Release Courtesy of Husson University Sports Information Department
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – Nov. 20, 2017 – Nine seniors and one junior make up the semifinalists for the 2017 Gagliardi Trophy, an award presented by Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John’s University (Minn.) to the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III. John Smith is the first finalist in Husson University's football program and Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) history.
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 25th Gagliardi Trophy will be presented on Wednesday, Dec. 13, in Salem, Va., at a banquet kicking off the Division III championship weekend, which culminates in the Stagg Bowl on Friday, Dec. 15. The four finalists, who will be announced Dec. 5, will be on hand for the announcement of the winner and presentation of the trophy at the banquet.
The trophy design features a sculpture of Gagliardi and a player, representing the teacher-coach and the student-athlete in a one-on-one sideline consultation. Hand-cast in bronze on a polished wood base, the trophy stands nearly two feet tall and weighs approximately 64 pounds. The words "The Gagliardi Trophy presented by Jostens & J-Club” are printed on the acrylic panel behind the figures. The words “Division III 2017 Player of the Year" and "Honoring Excellence in Football, Academics and Community Service" are etched on two panels below the figures.
Nominations were submitted by colleges across the country, and the final 10 were selected by the J-Club Board of Directors. The Gagliardi Trophy national-selection committee is comprised of 40 former small college football players, former Gagliardi Trophy recipients, business leaders, academicians and sports writers from around the country. Each casts a ballot ranking the 10 semifinalists. A fan vote, which will serve as the 41st committee member, will be launched on D3football.com Nov. 21 and run until Monday, Dec. 4.
Eight of the 10 semifinalists (addressed further down the press release) played Nov. 18 in the first round of the Division III national playoffs: Breunig, Gono, Kasper, Sacia, Smith, Wilcox, Wyse and Zubik.
To vote for Smith, follow the link: http://www.d3football.com/
Semifinalists and statistics
(Through end of regular season, Nov. 11)
• John Smith, Husson University (Maine)
6-0, 218 | Senior | Running Back | Psychology
Fayetteville, Georgia | Starr’s Mill High School
- Has rushed for at least 1,400 yards in each of his four seasons…in 2017, rushed 265 times for 1,917 yards and 28 touchdowns…averaged 7.2 yards per carry, and 191.7 yards per game…the Eagles averaged 273 rushing yards per game…helped team to 9-1 record and berth in NCAA Division III playoffs…the leading career rusher in Maine and New England college football, regardless of division, with 6,597 yards…ran for 301 yards against Endicott Sept. 30, and rushed for 287 yards and five touchdowns against Mount Ida on Nov. 11…currently sits fourth in career rushing yards in Division III history.
• Austin Breunig, North Central College (Ill.)
5-10, 182 | Senior | Running Back | Exercise Science
Sandwich, Ill. | Sandwich High School
- The 2017 CCIW Offensive Player of the Year…rushed 212 times for 1,266 yards and 15 touchdowns heading into Division III playoffs…also had 26 receptions for 411 yards and four touchdowns…his 1,686 all-purpose yards was a CCIW record…three-time all-conference selection and a three-time Academic All-CCIW selection…holds North Central single-game records for rushing yards (264), all-purpose yards (350) and points scored (30)….has volunteered with Feed My Starving Children and participated in service events to benefit Special Olympics hosted on North Central’s campus as part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
• Matt Gono, Wesley College (Del.)
6-4, 310 | Senior | Offensive Tackle | Law and Justice
Cinnaminson, N.J. | Cinnaminson High School
- Has started every game since his freshman season…two-time D3football All-East Region first-team member, and a two-time All-NJCA selection…Wolverines average more than 400 yards of offense a game…Wesley led the NJAC in total offense and points scored going into the NCAA Division III playoffs…member of the Legal Society and Leaders Empowerment for Tomorrow on campus…has been involved with the Reading Across America at local elementary schools, and has collected food for the Delaware Food Bank…volunteer for the North Dover Elementary Field Day, and has volunteered at the Delaware Big Man Camp.
• Nick Holcomb, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
6-2, 190 | Senior | Wide Receiver | Finance and Management
Germantown, Wis. | Germantown High School
- Led Division III in receptions (80), receiving yards (1,401) and touchdowns (20), which are all single-season school records…set a school record with 15 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2017…had four games with 10 or more receptions…caught a touchdown reception in nine of 10 regular-season games, and had at least two TD catches in six games…posted a four-touchdown, 263-yard receiving game against Ripon (Wis.)…volunteers with Veterans Day Breakfast and UW-La Crosse football camps…worked with local high school special needs students teaching life skills…participated in a “Walking School Bus,” leading children to school in the morning.
• Brett Kasper, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
6-2, 215 | Senior | Quarterback | Supply Chain Management
Two Rivers, Wis. | Two Rivers High School
- Named the 2017 WIAC Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons…completed 125 of 191 passes for 2,034 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions in nine games…has a .654 completion percentage and a 186.99 pass-efficiency rating…threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns against Wisconsin-La Crosse this season, and passed for 339 yards and three scores against Wisconsin-Whitewater…has a career record of 37-5 in starting all four seasons for the Titans…led Oshkosh to appearance in the 2016 Stagg Bowl…in January 2017, was the first Division III captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works team…volunteered with Be the Match…his bone marrow matched a girl in need of a transplant, and underwent the life-saving procedure…regularly volunteers with organizations, including Feeding America and Special Olympics.
• Ty Parsons, East Texas Baptist University
6-1, 230 | Senior | Linebacker | Business Administration/Accounting
Rowlett, Texas | Dallas Christian High School
- Has played at the Division I (Georgetown), Division II (Harding) and Division III levels (East Texas Baptist) in his collegiate career…collected 143 total tackles in 2017, including 61 solo and 82 assisted tackles…tied for second in Division III with total tackles…recorded 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions…broke the ETBU and American Southwest Conference tackle records…helped defensive unit tie for 10th in Division III in turnover margin…an NFF Campbell Trophy semifinalist this season…works as a security guard on campus…volunteers at a junior-high weekly reading program…volunteers time over the summer helping high school athletes train for their sports…helps at his high school with its elementary-school field days the past two years.
• Matt Sacia, Wartburg College (Iowa)
6-2, 195 | Junior | Quarterback| Biology/Pre-Medicine
Eldridge, Iowa | North Scott High School
- Voted the IIAC Offensive Most Valuable Player in 2017…led Knights to fifth undefeated regular season (10-0) in program history…completed 186 of 278 passes for 2,552 yards for 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions…had a school record five-touchdown performance against Nebraska Wesleyan Nov. 11, and tossed four touchdown passes in four other games…ranks seventh in Division III passing efficiency (175.1)…is a two-time All-IIAC selection, in addition to earning Academic All-IIAC honors…serves on the executive team for Wartburg’s Dance Marathon this year, after serving on the at-large committee last year…also volunteers at the annual Unified Sports Day, which is a day of activities with local Special Olympic athletes.
• Jordan Wilcox, Springfield College (Mass.)
6-1, 225 | Senior | Fullback | Finance
Saratoga Springs, N.Y. | Saratoga Springs High School
- The Pride is averaging 450 yards rushing per game, the top rushing offense in the country at any level…Wilcox leads Division III in yards per rush (8.13), fourth in total rushing yards (1,675) and seventh in rushing touchdowns (19)…has rushed for over 200 yards in four games this season, and has five games with at least three touchdowns…named the NEWMAC Offensive Player of the Year….is 267 rushing yards away from breaking the program’s single-season rushing mark…two-time Liberty League All-Academic honoree…is a NEWMAC Academic All-Conference honoree this season…is involved with Team IMPACT, which supports children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses…has been involved with Be The Match, increasing awareness about bone marrow registry…also has participated in the annual St. Baldrick’s Children’s Cancer awareness event.
• Evan Wyse, Trine University (Ind.)
6-0, 210 | Senior | Quarterback | Mechanical Engineering
Archbold, Ohio | Archbold High School
- The 2017 MIAA Offensive Player of the Year…led the conference in touchdown passes (17) and ranked sixth in passing yards (1,401) during the regular season…second on team, and sixth in MIAA, with 905 rushing yards…has six 100-yard rushing games this season…has scored or aided in 28 touchdowns…led offensive unit that set single-season records for rushing yards (3,403), rushing touchdown (41), rushing yards per game (340.3), pass efficiency (195.4) and average yards per pass (11.5)…has volunteered helping the Steuben County Humane Society…serves on the Trine Student-Athlete Advisory Committee…has been involved with clean-ups on campus and local highways…volunteered with the March of Dimes and at the Cameron Ball…shoveled snow for elderly members of the community.
• Jesse Zubik, Washington and Jefferson College (Pa.)
5-10, 180 | Senior | Wide Receiver | Financial Economics
Sewickley, Pa. | Avonworth High School
- Was a Lindy’s Preseason All-American and its Preseason Offensive Player of the Year…a Street and Smith’s Preseason All-American…an NFF Campbell Trophy semifinalist…All-PAC first-team selection…seventh player in Division III history to reach 4,500 receiving yards…enters the Division III playoffs with 65 receptions for 1,210 yards and 14 touchdowns…had 322 receiving yards and six touchdowns against Thomas More (Ky.) Sept. 16…had 97 receptions for 1,413 yards in 11 games in 2016…has 22 career 100-yard receiving games…holds every career receiving record in the Presidents’ program…off the field, he is involved with the Be the Match bone marrow drive…also participates as a staff member at Washington and Jefferson football camps…was named a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection in 2016.