Last week in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame, the game’s biggest stars like Baker Mayfield, Bryce Love, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Saquon Barkley gathered to celebrate and honor this season’s best individual players and coaches. The awards carousel culminated with last Saturday evening’s Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, where Mayfield ran away with the sport’s most prestigious trophy in the same way that the explosive Oklahoma offense blasted its opponents this year.
Mayfield, the prolific Sooners signal caller who won the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davey O’ Brien awards as the Player of the Year and Best Quarterback this year as well, has been 2017’s most decorated player. And deservedly so. He became not only the first walk-on player to start as a true freshman at a BCS school, he’s also the first walk-on to ever win the Heisman. Anyone who witnessed the 598 passing yards and four touchdowns that he amassed against Oklahoma State this year will be hard-pressed to forget it, not to mention his season total of 4,340 yards through the air and 41 touchdowns while only being intercepted five times. It was one of the most remarkable seasons that any college quarterback has ever had.
But lost in the brilliance of Mayfield and others like Love, Fitzpatrick, Barkley and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, last year’s Heisman winner, has been the play of the University of Virginia’s Micah Kiser.
Micah Kiser 2016-2017 Highlights Credit Brett Tilley for Graphic I Do Not Own any of the clips in this video I DO not own the Music in this video * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Virginia Football All Acc All American
Kiser won this year’s William V. Campbell Trophy, which is annually awarded to college football’s top scholar-athlete. The Baltimore native who attended The Gilman School has already earned his degree in foreign affairs with a 3.42 grade-point average. In addition to being one of the best linebackers in the country, leading the ACC in tackles with 134 while also collecting five sacks, he’s currently working on a master’s in higher education and has maintained a 4.0 GPA in that postgraduate endeavor.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Virginia LB Micah Kiser accepts Campbell Trophy as 28th recipient at the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City… humbled, grateful, immense UVA pride, highest standards, great effort, role model, team award, community leader, commitment to excellence…
We have a saying here how you do one thing is how you do everything, Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall told the Newport News 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, its just, man, what an exemplary young man. And then the professors, the teachers, classmates, theres nothing but excellence as part of who he is.
Its so important in helping us build a culture of what U.Va. football really looks like, and we believe in whats called the and, and that means its football and academics and social and spiritual and service, and hes exactly what I would like an entire team to look like.
Long after his NFL future has come to an end, Kiser is determined to make a significant impact in the lives of others. In the same way that he took a leadership role at the prestigious university in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots in August, his goal is to inspire and be a catalyst for more student-athletes to spearhead necessary social change.
“There needs to be more investment in student-athletes off the field, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Kiser recently said. “Mostly black student-athletes. I feel like they pick to their schools, and they are kind of just part of a machine. It eats them up, and they don’t know how to take advantage of the opportunities they can be a part of. That’s my biggest thing.”
He grew up with the expectation of being both a superb student and excellent football player. And despite some lean years with the Cavaliers football program, he’s accomplished both of those goals, helping UVA to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Micah Kiser has been a model of consistency for the Cavaliers defense and has continued to terrorize offenses in 2017. The senior linebacker is 5th in FBS averaging 11.0 tackles-per-game. Kiser is also adept at getting to the quarterback, as his 5 sacks tie him for 2nd in the conference.
Mayfield will get the majority of media attention this postseason when the Oklahoma Sooners face off against the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoffs Semifinal Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day. And he deserves every bit of it after the season that he’s had.
But if we’re truly going to celebrate the very best of college football, we also need to give Kiser his props in his final game when Virginia plays Navy in the Military Bowl on December 28th.
After all, if we’re talking about the true essence of what the “student-athlete” dynamic is supposed to look like, it doesn’t get much better than the bright kid from Baltimore who made his mark on the college game in ways that few others have.