NEW YORK – Saint Xavier University senior center Matt Munizzi (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) was the 2012 recipient of the prestigious NAIA Rimington Award when the honor was announced by the Rimington Trophy committee Thursday afternoon. The award recognizes the most outstanding centers at the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II and Division III levels as well as the NAIA. This year's Rimington Trophy, awarded to the best center at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, went to University of Alabama's Barrett Jones. The Rimington Trophy and Awards are overseen by the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which is committed to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis (CF) and has raised over $100 million for CF research. Munizzi is the first player from SXU to earn the national award and just the second player from the Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) to claim the honor since the NAIA version began in 2003.
"It is truly an honor to be the recipient of the 2012 Rimington Award for the NAIA ," said Munizzi. "I want to thank my family and friends, who have been so supportive throughout my career, and my teammates as well, who made my time playing football here so enjoyable. I also want to thank Coach (Mike) Feminis for recruiting me and giving me the opportunity to play at Saint Xavier. Finally, I want to thank my position coaches, Coach (Mark) Yanule, Coach (Joe Lecessi and Coach (Michael) Johnson, who made this award a possibility for me. I didn't know it at the time, but my decision to come to SXU was one of the greatest decisions of my life."
Munizzi was a MSFA All-Mideast League First Team selection this year and earned second team recognition as a junior in 2011. He helped lead an offense line that was second in the NAIA in total passing offense (4,254 yards), No. 2 in passing offense per game (327.2 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (448 points). Munizzi was also the starter last season when the Cougars won their first NAIA National Championship last December in Rome, Ga.
"This is a tremendous honor for Matt," said Feminis. "He made all of the calls and was the calming influence on our offensive line. But Matt was an all-around great teammate and always showed how much he cared for the entire team, not just for our offense. He made a point all year to be a great prep player for our defensive guys in their weekly preparations. Matt was a true leader for our program."
Dave Rimington, the award's namesake, was a consensus first-team All-America center at the University of Nebraska in 1981 and 1982, during which time he became the John Outland Trophy's only double winner as the nation's finest college interior lineman. For more on the Rimington Trophy, the Rimington Award and a list of past recipients, visit www.rimingtontrophy.com. The 13th Annual Rimington Trophy Presentation will be held on January 12, 2013, at the Rococo Theatre in Lincoln, Neb.