NEW YORK, N.Y. - Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod officially received his prestigious award as one of 16 of the nation's best and brightest collegiate football players Tuesday night at ceremonies at the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Tuesday's event also included the induction of the 2010 College Football Hall of Fame Class and the presentation of several major awards, including the organization's highest honor, the Gold Medal, to American icon Bill Cosby and the Distinguished American Award to renowned journalist and author Tom Brokaw.
Recognized by the organization as one of the strongest classes in the history of the storied NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards Program, the 2010 National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) was selected from a nationwide pool of 121 semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. Each win $18,000 postgraduate scholarships as part of the 52nd NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class. The 16 class members are:
"We are ecstatic about the quality of this year's remarkable National Scholar-Athlete Class. They stand as a testament to our mission of building leaders through football," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell in November. "From top to bottom, this group has established itself as one of the greatest in the 50-plus years of this program, boasting an impressive array of academic and athletic achievements. We look forward to presenting each of them an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship to further their education, as there are no limits to what these young men will accomplish following their football careers."
The NFF's National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in the 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 Danny Wuerffel (Florida).
"The 2010 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 balanced practice with difficult majors like mechanical engineering and biology. They've also taken their passion for helping others beyond their local communities, taking medical and mission trips overseas to help those less fortunate than themselves. They are prime role models for future generations of young men in this country."
Each finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, and one of the 16 will be announced as the recipient of the 21ST William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Renamed last fall 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.
2010 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Highlights
3.65 Average GPA
14-of-16 Team Captains
15-of-16 Academic All-Conference Athletes (one player attending an independent school)
13-of-16 All-Conference Athletes (one player attending an independent school)
Four ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Selections (Acho, Odim, Wartman, Wisniewski)
Five All-America Picks (Castonzo, Odim, Solder, Wartman, Wisniewski)
Two Conference Players of the Year (Gross, Odim)
Seven Members of Nationally Ranked Teams (Marecic, McElroy, Odim, Ponder, Sherrod, Tolzien, Wartman)
One Member of a National Championship Team (McElroy)
Three Members of Conference Championship Teams (Acho, McElroy, Wisniewski)
Two Members of National Playoff Teams (Odim, Wartman)
Five Members Currently Working on Postgraduate Studies (McElroy, Ponder, Sherrod, Solder, Stewart)
Five Members Participating in Overseas Relief Efforts and/or Mission Trips (Acho, Solder, Stewart, Wartman, Wisniewski)
12 Offensive Players (Castonzo, Chappell, Marecic, McElroy, Odim, Ponder, Sherrod, Solder, Stewart, Tolzien, Wartman, Wisniewski)
Five Defensive Players (Acho, Gross, Marecic, Mohamed, Nissley)
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 121 semifinalists for the award were announced on Sept. 30 (names listed below), 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.
A three-year letterman, Derek Sherrod has helped propel Mississippi State University into the national spotlight while also setting an example for younger students and excelling academically. He is the school's third NFF National Scholar-Athlete and the first since 1989.
Sherrod, who hails from Columbus, Miss., has been named to the Mississippi State University President's Scholar List three times. A two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, he has graduated Cum Laude in business with a focus on financial risk management.
An All-SEC selection in 2009 and 2010, Sherrod helped pave the way for the Bulldogs to lead the SEC and finish ninth nationally in rushing with 227.6 yards per game. This season, Sherrod has helped Mississippi State bulldoze its way to 219.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 15th nationally. He has helped the top 25 Bulldogs achieve their most wins since 2007. The team captain has started 34 games and appeared in 46 contests for his career.
A four-year member of the M-Club, the student-athlete community service organization, he has spent considerable time with the youth of Mississippi. He has served breakfast at Sudduth Elementary School, participated in Sudduth's Kids Fair and read to local students to promote literacy. He has also organized a Thanksgiving food drive.