2003 National Scholar-Athlete

The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced today, its 2003 National Scholar-Athlete Class, which includes student-athletes from all NCAA divisions, I-A, I-AA, II, III, and the NAIA.

"Since 1959, these highly sought after awards have recognized only a chosen few who have excelled above all in the areas of scholarship, citizenship and athletic performance," said National Football Foundation Chairman Jon F. Hanson. "We are pleased to honor these outstanding young men for all of their achievements with an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship."

To be eligible for a National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame post-graduate fellowship, the nominee must be a senior or graduate student in his final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, have shown superior academic application and performance, have outstanding football ability as a first team player, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

"The 15 exceptional scholar-athletes we chose this year represent the best and brightest this nation has to offer on all playing levels," stated Robert E. Mulcahy III, chairman of the Awards Committee and director of athletics at Rutgers University. "Each year it seems the talent pool continues to expand, and our job to select the most deserving individuals gets more difficult. This year's incredible class is a testament to the hard work of our committee."

These scholar-athletes will be recognized at The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's 46th Annual Awards Dinner on December 9, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Also being honored at the dinner will be the 2003 College Football Hall of Fame class, which will share the dais with these scholar-athletes.

Each scholar-athlete receives an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship, and that evening, one will receive the Draddy Trophy as the top scholar-athlete in the nation, increasing the scholarship to $25,000.

Jonathan Vilma
University of Miami (FL)

Terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, Miami's Jonathan Vilma has established himself as one of the nation's top linebackers. Off the field, his academics parallel few while his community involvement continues to grow.

A First Team Academic All-America and All-District III selection in 2002, Vilma is a member of the Provost's and Athletics Director's Honor Rolls and the UM Dean's List. A two-time Academic All-BIG EAST Conference pick, he has twice been named an Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar and received the 10th Annual Walter Kichefski Football Scholarship Endowment Award, presented annually to the top scholar-athlete in the football program.

A two-time unanimous First Team All-Conference selection, Vilma has led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons and was a Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) semifinalist in 2002. Anchoring the Miami defense, Vilma has helped lead the team to a 42-2 record in his tenure, including the 2001 National Championship. A Bronko Nagurski Award (nation's top defensive player), Butkus Award, BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-America candidate, he has amassed 250 career tackles and 20 tackles for a loss.

A motivational speaker at local schools, Vilma has participated in the Thanksgiving Dinner Delivery, Hall of Champions Dinner, Youth Football Clinic, Annual DARE Softball Game, Fireman Corporate Challenge and numerous other charitable events.

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