April 29, 2014
RENO, Nev. – Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio was one of 19 players from the Mountain West who earned membership in the 2014 National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF and College Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday.
Bitonio, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in economics, was one of a record 838 players from 267 schools across all collegiate levels who qualified for membership. In order to be included, a player must have maintained a cumulative 3.2 GPA or better throughout their college career.
"We continue to raise the bar each year for the number of student-athletes who qualify for membership in the Hampshire Honor Society," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "The Hampshire Honor Society plays an important role in highlighting that college football players clearly play a leadership role in the classroom as well as on the playing field. We congratulate each of these young men for their commitment to excellence."
The NFF Hampshire Honor Society capitalizes on the NFF's current National Scholar-Athlete program greatly expanding the number of scholar-athletes the NFF can recognize each year. The program further strengthens the organization's leadership role in encouraging academic performance by the student-athletes who play football at the more than 700 college and universities with football programs nationwide. The initiative has honored 4,927 student-athletes since its inception, and the program has experienced growth every year in either members or school participation since its launch in 2007. The 2014 class of 838 players represents a new high water mark for members, eclipsing the old record mark by 117 student-athletes.
Jon F. Hanson, the chairman and founder of The Hampshire Companies, provided the endowment to launch the NFF Hampshire Honor Society in 2007. He made the contribution as part of his legacy to the organization after serving as NFF chairman from 1994-2006. He currently serves the organization as a chairman emeritus. Each player awarded with membership in this year's Honor Society will receive a certificate commemorating their achievement.
"We have honored more than 4,900 student-athletes in the last eight years thanks to Jon Hanson's generosity," said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, "We are grateful for his passionate belief in the scholar-athlete ideal, and the Hampshire Honor Society allows us to showcase the names of tomorrow's leaders while inspiring future generations to follow in their footsteps."
Qualifications for membership in the NFF Hampshire Honor Society include:
• Being a starter or a significant contributor in one's last year of eligibility (or a senior who has declared for the NFL Draft) at an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III or an NAIA college or university;
• Achieving a 3.2 cumulative grade point average throughout entire course of undergraduate study; and
• Meeting all NCAA-mandated progress towards degree requirements.
The Hampshire Honor Society represents a powerful component in the organization's rich history as an innovator in promoting the scholar-athlete ideal. Launched in 1959 with a donation from Hall of Fame coach Earl "Red" Blaik, the NFF's National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments, became the first initiative in history to grant postgraduate scholarships based on a player's combined academic success, football performance and community leadership. And, since its inception, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards program has awarded $10.4 million to 787 top scholars and community leaders.
Currently, the NFF distributes more than $300,000 a year at the national level through the program to 16 individuals. Each winner of a National Scholar-Athlete Award receives an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship. Additionally, the William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth and hosted at the New York Athletic Club, is given to one member of each year's class as the absolute best. The winner of the Campbell Trophy, claimed by All-American guard John Urschel (Penn State) in 2013, receives a total scholarship of $25,000 and a 24-inch, 25-pound bronze trophy. Through, its chapter network, the NFF also awards an additional $1.3 million to local high school student-athletes, bringing the NFF's annual scholarship distribution total to more than $1.6 million.