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Nearhoof Honored by NFF, Wins $18,000 Scholarship

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pittsburgh -- Senior defensive lineman Nolan Nearhoof (Gibsonia, Pa. / Mars Area) of the Robert Morris University football team earned the highest academic honor in program history Wednesday as he was selected as a National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar-Athlete in an announcement made by the NFF and the College Hall of Fame.

Nearhoof was one of just 15 football student-athletes from across all divisions of the NCAA as well as NAIA to claim this honor and was the only student-athlete selected from 121 schools that play at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. As a result of earning this distinction, Nearhoof will be awarded an $18,000 scholarship to assist with postgraduate studies.

Nearhoof, who aspires to attend physical therapy school after his graduation, becomes the first student-athlete in the 19-year history of the Robert Morris football program to receive this accolade.

“This is a tremendous honor being awarded to not only a great football player but a great person,” said Robert Morris athletic nearhoofmugdirector Craig Coleman. “Nolan embodies the true meaning of ‘student-athlete’ and makes us proud of him every day.”

These 15 football student-athletes, a list that includes USC All-American quarterback Matt Barkley and Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te’o, also comprise the list of finalists for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.

Each member of the 2012 National Scholar-Athlete class will travel to New York City to be honored Dec. 4 during the 55th NFF Annual 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. At that time, they will each receive 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.

“It’s an incredible honor not only for Nolan but for the entire Robert Morris community and our athletic department,” RMU head coach Joe Walton said. “It’s a tremendous distinction for our school to be included in such company. When I told Nolan about it, he was flattered to hear about the elite group he would be joining. It’s a marvelous achievement.”

“It’s obviously a big achievement for our team and our school,” Nearhoof said. “It’s great to be the first one from Robert Morris to earn this honor. The more and more that Coach Walton told me about it, the more I realized how neat of a group this is to be a part of.”

As another part of the initiative, the NFF will present the faculty athletics representatives at each of the institutions with a NFF National Scholar-Athlete with a plaque and a $5,000 check from Fidelity Investments to support the academic support services for student-athletes at each school.

Nearhoof is one of just five players honored that compete on the defensive side of the ball and one of six that is currently a statistical record holder at his school.

While this might be the most prestigious academic honor that Nearhoof has garnered in his career, it is far from the only one.

Nearhoof has accumulated a 3.74 grade-point average in the demanding field of biology. As a result, he became just the second student-athlete in program history to earn two Academic All-America honors and has a chance to earn an unprecedented third such honor in his senior season. Nearhoof also took home the Northeast Conference (NEC) Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor in each of the past two seasons. He became the first Colonial in program history ever to win the award, which takes into account both on-field accomplishments and classroom performance, on two different occasions. He is also a member of the Robert Morris STEM committee, which is a select group of science, engineering and technology students.

Nearhoof has volunteered with the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen and the Boy Scouts and has also donated his time to three different Special Olympics events and three events at Holy Family Institute. He also helped out with a team-oriented highway cleanup effort and has served as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) on campus.

Nearhoof currently ranks second on the team with 49 tackles and has registered 6.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries and two pass breakups thus far in 2012. With the 3.0 sacks he registered Oct. 13 at Bryant, Nearhoof became RMU’s all-time leader in career sacks and tops the charts with 22.5. Nearhoof, who also ranks ninth all-time at RMU in tackles for loss, is tied for the NEC lead and tied for ninth nationally in sacks per game.

Nearhoof was named All-NEC First Team in both 2010 and 2011, one of just three players in the league to earn each of those honors. He led the Colonials in both tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (7.5) in his junior season despite missing the final two games due to injury. He started all 11 games in his sophomore season and led the team in sacks and quarterback hurries in helping Robert Morris earn the league’s first automatic berth into the FCS Playoffs. In 36 career games, 29 of which have been starting assignments, Nearhoof has 186 career tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, six passes defended and three fumble recoveries.

“This year’s class contains some of the finest student-athletes to ever compete in college athletics in any sport,” NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell said. “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 finds itself 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,” NFF Chairman Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton (Campbell winner) and Eli were NFF National Scholar-Athletes in 1997 and 2003, said. “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.”

In addition to the presentation of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards and the William V. Campbell Trophy, the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner will include the induction of the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Class, which includes NFL Hall of Famers Art Monk and Dave Casper, and the presentation of several major awards, including the organization’s highest honor, the NFF Gold Medal, and the NFF Distinguished American Award.

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 Campbell Trophy comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $7,000 increase in postgraduate funds for a total scholarship of $25,000.

The 15 finalists were selected from a nationwide pool of 147 exceptional semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. 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.

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.