Football: Craig one of 10 finalists for Gagliardi Trophy

Football: Craig one of 10 finalists for Gagliardi Trophy

LaGrange College junior quarterback Graham Craig is one of 10 finalists for the 2013 Gagliardi Trophy. The award is given to the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III by Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John's University of Minnesota.

Craig broke 20 LaGrange game and season passing records this fall. At the end of the regular season, Craig led Division III with 3,576 passing yards and was tied for third with 32 touchdown passes.

On campus, Craig is a member of Georgia Society of CPAs and Sigma Alpha Pi (Leadership Honor Society). Off campus, he volunteers with the American Red Cross Blood Drive and the Boys and Girls Club.

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.

Nominations were submitted from across the country. The final 10 were selected by the J-Club Board of Directors. 

In addition to Craig, two other finalists are juniors: Kevin Burke, Mount Union (Ohio) quarterback; and Austin Damaschke, Concordia (Wis.) quarterback. 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 Adham Talaat, Gallaudet (D.C.) defensive lineman. 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, is on d3football.com from Nov. 26 until Tuesday, Dec. 10. The link for it is: http://www.d3football.com/gagliardi-voting.

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. Running back Scottie Williams from Elmhurst (Ill.) was the 2012 Gagliardi Trophy winner.
The 2013 Gagliardi Trophy finalists include (statistics are through end of regular season, November 16):

Kevin Burke, University of Mount Union (Ohio)
5-10, 190 | Junior | Quarterback | Business Administration
Westlake, Ohio/St. Edward H.S.

Second in Division III in passing efficiency (193.7) and third in points responsible for (234)…24-0 record as a starting quarterback…led Mount Union to 2012 national title…volunteers with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Mount Union Relay for Life.

Austin Damaschke, Concordia University (Wis.)
6-0, 191 | Junior | Quarterback | Biomedical Science
Bristol, Wis./Westosha Central H.S.

10th in Division III in points responsible for (204) and 11th in passing yards (2,846)…set two conference career records and eight school records in 2013…volunteers with various team fundraisers, at church and with local blood drives.

McCallum Foote, Middlebury College (Vt.)
6-4, 201 | Senior | Quarterback | Economics
Newton, Mass./Noble and Greenough School

Division III leader in completions/game (32.4) and second in passing yards/game (345.8)…Capital One Academic All-American…volunteers with Special Olympics and served on leadership team for "Team Impact Program"…also served as a teacher's assistant in Spain.

Cole Klotz, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
6-4, 245 | Senior | Linebacker | Cell Physiology
Elm Grove, Wis./New Berlin Eisenhower

Leading tackler (70) on defense that finished the regular season second in Division III in scoring defense (8.0 ppg.) and seventh against the run (75.4 ypg.)…2013 WIAC Player of the Year…volunteer engagement includes WIAC Food Drive, local meal program and food pantry.

Kyle Linville, Franklin College (Ind.)
6-1, 185 | Senior | Wide Receiver | Quantitative Analysis/Economics
Speedway, Ind./Speedway H.S.

Fourth in Division III in receiving touchdowns (13), seventh in receiving yards (1,155) and eighth in receptions/game (8.3)…two-time Academic All-Region…holds every school receiving record…volunteers with underprivileged youth, the Special Olympics and coordinated a dance marathon for cancer research.

Octavias McKoy, Western Connecticut State University
5-10, 191 | Senior | Running Back | Professional Writing
Stratford, Conn./Stratford H.S.

Division III leader in scoring (17.3 ppg.) and rushing touchdowns (26)…second in all-purpose yardage (206.4 ypg.) and rushing yards (1,715)…set a then-NCAA All-Divisions record with 455 rushing yards Oct. 26…volunteer engagement includes local bone marrow registry drive and road race to benefit the Newtown (Conn.) Police Union.

Adham Talaat, Gallaudet University (D.C.)
6-6, 275 | Senior | Defensive End | Physical Education
Springfield, Va./West Springfield H.S.

Helped lead Gallaudet, the nation's deaf and hard-of-hearing university to program's first ECFC title and playoff appearance…team is 12th in Division III in total defense (260.5 ypg.)…two-time Academic All-Region…volunteers with freshmen move-in day, construction and maintenance of on-campus garden and Relay for Life.

Keith Welch, Jr.; Lewis & Clark College (Ore.)
6-0, 190 | Senior | Quarterback | Rhetoric and Media Studies
Vallejo, Calif./Fairfield H.S.

Fourth in Division III in points responsible for/game (23.1), fifth in total offense/game (347.6), seventh in passing yards/game (304.0) and eighth in passing touchdowns (28)…volunteers with freshmen move-in day, peer mentorship and as a local care provider/counselor.

Erik Westerberg, Augustana College (Ill.)
6-3, 215 | Senior | Linebacker | Mathematics/Secondary Education
Elmhurst, Ill./York H.S.

19th in Division III in solo tackles/game (6.8)…two-time Academic All-American…member of Pi Mu Epsilon, a math honor society…volunteers with Athletes Giving Back, Habitat for Humanity and Relay For Life…organized an event where students with disabilities met players and played a simulated game with current team.