Northern Illinois noseguard Nabal Jefferson (Chicago, Ill./Marist HS) has been named one of 15 winners of the 2012 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award, presented by Fidelity Investments, and is a candidate for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, the NFF announced Wednesday.
Jefferson is the second Huskie player to win the award in as many years, following 2011 quarterback Chandler Harnish, making Northern Illinois the only school in the country to have a player honored in both years.
The NFF Scholar-Athlete Award is one of the most prestigious in college football as it honors 15 student-athletes whose academic, athletic and leadership abilities rank them as the very best throughout all divisions of NCAA football and the NAIA. Jefferson, who carries a 3.78 grade point average in Accountancy, distinguished himself from a nationwide pool of 147 semifinalists.
He is one of five defensive players named to the 2012 NFF Scholar-Athlete Class and is one of 10 players from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
A two-year starter who has been in the Huskies’ defensive line rotation every year of his college career, Jefferson will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will represent Northern Illinois in New York City at the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 4, 2012 at the Waldorf=Astoria. That night, one member of the NFF Scholar-Athlete Class will be selected as the recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy and receive an additional $7,000 as well as a 25-pound bronze trophy.
Northern Illinois Head Coach Dave Doeren was thrilled for his defensive lineman, and happy to see a Huskie honored by the NFF in consecutive years.
“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.
“To have two NIU players selected in back-to-back years from a pool of candidates that includes players from every division of college football says a lot about the type of players we recruit and the development of those players once they arrive on campus.”
Jefferson was a 2011 Academic All Mid-American Conference selection and a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree following his junior year, when he compiled 46 tackles and made five tackles for loss as the Huskies’ starting noseguard. He also intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown and recovered a fumble for NIU’s Mid-American Conference Championship squad.
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. A product of Chicago’s Marist High School, Jefferson was stunned to learn he was one of the 2012 NFF Scholar-Athletes, repeating several times that he didn’t know what to say before finally offering thanks to the NFF and others.
“This is just a wonderful, wonderful blessing,” he said. “It’s such a privilege to be on the list with so many great players. There are so many people that have helped me – my high school coach, Pat Dunne, my coaches and teammates here at Northern Illinois, my family and my extended family back in Chicago, Father Mallette, my professors and teachers. They have helped me to stay focused and achieve my dreams. What an amazing blessing.”
For every person who has helped Jefferson along the way, the 6-0, 287-pound soft-spoken lineman has reached out to help 10 more. He returns often to his Chicago neighborhood to speak to children there about working hard and achieving their dreams. He keeps in contact with them, encourages them in their studies and provides a positive role model. He also gives back to the people and organizations that helped him along the way, speaking at banquets and working at fundraisers.
As part of NIU’s nomination of Jefferson to the National Football Foundation, Northern Illinois Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher described the qualities that made Jefferson an exceptional candidate.
“Nabal grew up under sometimes difficult circumstances without a traditional family environment,” Compher said. “Throughout his life, he has been lifted up by others and because of that, he feels very strongly that he has an obligation to do the same. His unwavering determination to help others, to be a role model and to set an example in everything he does is what sets him apart as a person and as a leader.”
Jefferson brings the same determination to succeed and relentlessness that distinguish his play in the middle of the Huskies’ defensive line to the classroom. Over the summer, he served an internship in Chicago at one of the corporate offices of KPMG, one of the top accounting firms in the nation. He is on track to graduate in the summer of 2013.
Jefferson is the fourth student-athlete from Northern Illinois to be named an NFF Scholar-Athlete. In addition to Harnish, now a member of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Patrick Stephen (1998) and Josh Haldi (2004) previously earned the honor.
In addition to the $18,000 scholarship which Jefferson will receive toward his postgraduate studies, Northern Illinois will receive $5,000 from Fidelity Investments as part of its NFF Faculty Salutes Initiative, which recognizes the contributions of the faculty athletics representatives at each of the institutions with an NFF National Scholar-Athlete. The NFF will present NIU Faculty Athletics Representative Dr. Matt Streb with a plaque and a $5,000 check from Fidelity Investments to support the academic support services for student-athletes at Northern Illinois University.
To see the complete list of honorees and read more about the NFF Scholar-Athlete Award and the William V. Campbell Trophy, go to www.footballfoundation.org.