Record-setting senior wide receiver Michael Zweifel from the University of Dubuque has been named recipient of the 2011 Gagliardi Trophy tonight in Salem, Va., as the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III this fall. Sponsored by Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John's University of Minnesota, the Gagliardi Trophy recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service.
Three other finalists were on hand at the 19th annual Gagliardi Trophy award ceremony: Matthew Blanchard, quarterback for defending national champion UW-Whitewater, which defends the title Friday, Dec. 16, in the Stagg Bowl; Alex Tanney, quarterback from Monmouth College (Ill.); and wide receiver/kick-returner Fritz Waldvogel from the University of St. Thomas (Minn.).
Zweifel topped all NCAA divisions with 12.7 receptions and 178 yards per game during the 2011 regular season as well as receiving TDs with 24. He holds 13 school, conference and NCAA records, including most career receptions for all divisions with 463. The league MVP helped Dubuque to its first Iowa Conference title in 31 years. A Health/Wellness/Recreation major active as a volunteer with campus projects and at local schools, Zweifel has received a National Football Foundation post-graduate scholarship.
Background on the three other 2011 Gagliardi Trophy candidates includes statistics through the end of the regular season, academic major and community service follows:
Matthew Blanchard, UW-Whitewater, is a senior QB and a returning starter for the defending national champions. He is rated 6th in D-III passing efficiency at 167.59 (conference leader) on 19 TD passes with 3 INTs. A Physical Education major, he is an active volunteer with programs for youth and senior citizens, as well as Special Olympics and Relay for Life.
Alex Tanney, Monmouth College (Ill.), is a senior QB and led D-III with 330.4 passing yards/game as team compiled top total offense (556.7 yards/game). He was 3rd in passing efficiency (193.34 rating; 73.02% completions, 35 TDs, 7 INTs); 4th in total offense. A Business major, he was a Gagliardi Trophy finalist in 2009. His volunteer efforts include College Phone-a-thon, YMCA and youth reading readiness.
Fritz Waldvogel, University of St. Thomas (Minn.), is a senior WR/KR and scored 12 TDs with 1,328 all-purpose yards, 865 coming on 54 receptions. Named Conference MVP as a sophomore and again this fall, he holds the record for league career returns for touchdowns. Finance major Walvogel is a veteran volunteer at food drives, fundraisers and community cleanup efforts.
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.
Launched in 1993, 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.