Monday, December 8, 2008

15 Finalists Vie for National Football Foundation's Draddy Trophy

Winner to be announced Tuesday, December 9 at approximately 8:40 p.m. ET

DALLAS, December 4, 2008 -
As the 2008 college football season comes to a close, the 15 NFF Draddy Trophy Finalists will head to New York City next week, where each will claim an $18,000 scholarship, while the nation's top scholar-athlete from among the finalists will be announced as the 19th recipient of the coveted NFF Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth.

The Draddy Trophy is one of college football's most sought after and competitive awards, recognizing an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.

"The Draddy represents excellence in all aspects of one's life," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. "Past recipients have gone on to become lawyers, doctors and some of the best players in the NFL. Football truly does build leaders, and this year's 15 finalists are no exception."

The announcement will be made between 8:15 - 9 p.m. during the NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria on Tuesday, December 9.

The class members combine to average a 3.71 GPA, and all have been named Academic All-Conference athletes. Twelve serve as team captains, while ten have been named to All-Conference teams and four have been chosen as All-America picks. Six have been named Academic All-Americas, including one Rhodes Scholar finalist. Seven finished the season as members of nationally ranked teams.

The centerpiece to the NFF's scholar-athlete program, which has awarded over $8.9 million to 708 top athletes, the Draddy Trophy honors former NFF Chairman Vincent dePaul Draddy, a Manhattan College quarterback who developed the Izod and Lacoste brands. The award, college football's most prestigious academic honor, comes with a 24-inch, 25-pound bronze trophy and increases the winner's scholarship by $7,000 to $25,000.

Launched in 1959, the NFF scholar-athlete program became the first initiative in history to credit a player for both academic and athletic accomplishments. The Draddy, first awarded in 1990, adds to the program's mystique. Past Draddy winners, including two Rhodes Scholars, a Rhodes Scholar finalist, a Heisman winner and a 3.7 average GPA, are: Chris Howard (Air Force, 1990 - Leader in Higher Education); John B. Culpepper (Florida, 1991 - Attorney); Jim Hansen (Colorado, 1992 - MIT Professor); Thomas Burns (Virginia, 1993 - Ph.D. Nuclear Engineer); Robert Zatechka (Nebraska, 1994 - Physician); Bobby Hoying (Ohio State, 1995 - Real Estate Developer); Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996 - Nonprofit Director); Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997 - NFL Player); Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia, 1998 - Television Broadcaster); Chad Pennington (Marshall, 1999 - NFL Player); Kyle Vanden Bosch (Nebraska, 2000 - NFL Player); Joaquin Gonzalez (Miami, 2001 - Entrepreneur); Brandon Roberts (Washington University- Mo., 2002 - Medical Student); Craig Krenzel (Ohio State, 2003 - Real Estate Investment Analyst); Michael Munoz (Tennessee, 2004 - Nonprofit director and political candidate); Rudy Niswanger (LSU, 2005 - NFL Player); Brian Leonard (Rutgers, 2006 - NFL Player); and Dallas Griffin (Texas, 2007 - MBA Candidate).

Listed in alphabetical order, the 2008 Draddy Finalists are:

Andrew Berry, CB - Harvard: Named First Team All-Ivy League corner for third year, amassing 43 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups in 2008... Led Crimson to 2008 Ivy League title... Named a John Harvard Scholar, ranking among Harvard's top five percent in grade point average... One of five finalists (among all college athletes) for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup... Director of the Cambridge Youth Enrichment Program.

Ryan Berry, QB - South Dakota State:
Leads Missouri Valley Conference in total offense (3,009) and passing yards (3,106)... Set SDSU career marks for completions (477) and touchdowns (52)... Two- time Academic All-Great West Football Conference selection... Named to ESPN The Magazine's Academic All-District Team in 2008... Member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has participated in reading programs at local elementary schools.

Chase Daniel, QB - Missouri: Led Missouri to back-to-back Big 12 North Division titles... Holds 27 school records and was a 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist... Named a 2008 finalist for the Manning Award, Wuerffel Trophy and the Unitas Golden Arm Award, completing 331 passes for 3,880 yards and 34 touchdowns this season... Two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection... Volunteered for hospital visits and the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids Sake charity.

Brian Freeman, OT - Carnegie Mellon (Pa.):
Named to All-University Athletics Association First Team for second straight year... Vital part of CMU offense that has led the UAA on the ground for the third straight season, amassing 223.3 yards per contest... Three-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America selection... Member of the Chemical Engineering Association and the Student Athlete Advisory Council.

Casey Gerald, CB - Yale: Rhodes Scholar finalist and Gates Millennium Scholar... Named 2008 Honorable Mention All-Ivy League, recording 25 tackles, one interception, three pass breakups and four pass deflections this season... Recipient of the New England Football Writers Association's Jerry Nason Award for senior achievement... Co-founder and president of the Yale Black Men's Union, establishing a mentoring program for young men.

Graham Harrell, QB - Texas Tech: Nation's leading passer and the NCAA's active career leader in passing yards (15,429) and passing touchdowns (130)... Named a 2008 finalist for the Manning Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, Maxwell Award, Wuerffel Trophy and Unitas Golden Arm Award... Academic All- Big 12 selection, graduating in only three-and-a-half years... Participated in visits to local children's hospitals and nursing homes.

Quin Harris, LB - Louisiana Tech:
Named a 2008 finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy... Registered a perfect 4.0 GPA five of his last six quarters of his undergraduate studies, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in kinesiology last May... Team captain and four-year starter, garnering Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-Louisiana Team recognition in 2006 and '07... Member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the three-year vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Jeff Horinek, LB - Colorado State:
Led CSU to its first bowl-eligible season in three years... Started 37 consecutive games for the Rams, one of the nation's longest streaks... Tallied 84 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks this season... Two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District selection... Three-time Academic All- Mountain West pick... Four-year participant in the Ram Jam Children's Community Event and has tallied numerous hours of service at Timberline Church.

Ryan Kees, DE - St. Cloud State (Minn.): Ranks fourth in SCSU history with 34.5 career tackles for loss and is tied for sixth with 15 career sacks... Two-time First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District pick... Named to 2008 NSIC North Division All-Conference First Team... Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) and volunteers for a youth football program on Saturday mornings.

Alex Mack, C - California: Graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in legal studies... Four-time Academic All-Pac-10 selection.... One of only three players to be named a unanimous 2007 First Team All-Pac-10 selection, earning the Morris Trophy as the conference's top offensive lineman... Named First Team All-America by The Sporting News in 2007 and a projected first-round NFL Draft pick... Member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Ryan McDonald, OL - Illinois: Named Second Team All-Big Ten selection in 2008, while tying the school record for career starts (48)... Two-time First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America selection... Honors graduate of Illinois' prestigious aerospace engineering program, which is ranked among the top five in the country... Four-year starter... Member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and organized a team for the 2008 MS Walk, raising$1,500 for the charity.

Greg Micheli, QB - Mount Union (Ohio): Named First Team All-Ohio Athletic Conference pick for second straight year... Led Mount Union to outright OAC title and No. 1 ranking in Division III... Named the 2008 ESPN The Magazine College Division Academic All-American of the Year... Division III's top-rated QB, throwing only two interceptions in 179 completions (215.77 passer rating)... Member of the Physics Society and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Darryl Richard, DT - Georgia Tech: Led Georgia Tech to No. 15 national ranking and upset of intrastate rival Georgia... 32 career tackles for loss ranks 12th in school history... Three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll selection... Three-year starter and team captain, registering 34 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks this season... President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board and selected to the university's Presidential Search Committee and the NCAA Certification Committee.

Brian Robiskie, WR - Ohio State:
Led Buckeyes to a share of the 2008 Big Ten title... OSU's leading receiver for the second year, catching 37 passed for 419 yards and eight touchdowns... Two- time First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All- America selection... One of three male finalists for the 2008 Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award... Active in projects through the Student-Athlete Activities Board, and participates in hospital visits and speaks to local elementary and middle school students.

Louie Sakoda, K/P - Utah: Only second player in history to be named a finalist for both the Ray Guy and the Lou Groza awards... Led Utes to an undefeated 2008 regular season and No. 6 national ranking... Only dual punter/kicker in the country ranked in the top 10 nationally in both punting average (41.72 yards) and field goal percentage (91.0)... Three-time MWC Special Teams Player of the Year... 2008 First Team Academic All-America selection... Organizes recess activities for at-risk children.

Photo Credit: Mizzou Media Relations, OSU Athletics