Ward, Zackery)
· 7 All-America Picks (Barkley, Burkhead, Davis, Driskill, Jones, Te’o, Zackery)
· 3 National Award Winners (Barkley – CollegeFootballNews.com Offensive Player of the Year; Driskill – D3Football.com National Defensive Player of the Year; Jones – Outland Trophy)
· 6 School Statistical Record Holders (Barkley, Burkhead, Florence, Nassib, Nearhoof, Renfree)
· 7 Members of Nationally Ranked Teams (Barkley, Davis, Driskill, Jones, Mullane, Te’o, Zackery)
· 6 National Championship Appearances (Driskill – 3; Jones – 2; Zackery – 1)
· 10 Offensive Players (Barkley, Burkhead, Florence, Jones, Mullane, Nearhoof, Peterson, Renfree, Ward, Zackery)
· 5 Defensive Players (Davis, Driskill, Jefferson, Nearhoof, Te’o)
Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The 147 semifinalists for the award were announced on Sept. 27 (names listed at the end of the release), and the class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers and athletics administrators.
In addition to the presentation of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards and the William V. Campbell Trophy, the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner will include the induction of the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Class and the presentation of several major awards, including the organization’s highest honor, the NFF Gold Medal, and the NFF Distinguished American Award.
BIOS FOR THE 2012 NFF NATIONAL SCHOLAR-ATHLETE CLASS, PRESENTED BY FIDELITY INVESTMENTS
(in alphabetical order)
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Communications - 3.21 GPA
Athletics Director: Pat Haden
Head Coach: Lane Kiffin
The first and only three-year captain in Southern California's storied football history, Matt Barkley has been the face of Trojan football since his freshman year and is on pace to leave his legacy in the school record books. He becomes the 13th NFF National Scholar-Athlete from USC.
Barkley has twice earned Academic All-Pac-12 honors, garnering second team laurels in 2011 and honorable mention accolades as a sophomore. The Newport Beach, Calif., native is a communications major, participating in Macintosh OSX Forensics this semester, the first course of its kind at USC.
A 2011 Third Team All-America selection, who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, he is on pace to break numerous conference and school passing records in his final season. In 2011, Barkley set school records for season touchdown passes (39), completions in a game (35), game passing yardage (468), touchdown passes in a game (6), and total offense (470) en route to being name the 2011 Offensive Player of the Year by CollegeFootballNews.com. He recently eclipsed Heisman Trophy winning QB Matt Leinart's record for career touchdowns at USC, which stood at 99. Twice earning all-conference recognition, the 2011 Manning Award finalist passed up being a top five NFL Draft pick to return to Troy for his final year of eligibility. Barkley has completed 140 passes for 1,773 yards and 22 touchdowns for the No. 9-ranked Trojans this season.
One of USC's greatest ambassadors in the community, the 2011 AFCA Good Works Team member has taken trips to Haiti, Nigeria, and South Africa, working at orphanages, providing supplies, and building houses for the underprivileged. Barkley is an annual speaker at Troy Camp, USC's oldest and largest philanthropic organization, and he has participated in children's hospital visits, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, tutoring at KidWorks Center, and the Community Bowl.
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
History - 3.43 GPA
Athletics Director: Tom Osborne
Head Coach: Bo Pelini
Producing the most NFF National Scholar-Athletes in the history of the awards, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead continues the Huskers' tradition of athletic and academic prowess as he becomes the school's 21st selection.
A nominee for the 2012-13 Nebraska Male Student-Athlete of the Year, Burkhead was named a First Team Academic All-American in 2011 and has twice been named as an Academic All-Conference honoree. Hailing from Plano, Texas, he was named to the Big 12 Academic Honor Roll from 2009-11 before Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
Burkhead, who was named an Honorable Mention All-America selection as a junior, holds the school record for single-game carries (38) and tied the school record for most consecutive games with a touchdown (10). The two-time all-conference performer is coming off a stellar 2011 campaign, boasting more than 1,300 yards rushing, 17 touchdowns, and seven 100-yard rushing games. Twice named "Nebraska Lifter of the Year," Burkhead is on pace to finish his career near the top of the Huskers' career rushing charts. This season he has rushed 43 times for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
A staple in Lincoln community outreach, Burkhead is the reigning Uplifting Athletes' National Rare Disease Champion for his friendship and mentorship of a six-year-old boy with pediatric brain cancer. College Football Hall of Fame coach and Nebraska Athletics Director Dr. Tom Osborne calls Burkhead's relationship with the boy "inspirational to many people." A three-time member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team, Burkhead also participates in anti-bullying and sportsmanship PSAs, speaks on behalf of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and was named to the 2012 AFCA Good Works Team.
TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
Management Information Systems - 3.70 GPA
Athletics Director: Kirby Hocutt
Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Named a Freshman All-American in 2009, Texas Tech's Cody Davis has left an indelible mark in Lubbock the last four years as a leader on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Davis is the fifth Red Raider to be named an NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Davis graduated Magna Cum Laude last December with a degree in management information systems and was named the "Top Graduating Senior" for academics on the football team. A two-time First Team Academic All-Big 12 selection, Davis has been a member of the Big 12 Honor Roll every semester and was inducted into the Golden Key National Honor Society. Davis already holds two professional certifications in project management and IT support.
Davis hit a milestone this season, making his 300th career tackle in the Red Raiders' upset win over then No. 5 West Virginia en route to being name Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. As a junior, he was the first player in more than a decade to lead the team in both tackles (93) and pass breakups (5). The Stephenville, Texas, native also finished first in the conference and fourth in the NCAA in solo tackles per game (6.55) last season. The team captain was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honoree in 2010. Davis currently leads the No. 14 Red Raiders in tackles (56) and interceptions (3).
Off the gridiron, Davis volunteers with Lubbock Impact, an organization dedicated to helping the needy through a partnership with the Texas Tech Health Sciences center. He also participated in delivering supplies to tornado victims in Lancaster, Texas, and is active in Red Raider Play Day and the Raider Readers program.
UNIVERSITY OF MOUNT UNION (OHIO)
Exercise Science - 3.77 GPA
Athletics Director/Head Coach: Larry Kehres
The reigning D3football.com National Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Driskill has led Mount Union to three consecutive Division III National Championship appearances during his time on campus. He becomes the school's third NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Driskill was tabbed a Second Team Academic All-American as a junior, adding First Team All-District laurels the same season. A two-time Academic All-Ohio Conference honoree, he has posted at least a 3.60 GPA every semester of his college career as an exercise science major.
After a prolific junior campaign where he recorded 113 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 13 pass deflections, and four interceptions, Driskill was a consensus All-American named to the AFCA, D3football.com and AP Little All-America teams while being named the D3football.com National Defensive Player of the Year. He was also the recipient of the 2011 Ohio Athletic Conference Lee Tressel Award as the conference's top defensive back. A two-time All-OAC selection, earning First Team honors in 2011 and Second Team accolades in 2010, Driskill has led Mount Union to perfect 9-0 regular seasons and Ohio Athletic Conference titles the last three seasons. A key contributor to Division III's top-ranked defense, he leads the No. 1-ranked Raiders in tackles (37) for the second year in a row and boasts 11 tackles for loss this season.
The team captain is a native of Wabash, Ind., and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He serves as a volunteer at the church in his hometown and has also participated in the "Trick-or-Treat with the Raiders" on-campus initiative.
Economics - 3.79 GPA
Athletics Director: Ian McCaw
Head Coach: Art Briles
A record-breaking quarterback and a standout in the classroom, Baylor's Nick Florence is the epitome of the term "student-athlete." He joins Joe Pawelek and Don Trull as the Bears' third NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Florence graduated last December with a degree in economics, boasting an impressive 3.79 GPA and serving as a regular on the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll. He was named a Collegiate Scholar-Athlete by the NFF Gridiron Club of Dallas and was chosen among all winners to give a response on behalf of the honorees. Florence is a three-time Dean's List honoree and a member of Beta Gamma Sigma honor society.
A native of Garland, Texas, Florence did not take long breaking school records, setting the school single-game passing record with 427 yards as a true freshman in 2009. He eclipsed that mark earlier this season, racking up 581 yards in a shoot-out against conference foe West Virginia. A true team leader, Florence gave up his redshirt year in the 11th game of the 2011 season to sub for injured Robert Griffin III, leading Baylor to its first win over Texas Tech in Big 12 era. This year he leads the conference in passing, averaging more than 400 yards per game.
A regular speaker at churches, school, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes events, Florence has traveled to Edinburg, Texas, on mission trips during his last three spring breaks. He has also participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, taught at local football camps, and mentored junior high kids during the summer.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY
Accounting - 3.78 GPA
Athletics Director: Jeff Compher
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
The consummate leader on and off the football field, Nabal Jefferson is the second NFF National Scholar-Athlete from Northern Illinois in as many years and has guided the Huskies to two of the most successful seasons in school history. Jefferson is NIU's fourth NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
A two-time Academic All-MAC honoree, Jefferson was named a CoSIDA First Team Academic All-District selection and a MAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Week as a junior. Last summer he successfully completed an impressive summer internship with audit, tax and accounting firm KPMG in Chicago, working 40 hours a week.
Jefferson is a two-year starter on the NIU defensive line and has played in all but two games during his Huskie career, beginning as a true freshman in 2009. A mainstay on the interior defensive line, Jefferson returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown last season. He helped Northern Illinois to three bowl berths and to two 11-win (school record) campaigns. He has been a member of the Northern Illinois Football Leadership Council in each of the last three seasons. Jefferson has recorded 38 tackles this season, including 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
Perhaps Jefferson's greatest accomplishment is his commitment to service in his hometown of Chicago. A constant "big brother" and mentor to the area youth, he continuously speaks to kids about the consequences of making bad decisions and the importance of hard work. After his pastor was severely beaten in a robbery, Jefferson organized 24-care for his mentor and frequently returns to Chicago to visit the 80-year-old minister.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
Accounting - 4.00 GPA
Athletics Director: Mal Moore
Head Coach: Nick Saban
With a 4.00 GPA and two national championships under his belt, there isn't much left for Alabama's Barrett Jones to accomplish during his impeccable collegiate career. The reigning Outland Trophy winner becomes the sixth Tide player to be named an NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Jones is the only three-time Academic All-America in the history of Alabama football, earning First Team laurels the last two seasons. The 2011 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year is a member of the University Honors Program and is a four-time SEC Honor Roll member. Inducted into eight different honoraries, he is a three-time recipient of the Commitment to Academic Excellence Award and the 2012 Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete of the Year.
Hailing from Germantown, Tenn., Jones was a unanimous First Team All-America performer last season en route to being named the Outland Trophy winner and the recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC's Lineman of the Year. A starter on two national championship teams, he has switched positions on the offensive line every year, spending time at guard, tackle, and now center. He is a two-time First Team All-SEC honoree, who earned Third Team All-America honors as a sophomore and Freshman All-America accolades in 2009. Jones has helped the No. 1 Crimson Tide rank first in the SEC in passing efficiency (183.3), second in rushing offense (219.4 ypg), and second in scoring offense (41.0 ppg).
The 2011 Wuerffel Trophy winner and member of the 2012 AFCA Good Works Team, Jones has participated in two mission trips to Haiti and one to Nicaragua, distributing food, working at schools and orphanages, and helping with construction projects. He is a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and he has served as a volunteer tutor at a local elementary school, and acted as a student mentor for the Dean of Students office.
WEST TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
Biology & Chemistry - 3.84 GPA
Athletics Director: Michael McBroom
Head Coach: Don Carthel
Arguably one of the greatest student-athletes in West Texas A&M history, Aaron Mullane's commitment to athletics and academics has helped him become the second NFF National Scholar-Athlete for the Buffaloes.
Twice named West Texas A&M's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Mullane is a two-time Academic All-Conference honoree and was selected as a CoSIDA First Team All-District selection as a junior. With a double major in biology and chemistry, he has earned numerous scholarships for his academic prowess and has been inducted into the Gamma Beta Phi and Alpha Chi honoraries. He is also a two-time member of the Lone Star Conference Academic Honor Roll.
A key cog to a thriving Buffs offense, Mullane helped the team rank second nationally in pass offense in 2011 (358.2 ypg) and in 2010 (422.3 ypg). As a sophomore starter, he contributed to an offense that ranked third nationally in scoring offense (42 ppg) and second in total offense (529 ypg). A native of Amarillo, Texas, the team captain earned Second Team All-Lone Star Conference honors last season. Mullane has helped No. 6 West Texas A&M average 472.0 yards per game in 2012.
A medical school hopeful, Mullane has dedicated most of his free time to familiarizing himself with his future profession. He has sat in on more than 300 surgeries and has logged more than 1,000 hours in cardiology and orthopedics job shadowing. He also teaches an organic chemistry lab, gives lectures on lab technique, grades lab reports, and oversees student procedures. Mullane is a member of Sigma Alpha Pi, a national leadership and success organization.
Finance & Managerial Accounting - 3.57 GPA
Athletics Director: Daryl Gross
Head Coach: Doug Marrone
One of the Big East's most productive passers, Ryan Nassib has broken a multitude of Syracuse football records while balancing a 3.57 GPA. He becomes the Orange's fifth NFF National Scholar-Athlete and the first honoree since 1999.
Nassib is a three-time member of the Big East All-Academic Team and was selected as a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree in 2010. A constant on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll from 2008-11, he has been honored on the Whitman School of Management Dean's List and has secured a summer internship with Leigh Baldwin & Co. Investment Brokers since 2009.
A native of West Chester, Pa., Nassib started off his senior season in dramatic fashion, breaking the school record for passing yards in a game (470). Equally as impressive, he set Orange season records for completions (259), passing yards (2,685), and tied the touchdown passes mark with 22 during his junior campaign. As a sophomore, he led the 'Cuse to its first postseason berth in six seasons with a win in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl in 2010. With a handful of Big East Player of the Week accolades to his credit, Nassib will leave Syracuse as one of its all-time leaders in career passing yards and touchdown passes. This season he has completed 176 passes for 2,164 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the Big East in passing (309 ypg).
Since 2010 Nassib has spent time speaking to inmates at Onondaga County Justice Center, telling them the value of hard work and setting goals. He forged a close relationship with an individual with severe anger-management problems, inspiring him to change his life and apply to art school. Nassib has also volunteered with the Salvation Army, Benderson Ida Senior Center, and has organized team activities at the Children's Club and Crouse Hospital.
ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY
Biology - 3.73 GPA
Athletics Director: Craig Coleman
Head Coach: Joe Walton
One of the FCS's top defensive linemen and Robert Morris's active career leader in tackles and sacks, Nolan Nearhoof has defined excellence on and off the field for the Colonials en route to becoming the school's first-ever NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Twice named the Northeast Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Nearhoof has made the Dean's List every semester of his college career. The Mars, Pa., native was named a Second Team Academic All-American as a sophomore and junior and is on pace to for national recognition once again in 2012. Considered by his athletics director Craig Coleman to be a "top-flight student in the demanding field of biology," Nearhoof plans on attending physical therapy school in the future.
Earlier this season, Nearhoof broke the school career sacks record with 21.5 and counting, while tied for the conference lead with 6.5 sacks this season. A two-time First Team All-NEC performer in 2010 and 2011, he is RMU's career active leader in tackles (175), and his 7.5 sacks in 2011 place him in a tie for fourth best in single-season school history. Nearhoof has recorded 49 tackles and leads the Colonials in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (6.5) this season.
Nearhoof has volunteered with the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen, the Boy Scouts of America, the Special Olympics, and the Holy Family Institute. He has helped with highway clean-up efforts in the Pittsburgh area and has served as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Nearhoof is also active with the STEM committee, which is comprised of a select group of science, engineering and technology students.
MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Nuclear Engineering & Physics - 3.83 GPA
Athletics Director: Julie Soriero
Head Coach: Chad Martinovich
With a double major in nuclear engineering and physics, it's hard to imagine that MIT's Ethan Peterson has time for an all-conference career on the gridiron. As the anchor of the Engineers' offensive line, he becomes the school's sixth NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
A 2011 CoSIDA Academic All-American and two-time Academic All-New England Football Conference selection, Peterson was the recipient of the Irving Kaplan Award for outstanding academic achievement by a junior in MIT Nuclear Science. The Rutland, Utah, native was inducted into the Alpha Nu Sigma and National Society of Collegiate Scholars honoraries. Peterson also boasts a minor in French.
Peterson is a two-year team captain who has not missed a game in his collegiate career. He was also a First Team All-NEFC performer in 2011 and a Second Team selection as a junior. Last season, Peterson led an offensive unit that produced the NEFC Offensive Rookie of the Year at running back and increased its total output by 30 percent from his sophomore campaign. In 2012, he has helped the Engineers' offense average 395.4 yards per game.
A research assistant at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Peterson has performed various forms of ion beam analysis to determine real-time erosion effects of plasmas on materials, and he has conducted numerous other impressive experiments. He has also found time to serve as treasurer of Delta Kappa Epsilon and volunteer for the Massachusetts Special Olympics and the Boston Medical Center. He is a member of the MIT ice hockey club team, leading the Engineers to a pair of conference championships.
Public Policy Studies - 3.40 GPA
Athletics Director: Kevin White
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe
The most accurate signal caller in Duke football history, Sean Renfree is on pace to become just the third quarterback in ACC history to throw for more than 10,000 yards in a career. Couple football success with an impressive academic résumé, and the result is the Blue Devils' third NFF National Scholar-Athlete and the first in more than two decades.
A native of Scottsdale, Ariz., Renfree graduated last December with a degree in public policy. He is currently pursuing a master's in humanities, boasting a 3.81 GPA in his graduate studies. He is a two-time Academic All-ACC selection and a four-time member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll.
Renfree, a two-year team captain, led the ACC in completions per game the last two seasons and is on track to become the first quarterback in school history to pass for more than 2,500 yards in three consecutive seasons. The 2010 Duke MVP holds or shares seven school records, including career pass completion percentage (.634), most 100-yard games in a season (12), single-game pass completions (41), and consecutive pass completions in a game (16). Leading the Blue Devils to its first bowl-eligible season in 18 years, Renfree has completed 164 passes for 1,793 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012.
A member of the 2012 AFCA Good Works Team, Renfree volunteers with the Duke Rescue Mission, which is dedicated to providing food and support to those in need. He participated in Christmas gift wrapping in conjunction with North Carolina Central University and the annual campus trash clean-up initiative. He supervises and encourages kids to exercise and play games at the Active Teens program and is a regular visitor to Duke Children's Hospital.
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
Graphic Design - 3.32 GPA
Athletics Director: Jack Swarbrick
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
The undisputed leader of the Fighting Irish and a defensive nightmare for opposing offenses, Manti Te'o has led Notre Dame back into the spotlight with its highest national ranking since 2006. He is the school's 17th NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Set to graduate this December with a degree in graphic design, the Laie, Hawaii, native was named the 2011 Notre Dame Football Student-Athlete of the Year. He was also selected as a Second Team Academic All-American and First Team All-District honoree as a junior.
Te'o is a two-time Second Team All-America performer who has already been named the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week three times this season. He received national acclaim earlier this year for his standout performance versus Michigan State, having lost both his grandmother and girlfriend within a 24-hour period the week prior. A finalist for the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy as a junior, the two-year team captain has led the Irish to consecutive bowl berths, including a win in the 2010 Sun Bowl. His 133 tackles in 2010 were the most by a Notre Dame player in 27 years, and he recorded the third-most tackles (66) ever by an Irish freshman. Te'o leads the fifth-ranked Irish with 69 tackles and co-shares the top spot in interceptions (4) this season.
A volunteer for the South Bend Center for the Homeless and for the Tackle the Arts initiative, Te'o is a three-year participant in Christmas parties for ill children. He also reads to patients in the hematology/oncology unit at the local hospital. Te'o has taken part in the Irish Experience League, a Sunday camp that allows local kids to play sports with Notre Dame student-athletes.
Mechanical Engineering - 3.94 GPA
Athletics Director: Jim Phillips
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
Heralded by his head coach Pat Fitzgerald as being one of the smartest three-year starters in Division I football, Northwestern's Patrick Ward leaves little room for argument with his stellar 3.94 GPA in mechanical engineering. He is the third Wildcat player to be named an NFF National Scholar-Athlete and the first since 1998.
The two-time Academic All-American, who earned First Team laurels in 2011, has twice been honored as an Academic All-Big Ten selection. Ward has been named to the Engineering Dean's List nine times and is a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. The recipient of the Patrick and Shirley Ryan Family Endowed Scholarship last season earned CoSIDA First Team Academic All-District honors in 2010 and 2011. He is set to graduate in only 3.25 years this December.
On pace to be a four-year letterman, Ward anchored the right side of the offensive line that protected the Big Ten's most prolific passing attack (254.2 ypg) during his junior campaign. Under his leadership, the Wildcats' rushing offense has improved in each of his seasons on the o-line. The Homer Glen, Ill., native has helped Northwestern to three consecutive bowl berths. Ward has helped the Cats average 394.5 yards per game this season.
Ward was a founding member of Northwestern's chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which helps to raise money for rare diseases. He is an annual participant in the school's "Lift for Life" event for Uplifting Athletes and is also active with Athletes in Action.
SAINT XAVIER UNIVERSITY (ILL.)
Business Management - 3.71 GPA
Athletics Director: Bob Hallberg
Head Coach: Mike Feminis
Arguably one of the NAIA's best scholar-athletes among all sports, Saint Xavier's Shane Zackery boasts a 3.71 GPA and led the Cougars to the 2011 NAIA National Championship. He has now parlayed those successes into becoming SXU's first-ever NFF National Scholar-Athlete.
Hailing from Rockford, Ill., Zackery was named a 2011 CoSIDA First Team Academic All-America in the college division. He was also honored as a Daktronics NAIA National Scholar-Athlete and as an Academic All-Mid-States Football Association selection as a junior. He is a business management major with an emphasis in marketing and finance.
As a 2011 First Team All-American, Zackery led Saint Xavier to its first NAIA National Championship in school history, posting nine receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown in the title game. The 2011 All-Mid-States First Team receiver ranked No. 2 nationally in receptions (95), No. 3 in receiving yards (1,208), and No. 4 in touchdown receptions (18) during his junior season. The team captain tied the school record with a 99-yard touchdown reception in 2011 and entered his senior year ranked in SXU's top ten in career touchdowns. This season Zackery boasts 46 receptions for 654 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 93.4 yards per game for the No. 5 Cougars.
Zackery coordinates team activities for the annual SXU Service Day and volunteered his time to host a free football clinic for underprivileged kids in conjunction with the Salvation Army Community Center in Chicago. He is also heavily involved in church activities, both in his hometown and on campus, helping with picnics, annual festivals, and serving as a host for vacation bible school.
Notre Dame's one-man wrecking crew Manti Te'o and 14 other standout players from among all divisions of college football comprise the 2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class.
NFF NATIONAL SCHOLAR-ATHLETE AWARDS SEMIFINALISTS
Football Bowl Subdivision
Alabama -- Barrett Jones
Arkansas -- Dylan Breeding
Army -- Zach Watts
Auburn -- Ashton Richardson
Ball State -- Scott Kovanda
Baylor -- Nick Florence
Brigham Young -- Riley Nelson
California -- Matt Summers-Gavin
Central Florida -- Lyle Dankenbring
Clemson -- Dalton Freeman
Colorado -- Dustin Ebner
Duke -- Sean Renfree
Eastern Michigan -- Alex Gillett
Florida -- Caleb Sturgis
Florida State -- Dustin Hopkins
Georgia -- Ty Frix
Indiana -- Adam Replogle
Iowa -- James Vandenberg
Iowa State -- Carter Bykowski
Kentucky -- Matt Smith
Louisiana Tech -- Matt Nelson
Mississippi -- Tyler Campbell
Missouri -- T.J. Moe
Navy -- Keegan Wetzel
Nebraska -- Rex Burkhead
North Carolina -- Pete Mangum
North Carolina State -- McKay Frandsen
Northern Illinois -- Nabal Jefferson
Northwestern -- Patrick Ward
Notre Dame -- Manti Te'o
Ohio -- Matt Weller
Ohio State -- Ben Buchanan
Penn State -- Pete Massaro
Purdue -- Robert Maci
Rutgers -- Duron Harmon
San Jose State -- Travis Johnson
South Carolina -- Seth Strickland
South Florida -- Evan Landi
Southern California -- Matt Barkley
Syracuse -- Ryan Nassib
Texas -- Marquise Goodwin
Texas Tech -- Cody Davis
Toledo -- Dan Molls
UCLA -- Jeff Locke
Utah -- Sean Sellwood
Virginia Tech -- Joey Phillips
West Virginia -- Jeff Braun
Western Michigan -- Chris Prom
Wisconsin -- Shelton Johnson
Wyoming -- Luke Ruff
Football Championship Subdivision
Austin Peay State -- Wesley Kitts
Brown -- Ross Walthall
Bryant -- Colin Sullivan
Bucknell -- Sam Oyekoya
Butler -- Jordan Ridley
California, Davis -- Sean Davies
Campbell -- Sam Eberwein
Colgate -- Chris Looney
Dartmouth -- Patrick Lahey
Dayton -- Bill Petraiuolo
Delaware -- Ethan Clark
Drake -- Tyler Moorehead
Eastern Kentucky -- Patrick Ford
Fordham -- Patrick Murray
Georgia State -- Akeen Felder
Holy Cross -- Tom Mannix
Maine -- Brian Harvey
Missouri State -- Matt Thayer
Montana -- Samuel Gratton
New Hampshire -- Chris Zarkoskie
Nicholls State -- Kerry Guidry
North Dakota -- Ross Brenneman
North Dakota State -- Garrett Bruhn
Northern Arizona -- Jake Hess
Northern Colorado -- Mason Puckett
Northern Iowa -- Kyle Bernard
Northwestern State -- John Shaughnessy
Old Dominion -- Jonathan Plisco
Princeton -- Joe Cloud
Rhode Island -- Kyle Elliott
Robert Morris -- Nolan Nearhoof
Sam Houston State -- Eric Fieilo
South Dakota State -- Tyrel Kool
Southern Illinois -- Joe Okon
Tennessee-Chattanooga -- Adam Miller
Adams State (Colo.) -- Jason Nottingham
Ashland (Ohio) -- Donnie Dottei
C.W. Post-LIU (N.Y.) -- Grayson Laurino
Eastern New Mexico -- Wes Wood
Harding (Ark.) -- Josh Aldridge
Missouri Univ. of Science & Tech. -- Josh Firm
Missouri Southern State -- Kellen Cox
St. Cloud State (Minn.) -- Andrew Beckmann
Wayne State (Mich.) -- Nick Thomas
West Texas A&M -- Aarone Mulane
Wingate (N.C.) -- Andrew Nallenweg
Albion (Mich.) -- Spencer Krauss
Albright (Pa.) -- J.T. Harding
Bethany (W.Va.) -- Johnathan Foster
Bethel (Minn.) -- Gavin Maurer
Bluffton (Ohio) -- Ryan Sabin
Case Western Reserve (Ohio) -- Dan Calabrese
Central (Iowa) -- Ross Doehrmann
Denison (Ohio) -- Nathaniel Kell
DePauw (Ind.) -- Christopher Lamping
Dubuque (Iowa) -- Wyatt Hanus
Emory & Henry (Va.) -- Ross Ellis
Franklin and Marshall (Pa.) -- Kenny Provost
Frostburg State (Md.) -- Anthony Young
Gallaudet (D.C.) -- Denton Mallas
Gettysburg (Pa.) -- Larry DelViscio
Grinnell (Iowa) -- TJ Schaid
Hampden-Sydney (Va.) -- Alex Price
Hardin-Simmons (Texas) -- Travis Sugar
Kean (N.J.) -- T.J. Denehy
King's (Pa.) -- Ryan Cordingly
Lake Forest (Ill.) -- Aidan Price
Lycoming (Pa.) -- Parker Showers
Macalester (Minn.) -- Riley Koval
Manchester (Ind.) -- Matt Frieden
Massachusetts Institute of Tech. -- Ethan Peterson
Mount Union (Ohio) -- Nick Driskill
North Central (Ill.) -- Alex Pirela
Oberlin (Ohio) -- David Kalgren
Rowan (N.J.) -- Chris Popper
Saint John's (Minn.) -- Stephen Johnson
Shenandoah (Va.) -- Nick Erdman
Simpson (Iowa) -- Mark Cronin
Union (N.Y.) -- Noah Joseph
Wartburg (Iowa) -- Garrett McGrane
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (Mo.) -- Dan Burkett
Westfield State (Mass.) -- Chris Walker
Wheaton (Ill.) -- Sam VanHeest
Williams (Mass.) -- Ladd Hamrick
Wisconsin-Eau Claire -- Matt Hawley
Wisconsin-Oshkosh -- Ben Strehlow
Wisconsin-Stout -- Joshua Peterson