Three players representing Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University and Saint Xavier are among 15 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, given to the top scholar-athlete in college football.
The finalists, which also include Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, are chosen by the National Football Foundation from all levels of college football and each receives an $18,000 in post-graduate scholarship. The winner will receive an additional $7,000 scholarship.
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The Campbell Trophy will be awarded Dec. 4 at the NFF's Hall of Fame banquet in New York.
Last year's winner was Army linebacker Andrew Rodriguez.
Northern Illinois noseguard Nabal Jefferson (Marist HS) is the second Huskie player to be honored in as many years, following 2011 quarterback Chandler Harnish. Jefferson, who carries a 3.78 grade point average in accountancy, is a two-year starter who has been in the Huskies' defensive line rotation every year of his college career.
"I'm extremely excited and proud of Nabal," Doeren said. "This honor is a well-deserved reward for someone who has overcome a lot of adversity during his life and who has done everything asked of him in every area -- on the field, in the classroom and in the community. He has represented himself, his family, his high school, his community and Northern Illinois University in the very best way.
Already in 2012, Jefferson has made 48 tackles, 4.5 for loss, with a quarterback sack and two pass break-ups in eight games for the 7-1 Huskies.
According to a report at nusports.com, Ward has started 34 consecutive games on Northwestern's offensive line, is a two-time Academic All-District honoree and was a first-team Academic All-American in 2011. The mechanical engineering major, who maintains a 3.94 cumulative GPA, also is a two-time recipient of the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten awards.
Zackery, a wide receiver for Saint Xavier, has a 3.71 GPA in business.
The other finalists announced Wednesday are:
Alabama center Barrett Jones
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead
Texas tech safety Cody Davis
Mount Union safety Nick Driskill
Baylor quarterback Nick Florence
West Texas A&M offensive lineman Aaron Mullane
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib
Robert Morris defensive end Nolan Nearhoof
MIT offensive lineman Ethan Peterson
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree
Ward, who has started 34 consecutive games on Northwestern's offensive line, is a two-time Capital One Academic All-District honoree and was a first-team Capital One Academic All-American in 2011. The mechanical engineering major, who maintains a 3.94 cumulative GPA, also is a two-time recipient of the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten awards.