DALLAS – Saint Xavier University senior wide receiver Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) joins 14 of college football's best and brightest scholar-athletes when he was selected for the 2012 The National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar-Athlete Class Wednesday by the NFF & College Hall of Fame, presented by Fidelity Investments®, a leading provider of not-for-profit workplace retirement savings plans in higher education. The 15 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 football scholar-athlete in the nation. The finalists were selected from a nationwide pool of 147 semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. Zackery was the only NAIA player represented in this year's class and will be awarded an $18,000 scholarship to assist with postgraduate studies on December 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Joining Zackery as finalists were: University of Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, Texas Tech safety Cody Davis, University of Mount Union (Ohio) safety Nick Driskill, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, Northern Illinois defensive tackle Nabal Jefferson, Alabama center Barrett Jones, West Texas A&M offensive lineman Aaron Mullane, Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, Robert Morris University (Pa.) defensive end Nolan Nearhoof, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offensive lineman Ethan Peterson, Duke University quarterback Sean Renfree, University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Northwestern University offensive tackle Patrick Ward.
"First of all, I want to thank our sports information director Rob Huizenga for nominating me for this award and our football coach Mike Feminis for giving me the opportunity to play football at this amazing university," said Zackery. "When I looked at the list of other finalists, I was speechless, because they are a very impressive group and I want to pass along my congratulations to all of them as well. Also, I want to thank the National Football Foundation for selecting me for this prestigious honor. I am so excited about the opportunity and still find it hard to believe that in just a little over a month, I will be in New York City being recognized as one of the top football scholar-athletes in the nation."
Zackery, a business management major with an emphasis in marketing and finance, becomes the first student-athlete in the 20-year history of the Saint Xavier University football program to receive this distinction. He carries a 3.709 cumulative grade-point average and was named a 2011 CoSIDA First Team Academic All-America in the college division as well as a 2011 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete. Zackery also helped SXU win the 2011 NAIA Football National Championship finishing the game with nine receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. This season, Zackery leads the Cougars in receptions (46), receiving yards (654) and touchdowns (7). He also has coordinated team activities for Saint Xavier's annual "Service Day" and volunteered his time to help host a free football clinic for underprivileged kids in conjunction with a local Salvation Army Community Center in Chicago.
"This is a tremendous honor for Shane and he is such a deserving person," said Feminis. "As good as he is on the field, Shane has always understood the importance of academics and he has obviously excelled in the classroom as well. From a character standpoint, Shane is one of the nicest and most respectful young men I have ever coached. Put all of those qualities together and what you have is a really special kid who is going to be a great success in life. To be one of only 15 players selected from every level of college football is absolutely incredible. I could not be happier for Shane and his family."
Each member of the 2012 National Scholar-Athlete Class will travel to New York City to be honored on Tuesday, December 4, during the 55th Annual NFF 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. Each honoree receives 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.
"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."
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 Annual NFF 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.
To read the official press release sent out by the National Football Foundation Wednesday, please click here