IRVING — Eric Soza was selected as one of 16 National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athletes, the organization and the College Football Hall of Fame announced on Thursday.
Presented by Fidelity Investments, Soza and his fellow 15 honorees also comprise the list of finalists for the 2013 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, which recognizes the individual that is the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.
Soza, a three-year team captain, has started under center 28 times in the Roadrunners' first two-plus seasons. The 6-foot, 210-pounder has led UTSA to 15 wins during that time, as it has made the transition from Football Championship Subdivision independent into the Western Athletic Conference and now into Conference USA. Also a member of the 2013 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team and Senior CLASS Award nominee, he was one of five finalists for the 2013 Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup and one of 10 for the 2012 Awards and Recognition Association Sportsmanship Award.
Soza was a member of both the 2013 Manning Award (nation’s top QB) and inaugural Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award (top offensive player in Division I with ties to the state of Texas) preseason watch lists. The first Roadrunners football player ever to be named to a national award preseason watch list is the program’s all-time leading passer (501-for-852/6,110 yards/44 TDs) and rusher by attempts (230 for 905 yards).
He has connected on 163-of-263 (62 percent) passes for 1,877 yards, including a program-record 316 against Houston (Sept. 28), and 10 touchdowns to go along with 256 rushing yards and four scores on 68 carries through the season’s first eight games.
Soza is coming off a junior campaign that saw him complete 166-of-282 (58.9 percent) throws for 2,085 yards and 20 touchdowns, including a program-record four at No. 22 Louisiana Tech (Nov. 3). His 314 passing yards against the Bulldogs and 82-yard TD toss to Kenny Bias at New Mexico State (Sept. 29) also were school marks. Soza threw just three interceptions and, at one time, went an FBS-leading 256 passes between picks. He also ran for 364 yards and six TDs on 67 carries (5.4 avg.) and tied a program record with three rushing scores at Idaho (Nov. 17).
He has been just as impressive away from the playing field.
Soza is an active member of UTSA's community service program in addition to serving as the president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He also maintained a near-perfect grade-point average (3.96) en route to graduating with a degree in physical education this past May. He currently is attending graduate school with plans of getting into coaching when his playing career is complete.
This year's class was selected from a nationwide pool of 171 semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA.
"We are extremely proud to present the 2013 National Scholar-Athlete Class," NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell said. "With an average GPA of 3.79, these young men have a discernible and unrelenting commitment to excellence in the classroom, as well as on the field. This class represents all that is right about college football and the members serve as living examples of our mission to build leaders through football."
Launched in 1959, the NFF's Scholar-Athlete program is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletics, academic and leadership abilities.
This year’s class members finds themselves in good company, as past National Scholar-Athletes include former NFL standout Derrick Brooks (Florida State), USC Athletics Director Pat Haden (USC), actor Mark Harmon (UCLA), West Virginia Athletics Director Oliver Luck (West Virginia), NASA astronaut Leland Melvin (Richmond), former Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips (Yale) chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Billy Payne (Georgia), famed NFL quarterback Steve Young (BYU) and Heisman Trophy winners Doug Flutie (Boston College) and Tim Tebow (Florida).
"Jack Ford and the NFF Awards Committee did an excellent job in selecting this year’s National Scholar-Athletes," said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, whose sons, Peyton (Campbell winner) and Eli, were NFF National Scholar-Athletes in 1997 and 2003, respectively. "Selected from a record number of semifinalists, this group should be extremely proud of their accomplishments, as they have undoubtedly distinguished themselves as some of the best football players and students in the country. Each of these men is also a leader in his respective community and we know that they have only begun to reach their potential."
Each member of the 2013 National Scholar-Athlete Class will travel to New York City to be honored on Dec. 10 during the 56th NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports. The 24th recipient of the Campbell Trophy will be unveiled live at the event and the winner will be honored the NFF Board of Directors meeting and at a reception hosted by the New York Athletic Club the following day.
Named in honor of Bill Campbell (the chairman of Intuit, a former player and head coach at Columbia University and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal), the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $7,000 increase in postgraduate funds for a total scholarship of $25,000. A total distribution of $300,000 in scholarships will be awarded that evening, pushing the program’s all-time distributions to more than $10.4 million.
In 2011, the NFF and Fidelity Investments launched a multi-year initiative between the two organizations to celebrate the scholar-athlete ideal and a joint commitment to higher education. As part of the initiative, Fidelity became the first presenting sponsor ever in the history of the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards program. Fidelity also helped launch the NFF Faculty Salutes Initiative, which recognizes the contributions of the faculty athletics representatives at each of the institutions with an NFF Scholar-Athlete. As part of the initiative, the NFF will present each of the faculty representatives with a plaque and a $5,000 check from Fidelity Investments to support the academic support services for student-athletes at each school.
Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player and demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The 171 semifinalists for the award were announced on Oct. 2 and the class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally-recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers and athletics administrators.
In addition to the presentation of the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards and Campbell Trophy, the 56th NFF Annual Awards Dinner will include the induction of the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame Class and the presentation of several major awards, including the organization’s highest honor, the NFF Gold Medal, and the NFF Distinguished American Award.
2013 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes
· Trevor Adams, Northwest Missouri State
· John Arena, Johns Hopkins
· Max Bullough, Michigan State
· Derek Carr, Fresno State
· Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
· Spencer Long, Nebraska
· Niccolo Mastromatteo, Coastal Carolina
· Jeff Mathews, Cornell
· James Morris, Iowa
· Aaron Murray, Georgia
· Perry Simmons, Duke
· Eric Soza, UTSA
· John Urschel, Penn State
· Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
· Tony Washington, Appalachian State
· Eric Westerberg, Augustana (Ill.)