Portions courtesy of the National Football Foundation and Yale Sports Publicity
Photo courtesy of Yale Sports Publicity
Each finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City, and one of the 16 will be announced as the 22nd 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, 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 $25,000 post-graduate scholarship. A total distribution of $300,000 in scholarships will be awarded that evening.
Witt, picked among 127 candidates for NFF honors after nominations were taken in September, has a 3.91 GPA in history and has been Yale's starting quarterback the last three seasons. Already the career leader at Yale with 463 completions, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound signal-caller ranks second in both attempts (785) and yards (5,042) and is fourth with 31 touchdown passes.
Witt is the 49th Ivy player to be honored as a NFF National Scholar-Athlete and the 11th Yale student-athlete to be honored with this award by the NFF. The last Bulldog honored was defensive back Casey Gerald, who spoke on behalf of the 16 recipients at the 2008 event hosted at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. It marks the fourth straight year and seventh time in eight years the Ivy League has had a football student-athlete honored with this award.
The Wylie, Texas, native was elected to the team's leadership council soon after becoming the first transfer (Nebraska) student at Yale to start immediately at quarterback since World War II (when transfers were common). Witt has written for the Yale Daily News, is a member of the Intercultural Affairs Council and has done some prison ministry work.
Witt, recently named a semifinalist for the Mitchell Scholarship, has been endorsed by his school as a 2011 Rhodes Scholar candidate. He also won the Francis Gordon Brown Prize, one of the school's highest undergraduate accolades, awarded to the student in the junior class in Yale College who most closely approaches the standards of intellectual ability, high manhood, capacity for leadership and service to the University set by Francis Gordon Brown, who captained Yale Football's "Team of the Century" in 1900.
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 2011 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. Our goal in recognizing them is that future football players will be inspired to follow their example."
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. Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero, Columbia offensive lineman Bob Hauschildt and Dartmouth linebacker Luke Hussey were among the 127 semifinalists for the award announced on Sept. 29. 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, the awards dinner includes the induction of the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame Class and the presentation of several major awards, including the organization's highest honor, the Gold Medal, to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Distinguished American Award to world-renowned heart surgeon and former Columbia standout Dr. Archie Roberts.