From Carnegie Mellon University Athletics
Selected as the best and brightest from the college gridiron, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) announced the 181 semifinalists for the 2017 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments. The award recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation and is prominently displayed inside its official home at the New York Athletic Club. Carnegie Mellon's senior running back Sam Benger (Hingham, Mass.) is one of 33 Division III players on the list of 181 student-athletes.
Of the 33 Division III student-athletes, Benger is joined by Cody Calhoun of Case Western Reserve University and Jesse Zubik of Washington & Jefferson College as the three semifinalists from the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC). Benger and Calhoun are joined by Chandler Carroll of the University of Chicago as semifinalists from the University Athletic Association (UAA).
Benger currently leads the team in rushing and ranks sixth in the PAC and third in the UAA with 345 yards on 52 carries for an average of 6.6 yards per touch. The senior's 6.6 yards per carry leads the UAA and ranks second in the PAC.
Benger is the program's all-time leading rusher, as he has ran for 4,678 yards in 36 career games. The senior has rushed for 54 touchdowns and has six receiving scores for 60 touchdowns in his career. Benger needs five more rushing scores to become the school's all-time leader. His 54 rushing touchdowns ranks third on the PAC all-time list while his yardage currently ranks fourth and his carries (777) rank fifth. Last season, he set the single-season school record with 26 rushing touchdowns.
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Benger surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. It marked the sixth and seventh time in school history it had been done. He rushed for 1,671 yards last season and led the nation with 2,092 yards, averaging 190.2 yards per game, while becoming the 21st player in Division III history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau his sophomore season which also set the school single-season mark.
The 5-8, 185-pound back is a two-time AFCA Division III Coaches' All-American, D3football.com All-American, CoSIDA Academic All-American and PAC Offensive Player of the Year. Earlier this season, he was a nominee for the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. In 2016, he was named Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III South Offensive Player of the Year and as a sophomore was the UAA Offensive Player of the Year and garnered All-America recognition from The Associated Press (AP).
Benger, a business administration major, has a 3.67 grade point average, while appearing on the Carnegie Mellon University Dean's List. He has earned PAC and UAA All-Academic honors twice each and was a 2016 UAA President Scholar-Athlete Team honoree. This past summer, Benger interned for Deloitte and during their Impact Day, where all employees go out into the community and do service, he worked on renovating a dilapidated elementary school.
The running back has volunteered for the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital Donate Life. He mentors in the Pittsburgh Area for several young men battling illness, especially with one juvenile diabetic like Benger himself. He works to talk with them, cheer them up, and provides tips on how to best manage their illness. Benger also has volunteered at the Western Spring Sectional competition of the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania and with the 1,000+ Service Day initiative at Carnegie Mellon which brings together students, faculty, staff and alumni to volunteer at multiple sites throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.
Benger took part of the 2017 Innovate x PGH Social Innovation. During this, he organized a student competition aimed at solving some of Pittsburgh's toughest social problems (homelessness, hunger, poverty). The event gathered students and teams who developed solutions to Pittsburgh's social issues and pitched ideas to judges in a "shark-tank" style setting. Winning ideas gained funding and corporate support to facilitate their implementation into the community.
To be nominated for the William V. Campbell Trophy, student-athletes need to be submitted by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each. Candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. 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.
Named in honor of the late Bill Campbell, former chairman of Intuit, former player and head coach at Columbia University and the 2004 recipient of the NFF's Gold Medal, the Campbell Trophy is a 25-pound bronze trophy and increases the amount of the recipient's grant by $7,000 for a total postgraduate scholarship of $25,000. This year's postgraduate scholarships will push the program's all-time distribution to more than $11.3 million.
Launched in 1959, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards program became the first initiative in history to award postgraduate scholarships based on both a player's academic and athletic accomplishments, and it has recognized 828 outstanding individuals since its inception. The Campbell Trophy, first awarded in 1990, adds to the program's prestige, having previously honored two Rhodes Scholars, a Rhodes Scholar finalist, two Heisman Trophy winners and five first-round NFL draft picks.
The NFF will announce 12-14 finalists on November 1, and each of them will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments. The finalists will travel to New York City for the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 5, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports. At the event, one member of the class will be declared the winner of the 28th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.