Matt Smith a finalist for national award

Kentucky senior center Matt Smith is one of eight finalists for the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy awarded to the nation's top player based on academic, athletic and community service record.

Kentucky senior center Matt Smith is one of eight finalists for the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy awarded to the nation's top player based on a combined academic, athletic and community service record.

The award, named after former University of Florida standout Danny Wuerffel, recognizes the player who exemplifies his humanitarian and community service efforts. The finalists, nominated by their schools' sports information directors, are: Riley Nelson (Brigham Young), Cody Wilson (Central Michigan), Dustin Hopkins (Florida State), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Matt Smith (Kentucky), Ben Buchanan (Ohio State), Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma) and Matt Barkley (Southern California).

"It means a lot to me and it means a lot to Matt as well," UK coach Joker Phillips said on the selection. "I remember sitting in his home and talking to him about how he would grow here. For him to be a finalist for this award, it shows how much he has grown here. He has an unbelievable family and that is where it started. He has just carried it on and it has helped with the process of him growing up. We are proud of him."

Smith has put a strong emphasis on academics during his time at UK, currently majoring in community communication and leadership development. He wants to work with children following his football career. He is a two-year member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and holds a cumulative GPA of 3.29.

During the off-season, Smith traveled with Phillips and a group of fellow players to Ethiopia on an educational/service trip. He has also been involved with the Salvation Army summer camp, traveling with students as a mentor on field trips.

Smith has spent time at the Veteran Administration Hospital in Louisville and Lexington as well as participating in Read Across America on several occasions. Overall, he has over 200 hours of community service.

"I have so much for respect for him as a man. He has always demonstrated without exception, a true sense of inner character," UK offensive line coach Mike Summers said. "When you are as close to these players as we are as coaches, they reveal who they are to you on a daily basis through the challenges you present to them as a coach, through the challenges that are presented to them as a man. Without exception, Matt has always demonstrated character, above normal character, that is unshakeable. He chooses to do the right thing in every situation and because of that has earned my respect maybe above any player I have coached."

For the past two seasons, Smith has been on the Rimington Trophy Watch List, which honors the nation's best center.

The winner will be formally announced on Dec. 4. The 2012 Wuerffel Trophy will be presented at the All Sports Association's 44th Annual Awards Banquet on Friday, February 8, 2013.

Past winners of the award are:

2005 – Rudy Niswanger (LSU)
2006 – Joel Penton (Ohio State)
2007 – Paul Smith (Tulsa)
2008 – Tim Tebow (Florida)
2009 – Tim Hiller (Western Michigan)
2010 – Sam Acho (Texas)
2011 – Barrett Jones (Alabama)

Kentucky has had five finalists in the eight-year history of the award, including Antoine Huffman (2005), Jacob Tamme (2007), Tim Masthay (2008), Stuart Hines (2011) and Matt Smith.

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