TUSCALOOSA _ It may not have been a Rhodes Scholarship, but University of Alabama senior quarterback Greg McElroy received one of college football's highest honors Tuesday when he was selected as the ESPN Academic All-American of the Year in the Football Bowl Subdivision by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Sophomore guard Barrett Jones joined McElroy as a first-team ESPN Academic All-American, giving two of the Southeastern Conference's three representatives.
"I'm very proud," Coach Nick Saban said.
It's the second straight year that Jones, who boasts a 4.0 grade point average in finance, as honored after being a second-team selection last year. He's just the third Crimson Tide player to twice be selected as an Academic All-American, joining Johnny Musso (1970-71) and Randy Hall (1973-74).
"It is a great honor," McElroy said in a release. "One of my goals when I came to school here was to be an Academic All-American. It is something that I set my sights on early in my career at Alabama. I am just very proud to be able to represent the University of Alabama and very honored to be selected as the Academic All-American of the Year."
McElroy is just the second Alabama student-athlete to earn Academic All-American of the Year honors as gymnast Stephanie Kite was on the at-large team in 2004.
While earning his undergraduate degree in business marketing, the quarterback recorded a 3.82 GPA, with his lone B ironically from a leadership class. In addition to being named to some of the most prestigious honor societies, McElroy has a 4.0 while working toward his master's in sports administration.
In addition to being named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District IV Team along with Jones, he's also a finalist for one of college football's highest honors, the William Campbell Trophy, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy, which is consdiered the academic Heisman.
However, being named the ESPN Academic All-American of the Year doesn't necessarily translate to the Draddy, as only two players since 2003 have won both honors during the same season:
Recent ESPN Academic Player of the Year winners 2009 Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida 2008 Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida 2007 Brandon Cramer, defensive back, Dayton 2006 Paul Posluszny, linebacker Penn State 2005 Nick Hartigan, running back, Brown University 2004 Alex Smith, quarterback, Utah 2003 Craig Krenzel, quarterback, Ohio State
Recent Campbell winners 2009 Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida 2008 Alex Mack, center, California 2007 Dallas Griffin, center, Texas 2006 Brian Leonard, running back, Rutgers 2005 Rudy Niswanger, center, LSU 2004 Michael Munoz, tackle, Tennessee 2003 Craig Krenzel, quarterback, Ohio State
Consequently, Sports Illustrated writer Lars Anderson nominated McElroy for the magazine's top honor, the Sportsman of the Year, because, "More than any other player in the sport, he represents all that is good about college football."
McElroy was a Rhodes finalist, but found out Saturday after his final interview that he would not be selected. To give an idea of what kind of competition he faced, the 32 Americans named included Harvard football player Baltazar Zavala. Born in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and emigrated to El Paso with his mother when he was young, he's been on three trips to the Dominican Republic with Engineers Without Borders to develop clean water systems and has worked as a research assistant in neuroscience labs at Harvard and in Shanghai.
He's one of four Harvard students represented, including Aakash Shah, a former track student-athlete at Ursinus who is currently attending Harvard's medical school after graduating with bachelor's degrees in biology, neuroscience and inequality studies, and minors in chemistry and sociology. Building on his experience examining environmental health problems in Indian slums, Shah plans a career combining clinical and academic medicine with global health policy.
Here's the rundown of Alabama players up for postseason awards:
Butkus Award (linebacker): Dont'a Hightower named semifinalist. Finalists were expected to be announced Nov. 23. Nico Johnson was on watch list. (Rolando McClain reigning winner). William Campbell Trophy (scholar-athlete, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy): Greg McElroy finalist. Winner announced Dec. 7. Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 6 (Mark Ingram reigning winner). Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end): Marcell Dareus was named to the watch list. Midseason list to be announced in November. Manning Award (quarterback, includes bowls): Greg McElroy on watch list. Finalists named Nov. 29. Paul Hornung Award (most versatile): Trent Richardson on watch list. Finalists announced in early December. Rimington Trophy (center): William Vlachos on watch list. Finalists announced Dec. 6. Unitas Golden Arm (senior quarterback): Greg McElroy named finalist. Winner announced in December. Burlsworth Trophy (walk-on): Will Lowery nominated. Finalists announced Dec. 1. Wuerffel Trophy (community service with outstanding achievement): Greg McElroy finalist. Winner announced Dec. 7. Sports Illustrated's Sportsmen of the Year: Greg McElroy nominated. Winner announced Nov. 29.