WASHINGTON – For the first time in school history a Gallaudet University football player was named a finalist for the prestigious Gagliardi Trophy given to the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III. Gallaudet defensive end Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.) is one of the 10 finalists announced Tuesday by Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John's University of Minnesota.
The Gagliardi Trophy, given annually since 1993, recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service. The award is named after John Gagliardi, Saint John's legendary Hall of Fame head football coach who retired in 2012 with 489 career victories, the most in college football history.
The Gagliardi Trophy will be presented on Wednesday, Dec. 18, in Salem, Va., home of the Stagg Bowl, at a banquet kicking off the Division III championship weekend. Candidates are nominated by their college president and the top four vote-getters, as determined by a national selection committee, will be on hand for the banquet; announcement of the winner and presentation of the trophy will be made at that time.
"I am truly honored to represent Gallaudet University as one of 10 finalists for this significant award," said Talaat. "I am so humbled, grateful and thrilled to represent Bison Nation and the deaf and hard of hearing community as a whole. I hope I can make them all proud."
Talaat, a 3.90 GPA student-athlete, is a CoSIDA Academic All-America honoree and a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District first team selection. He helped to lead Gallaudet to a historic season in 2013 as the Bison won their first nine games, clinched their first Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championship, the program's first national ranking, had an 11-game win streak dating back to last season and made the University's first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament for a men's sport. GU, the only deaf and hard of hearing University in the world, finished the year with a 9-2 record and 6-1 mark in ECFC play. The nine wins ties a program record and the 11 games played in one season is a new record. The Springfield, Va., native has also been the face of the program during a national media blitz that took place during the last month of the season. He is also a NFL prospect that has been interviewed by over 20 different team scouts this fall.
"Adham has been a joy to coach these past four seasons. He is a high character player and a true leader, one of the reasons why he was one of our senior co-captains this season," said Gallaudet coach Chuck Goldstein. "There will never be a player like Adham again. He is a true one of a kind player that defines the Gagliardi Trophy (Football, Academics and Community Service) and is very worthy to be selected as one of the 10 finalists."
Talaat ended the season with 46 tackles (26 solo), 9.5 tackles for a loss of 50 yards, five sacks for a loss of 42 yards, six quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, three passes defended and one forced fumble. GU wrapped up its season with a 34-7 loss at No. 7 Hobart in the first round
of the NCAA championship last Saturday on the road. The physical education major is also active with volunteer activities on campus as he and his football teammates help freshmen on move-in day in August, helped to construct and maintain the on-campus garden and the football team was one of the leading fundraisers for last spring's Relay for Life event on campus. Talaat, a devoted Muslim, is active with his local mosque where he has been a mentor to many. He has been named to the dean's list five times and last April received the Jay and Meredith Crane Scholarship presented by the National Capital Region Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
Nominations for the Gagliardi Trophy were submitted by 16 colleges across the country. The candidates included six running backs, five quarterbacks, three linebackers, one defensive end and one wide receiver. The final 10 were selected by the J-Club Board of Directors.
Kevin Burke, Mount Union (Ohio) quarterback; Graham Craig, LaGrange (Ga.) quarterback; and Austin Damaschke, Concordia (Wis.) quarterback, are the three junior finalists. Five of the 10 finalists played this past Saturday in the Division III national playoffs: Burke; Damaschke; Cole Klotz, Wisconsin-Whitewater linebacker; Kyle Linville, Franklin (Ind.) wide receiver; and Talaat. The other finalists are McCallum Foote, Middlebury (Vt.) quarterback; Octavias McKoy, Western Connecticut State running back; Keith Welch, Lewis & Clark (Ore.) quarterback; and Erik Westerberg, Augustana (Ill.) linebacker.
The Gagliardi Trophy national-selection committee is comprised of 38 former small college football players, business leaders, academicians and sports writers from around the country. Each casts a ballot ranking the 10 finalists. A fan vote, which will serve as the 39th committee member, will be launched on d3football.com Nov. 26 and run until Tuesday, Dec. 10.