Matt Blanchard, Alex Tanney, Fritz Waldvogel and Michael Zweifel have been named finalists for the 2011 Gagliardi Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III (D-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, December 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.
Background on the 2011 Gagliardi Trophy final four candidates includes statistics through the end of the regular season, academic major and community service:
Matt Blanchard, UW-Whitewater senior QB, from Lake Zurich, Ill. West Region. Returning starter on defending national champions. Rated 6th in D-III passing efficiency at 167.59 (conference leader) on 19 TD passes with 3 INTs. Physical education major. Active volunteer with programs for youth as well as senior citizens plus Special Olympics and Relay for Life. The UW-Whitewater will compete in the D-III semi-finals.
Alex Tanney, Monmouth College (Ill.) senior QB from Normal, Ill. West. Led D-III with 330.4 passing yards/game as team compiled top total offense (556.7 yards/game). Was 3rd in passing efficiency (193.34 rating; 73.02% completions, 35 TDs, 7 INTs); 4th in total offense. Business major was a Gagliardi Trophy finalist in 2009. Volunteer programs include college phone-a-thon, YMCA and youth reading readiness.
Fritz Waldvogel, University of St. Thomas (Minn.) senior WR/KR from Mendota Hts., Minn. West. Scored 12 TDs with 1,328 all-purpose yards, 865 coming on 54 receptions. Conference MVP as sophomore and this fall has league career returns for TD records. Finance major. Veteran volunteer at food drives, fundraisers and community cleanup efforts; Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee. The University of St. Thomas will compete in the D-III semi-finals.
Michael Zweifel, University of Dubuque (Iowa), senior WR from Whitewater, Wis. West. Topped all NCAA divisions with 12.7 receptions and 178 yards per game, 24 receiving TDs. League MVP 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 November 29 through December 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 College (Ill.), Alex Ferrara, University of Mount Union (Ohio), Chris Haupt, Widener University (Pa.) and Dan Pitcher, SUNY Cortland (N.Y.), Alex Thiry, College of St. Scholastica (Minn.) and Hewitt Tomlin, Johns Hopkins University (Md.).
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 (Ind.) University was the 2010 Gagliardi Trophy winner.
Minneapolis-based Jostens is a provider of products, programs and services that help people tell their stories, celebrate important traditions and recognize achievements. The company's products include school yearbooks and other memory book products, scholastic products such as class rings and graduation products, and products for athletic champions and their fans. Jostens is a subsidiary of Visant Corporation, a marketing and publishing services enterprise servicing the school affinity, direct marketing, fragrance and cosmetics sampling and educational and trade publishing segments.
About St. John's University J-Club
Founded in 1959, the St. John's University J-Club is a dues-based booster organization of former Johnnie student-athletes, parents and fans, and plays a key role in support of the SJU varsity programs, intramurals and club sports. St. John's is a private liberal arts college for men located in Collegeville, Minn.