By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Dontez Byrd has proven time and time again how much of a force he is on the field for the Tennessee Tech football team.
What a lot of fans don't see is how strong the Tech graduate student is in the classroom.
Byrd is getting some recognition for that, named as one of 181 semifinalists for the National Football Foundation's William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognized the top football scholar-athlete in the nation.
Byrd earned his bachelor's degree from Tech in interdisciplinary studies back in May and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in exercise science. He has been twice named to the Tennessee Tech Dean's List and Athletic Director's Honor Roll, while also being named to the Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll.
In 2016, Byrd set the Tech single-season receiving yards and catches records, while also tying the school record for longest play with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown against Mercer. He finished the season with 74 catches for 933 yards and seven touchdowns. He also returned 25 kicks for 658 yards.
This season, through four games, Byrd is on pace to break his receiving mark with 447 yards on 29 catches in just over a third of the season complete. He is averaging 15.4 yards per catch and 111.8 per game.
The National Football Foundation will announce 12-14 finalists on Nov. 1, and each one of those will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments. The finalists will then travel to New York City for the NFF Awards Dinner on Dec. 5, with one finalist selected as the winner of the Campbell Trophy and have his scholarship increased to $25,000.
Nominated by their schools, candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
Breaking down the numbers for the semifinalists:
-- 3.59 average GPA
-- Eight nominees with a 4.0 GPA
-- 40 nominees with a 3.8 or better
-- 60 nominees with a 3.7 or better
-- 27 Academic All-Americans
-- 114 captains
-- 76 All-Conference picks
-- 19 All-Americans
-- 71 from the Football Bowl Subdivision
-- 37 from the Football Championship Subdivision
-- 30 from Division II
-- 33 from Division III
-- 10 from NAIA
-- 102 offensive players
-- 67 defensive players
-- 12 special teams players
Previous winners of the William V. Campbell Trophy include Chris Howard (Air Force, 1990), Brad Culpepper (Florida, 1991), Jim Hansen (Colorado, 1992), Thomas Burns (Virginia, 1993), Rob Zatechka (Nebraska, 1994), Bobby Hoying (Ohio State, 1995), Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia, 1998), Chad Pennington (Marshall, 1999), Kyle Vanden Bosch (Nebraska, 2000), Joaquin Gonzalez (Miami, 2001), Brandon Roberts (Washington University-St. Louis, 2002), Craig Krenzel (Ohio State, 2003), Michael Munoz (Tennessee, 2004), Rudy Niswanger (LSU, 2005), Brian Leonard (Rutgers, 2006), Dallas Griffin (Texas, 2007), Alex Mack (California, 2008), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2009), Sam Acho (Texas, 2010), Andrew Rodriguez (Army West Point, 2011), Barrett Jones (Alabama, 2012), John Urschel (Penn State, 2013), David Helton (Duke, 2014), Ty Darlington (Oklahoma, 2015) and Zach Terrell (Western Michigan, 2016).
In addition to Byrd, three other Ohio Valley Conference schools earned semifinalist nods with Cody Edwards (Eastern Illinois), Jeffrey Canady (Eastern Kentucky) and Justin Lea (Jacksonville State) also getting picks.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information