NATCHITOCHES - Northwestern State senior linebacker Yaser Elqutub is one of 16 recipients of the 2011 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF and College Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.
Elqutub, an applicant to attend medical school next year, has a 3.85 grade point average in scientific inquiry - liberal arts with a concentration in mathematics and science, with a minor in philosophy while attending the Louisiana Scholars' College at Northwestern. A former walk-on, he has 100 career tackles and will start his 18th consecutive game Saturday when the Demons visit Texas State.
"This is a tremendous honor that Yaser has earned with the way he's gone about his business as a student first, and also on the football field," said third-year Demons' head coach Bradley Dale Peveto. "He has worked his way from being a walk-on to becoming one of the better linebackers in the Southland Conference. He does not settle. He pushes to be the very best in everything he does."
The honorees, from all levels of college football, also comprise the list of finalists for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, recognizing college football's top senior scholar-athlete.
Each of the 16 will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, formally presented at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The Campbell Trophy winner receives a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 postgraduate scholarship.
"This year's class is one of the best ever in the 53-year history of the program," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. "Their average GPA is a remarkable 3.81, setting a modern day record for the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards. Without exception, they are some of the finest student-athletes to ever set foot on the gridiron, and they serve as a prime example of football's unique ability to build leaders."
Fidelity Investments and ESPN are teaming on a series of short segments spotlighting all 16 finalists, which will air on ESPN's College Football Live on Thursdays through early December.
"It's a blessing to be included in this group, and I owe it all to Northwestern - to my teammates, my coaches, our academic support staff, to the faculty and staff here," said Elqutub. "I've tried to take advantage of every opportunity given me to learn, outside the classroom as well as inside.
"People ask me what's my secret, and it's no secret. It's the work ethic that football teaches us," he said. "We set goals, we work hard toward achieving them, and in our program, Coach Peveto always stresses academics first every day. I'm proud to receive this award on behalf of Northwestern and the Demon football program."
It's the second elite honor this season for Elqutub, who on Sept. 20 was named among 22 student-athletes from all levels of college football named to the 2011 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works team, recognizing remarkable community service and overall excellence.
That accolade earns him a trip to the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, where the Good Works Team will be introduced on the field in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Elqutub is the only person in college football to earn both honors this year.
He is the third Demon to recieve an NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award. Two-time All-America center William Broussard won in 1999, went on to earn a doctoral degree and is director of athletics at Centenary College. Receiver Mark Johnson won in 1984.
Elqutub becomes the ninth winner to compete in the Southland Conference, preceded by Broussard and Nick Clark of Texas State in 2007, Wes Hines of McNeese State in 2000, Thomas Davis of North Texas and George Murphy of Louisiana-Monroe in 1990, Mike Yost of Louisiana-Monroe in 1986, Tim Langford from Arkansas State in 1983 and Keith Miles of Trinity in 1967. Before joining the Southland, Central Arkansas had a winner in 2005 as a Division II program with Cory Cangelosi.
Other NFF National Scholar-Athlete winners this year include Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, Navy offensive guard John Dowd, Georgia punter Drew Butler, and Delta State quarterback Micah Davis, who faced the Demons in the season opener at Turpin Stadium won 24-23 by NSU.
Last month, Elqutub became the first NSU player, and the third-ever Southland Conference recipient, to win a spot on the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
A 6-1, 235-pound senior from Katy, Texas-Cinco Ranch High School, Elqutub added to a long list of community service and academic awards he has received, along with honorable mention All-Southland Conference recognition in 2010 for his performance on the field for the Demons.
Last year, he was one of 52 players voted to the FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star Team. Elqutub was recognized for his community and campus service with the 2010-11 Southland Conference Steve McCarty Citizenship Award, and was named one of 135 students in 30 states designated as a Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, recognizing "inspiring college student leaders who have shown an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities."
Elqutub is president of the Southland's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee along with serving in the same role for the NSU SAAC. He has represented the Southland at the last two NCAA Conventions and is in line to do so again in January 2012.
Elqutub was voted by the student body as NSU's 2010 Homecoming King. He has been a keynote speaker for the university's Freshman Convocation along with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff's Office DARE Teen Summit and a counselor for at-risk teens in the sheriff's office FINS program since 2010.
He created and headed a university-wide series of events in April benefitting the Samaritan's Feet project providing shoes for needy children around the world. Other activities for Elqutub include repeated visits to local schools and the Boys & Girls Club, and raising money and participating in local civic causes including the Alzheimer's Awareness Walk, the March of Dimes, the DOVES spring clothes drive supporting battered women, and the Green NSU Citywide Cleanup.