Virginia senior inside linebacker Micah Kiser (Gilman) was named the William V. Campbell Trophy winner, the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame announced Tuesday night.
The 28th Campbell Trophy was presented to Kiser at the 60th Annual NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown. The award, known as the “Academic Heisman,” recognizes an individual as the best football scholar-athlete in the nation from a pool that included all NCAA divisions and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
"My entire life, my parents [Donna and Michael Kiser] have challenged me to be the best I could be in everything I did," Kiser said in accepting the trophy in New York. "They held me to the highest standard, the standard of being a Kiser. That meant A's were expected in school, and great effort and success were expected on the playing field. They provided me every avenue for me to uphold this standard, and I stand here in front of you today because of the many sacrifices they made for me throughout the years, and for that I am forever grateful.
"In college, I've worn the honor of being a student-athlete with great pride, representing the University of Virginia's football team on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, soliciting a level of prestige while at the same time carrying immense pressure. I've always strived to prove that football players at the University of Virginia offer more than just athleticism on the field but also deserve and belong to be contributing members of the school community and to serve as role models in the Charlottesville community. This is not just an individual award, but a team award that I proudly accept in service of my fellow teammates at the University of Virginia."
Kiser, a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree for a third straight season, received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class and will have that scholarship increased to $25,000 as the winner of the award. He graduated with a degree in foreign affairs (3.42 GPA) in May and has a 4.0 GPA as he pursues a master’s degree in higher education.
“I was lucky,” Kiser said Tuesday during a news conference before the award presentation, “because my parents sacrificed so much for me growing up. So I went to a private school that was very competitive in Baltimore growing up. I really was ready for [Virginia]. I was always competing in the classroom, on the field, in the community, to always be the best and to really strive for excellence. I just want to thank my parents. Without them, none of this would be possible. Love them to death.”
The former Greyhounds star, who ranks No. 1 in the ACC and No. 3 in the nation with 134 tackles, will also be honored at the NFF Board of Directors meeting and at a reception hosted by its official home, the New York Athletic Club, on Wednesday. He will then fly to Atlanta to be recognized during The Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN at the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday.
Finally, as part of the NFF’s partnership with the College Football Playoff, Kiser will return to Atlanta to be recognized as the Campbell Trophy winner on the field during the CFP National Championship on Jan. 8.
Before that, though, he will conclude his Cavaliers career Dec. 28 in his home state’s capital, Annapolis, as Virginia faces Navy in the Military Bowl. It’s the Cavaliers’ first bowl since 2011.
Kiser was named the All-Metro Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 at Gilman with teammate Henry Poggi, now at Michigan, after the No. 1 Greyhounds (9-2) went undefeated against Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference competition to win their second straight championship. He finished with 111 tackles (11 for a loss), three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and he returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns that season.
Rated one of the top inside linebacker prospects for the NFL draft, Kiser is the Cavaliers’ second Campbell Trophy winner. Tom Burns won it in 1993, the fourth year it was awarded. The trophy is named in honor of the late Bill Campbell, the former chairman of Intuit, a former player and head coach at Columbia University, and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal. A total distribution of $241,000 in scholarships was awarded Tuesday, pushing the program’s all-time distributions to more than $11.3 million.
Kiser has been active in the U.Va. and Charlottesville communities since enrolling in 2013, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club and mentoring elementary school students. In August, Kiser organized a photo of the football team, arms locked, in front of U.Va.’s Rotunda to show unity in the wake of racial unrest in the town.
“I think we saw a lot of the torch-carrying white nationalists,” Kiser told the Newport News Daily Press at the time. “They were walking down the Lawn and on the Rotunda kind of claiming that space as theirs. We wanted to say, ‘No, that’s not your space. That’s our space.’ ”
Second-year Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall is grateful to have inherited a player, and leader, of Kiser’s caliber.
“We have a saying here … how you do one thing is how you do everything,” Mendenhall told the Daily Press last month, “and Micah does everything, no matter what area it is in his life, with just the highest of standards and the highest of excellence. … Which is just extraordinary, because when you consider how hard he plays and how much time he invests in preparing to play football, which he does, and then every time I hear about Micah, no matter what area, from someone in the community, it’s just, man, what an exemplary young man. And then the professors, the teachers, classmates, there’s nothing but excellence as part of who he is.
“It’s so important in helping us build a culture of what U.Va. football really looks like, and we believe in what’s called the ‘and,’ and that means it’s football and academics and social and spiritual and service, and he’s exactly what I would like an entire team to look like.”
Past winners of the award include John Urschel, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics at Penn State before being selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Ravens. Urschel, who won the Campbell Trophy in 2013, announced his retirement from the NFL this past summer.
The 2016 winner, Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell, signed with the Ravens in May as an undrafted free agent before being waived three days later.
Other finalists this season were: Carnegie Mellon’s Sam Benger, Miami (Fla.)’s Braxton Berrios, Boise State’s Mason Hampton, Northwestern’s Justin Jackson, Jacksonville State’s Justin Lea, Oklahoma State’s Brad Lundblade, Slippery Rock’s Marcus Martin, Georgia State’s Chandon Sullivan, Arkansas State’s Blaise Taylor, Stephen F. Austin’s Marlon Walls, Nebraska’s Chris Weber and South Dakota State’s Jake Wieneke.
Kiser is also a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Senior CLASS Award and was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. A second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American, Kiser has already earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors this season.