Matt Blanchard, Alex Tanney, Fritz Waldvogel and Michael Zweifel have been named finalists for the 2011 Gagliardi Trophy, given to the most outstanding all-around football student-athlete in NCAA Division III by Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John's University of Minnesota. The Gagliardi Trophy, presented annually since 1993, recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service.
The Gagliardi Trophy will be presented on Wednesday, Dec. 14, in Salem, Va., home of the Stagg Bowl, at a banquet kicking off a series of D-III championship events. The final four candidates will be on hand for the banquet. The announcement of the winner and presentation of the trophy will be made at that time. The banquet will be broadcast on live video by D3football.com
Background on the 2011 Gagliardi Trophy final four candidates includes statistics through the end of the regular season, academic major and community service:
UW-Whitewater senior quarterback, Lake Zurich, Ill.
Returning starter on defending national champions. Rated sixth in D-III passing efficiency at 167.59 (conference leader) on 19 TD passes with three interceptions. Physical education major. Active volunteer with programs for youth as well as senior citizens plus Special Olympics and Relay for Life.
Monmouth senior quarterback, Normal, Ill.
Led D-III with 330.4 passing yards/game as team compiled top total offense (556.7 yards/game). Was third in passing efficiency (193.34 rating; 73 percent completions, 35 TDs, seven interceptions); fourth in total offense. Business major. Volunteer programs include college phone-a-thon, YMCA and youth reading readiness.
St. Thomas senior wide receiver from Mendota Heights, Minn. Scored 12 TDs with 1,328 all-purpose yards, 865 coming on 54 receptions. Conference MVP as sophomore has league career returns for TD record. Finance major. Veteran volunteer at food drives, fundraisers and community cleanup efforts; Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee.
Dubuque senior wide receiver from Whitewater, Wis.
Topped all NCAA divisions with 12.7 receptions and 178 yards per game, 24 receiving TDs. Helped team to first Iowa Conference title in 31 years. Health/wellness/recreation major is only D-III finalist among 16 Campbell Trophy candidates. Active volunteer with campus projects and at local schools.
Trophy candidates are nominated by their college president. The final four candidates were selected by a national committee composed of 38 former small college football players, business leaders, academicians and sports writers from around the country. Each committee member casts a ballot ranking the ten finalists. College football fans also voted online on D3football.com from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5; their tally represented one collective ballot.
Six other standout student-athletes were considered for this year’s Gagliardi Trophy including Peter Bulandr, North Central (Ill.), Alex Ferrara, Mount Union, Chris Haupt, Widener, Dan Pitcher, Cortland State, Alex Thiry, St. Scholastica and Hewitt Tomlin, Johns Hopkins.
Alex Ferrara received the highest number of fan votes with 13,126 total online votes.
The award is named after John Gagliardi, Saint John's legendary Hall of Fame head football coach who has 484 career victories, the most in college football history.
The trophy design features a sculpture of Gagliardi and a player representing the teacher-coach and the student-athlete in a classic one-on-one sideline consultation. Hand-cast in bronze on a polished wood base, the trophy stands nearly two-feet tall and weighs 64 pounds. The words "Division III Player of the Year" and "Honoring Excellence in Football, Academics and Community Service" are etched in glass on two panels flanking the figures. All-American quarterback Eric Watt of Trine was the 2010 Gagliardi Trophy winner.