Presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year and one of the most prominent role models in the game.
Nominees are gathered from the Sports Information Directors of each NCAA Division I football-playing institution. Three finalists are selected by the award’s board of directors, and the winner is selected by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as members of the college football media.
The semifinalists for the second annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year were announced today, a group that includes 20 of the nation’s top leaders in college football.
Compiled by a subset of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Selection Committee, the semifinalists have all demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field.
Seventeen seniors and three juniors make up the list. Among conferences, the Big Ten and Big 12 led the way with five selections each, while Conference USA had three.
The full list of semifinalists includes: Bryce Holland (Army), Derrick Brown (Auburn), Johnathan Lloyd (Duke), Azeez Al-Shaair (Florida Atlantic), J-Shun Harris (Indiana), Nick Allegretti (Illinois), David Montgomery (Iowa State), Joe Dineen, Jr. (Kansas), Dalton Risner (Kansas State), Brent Stockstill (Middle Tennessee), Tommy Doles (Northwestern), Drue Tranquill (Notre Dame), Oshane Ximines (Old Dominion), Justin Herbert (Oregon), Trace McSorley (Penn State), Kieran Whitner (Syracuse), Kyle Phillips (Tennessee), Andrew Beck (Texas), Ty Summers (TCU) and D’Cota Dixon (Wisconsin).
Three finalists will be named for the award on Monday, December 10. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on February 12, 2018, at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
Last year, the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year was presented to Shaquem Griffin of UCF, who helped lead the Knights to a perfect season while becoming one of the most inspirational stories in all of sports. Griffin was presented with the award at a ceremony last February.
The award, presented by Albertsons and Tom Thumb, is the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player’s leadership, both on and off the field. Leadership is a term synonymous with Jason Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport and the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver, served as one of football’s most prominent role models during his 15-year pro career. In addition to winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2012, Witten also received the Bart Starr Award, Pro Football Weekly’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP and the Bob Lilly Award, among many others. All of those honors have recognized his work in the community, achievements on the field and dedication to his teammates and family.
“I am honored to announce this impressive group as the semifinalists for the second annual Collegiate Man of the Year,” said Witten. “All of these student-athletes are shining examples of what makes college athletics so great. These 20 men have demonstrated exceptional character and leadership, often while overcoming large challenges. They are great representatives for the game of football, and I commend all nominees for getting to this point.”
The winner of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year will also receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s athletic scholarship fund. The contribution will be made by Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, the official charity of Jason and his wife Michelle. The SCORE Foundation, founded in 2007, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and Tennessee over the last 10 years. The foundation operates its nationally-recognized SCOREkeepers program, which places trained male mentors on staff to work with children at family violence shelters, at nine shelters in the two states. SCORE has also operated a weekend food backpack program for disadvantaged children in North Texas, opened Jason Witten Learning Centers in five different Boys & Girls Clubs and opened the Jason and Michelle Witten Emergency Waiting Room at the Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn.
2018 JASON WITTEN COLLEGIATE MAN OF THE YEAR SEMIFINALISTS
Bryce Holland, Army (Sr., C) – Team captain at the U.S. Military Academy, where he is a two-time Rimington Trophy watch list member and leader of an offensive line for one of the nation’s top rushing teams. Academically, Holland boasts a 2.796 grade-point average with a 4.00 term GPA. Militarily, he has had experience in many leadership development courses, including serving as a Battalion Physical Development Officer, a Cadet Candidate Basic Training Squad Leader, a Squad Leader and a Team Leader. He has also been involved in Cadet Field and Basic Training. Off the field, Holland serves as a peer tutor and helped organize the football team’s effort to support local and national food banks.
Derrick Brown, Auburn (Jr., DL) – One of the nation’s top defensive players, Brown is a not only a force on the field, but an incredible leader off the field as well. He is a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and a member of the SEC Student- Athlete Leadership Council for football. He serves as Auburn SAAC vice-president, and has done Christian-based mission work in the Dominican Republic and also spent time building homes in Montgomery and Auburn, AL, with his church. Brown has been heavily involved with other community projects like Angel Trees, Toys for Tots, campus Student-Athlete Day, Beat Bama food drive, Halloween Trunk or Treat and SAAC clothing drive.
Johnathan Lloyd, Duke (Sr., WR) – Lloyd has taken on a variety of leadership roles within the football team, been a starting wide receiver for two years and already received his undergraduate degree. Lloyd is a two-time recipient of the program’s Sonny Falcone Iron Duke Award, an honor presented annually to a player for year-round commitment to strength training and conditioning. Off the field, he has volunteered at Ronald McDonald House. Prior to his senior season, Lloyd interned with the Fidelity Investments group. He lost his mother, a reverend, in 2015, and how he handled the loss has served as an inspiration to the entire Duke community.
Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic (Sr., LB) – A semi-finalist for the award last year, Al-Shaair is a four-year starter. After his third season he was the program’s all-time total tackles record holder. He is now the leader in total tackles, solo tackles and assisted tackles. After losing his home to a fire in high school, Al-Shaair lived in a Red Cross shelter. He has become the legal guardian of his two brothers and balances caring for them with becoming one of the Owls’ top talents on the field. He suffered an ACL injury earlier this season, but is still the team leader.
J-Shun Harris, Indiana (Sr., WR/RS) – A Phil Steele preseason second team All-American and first team All-Big Ten selection, Harris has come back from his third ACL injury to be one of the nation’s most electric punt returners. Having already graduated with a SPEA management degree, Harris is on the team’s leadership council. His teammates look up to him, not only for everything he has gone through with three ACL injuries, but how he has maintained a positive attitude throughout. J-Shun is one of the most active Hoosiers in the community, participating in work with IUFB Youth Clinic, the MLK Luncheon, Read Across America, Camp Riley and Boys and Girls Club Youth Clinic Ellettsville, among others.
Nick Allegretti, Illinois (Sr., OL) – Nick has been voted a captain by his teammates for two straight seasons and leads the team with 25 consecutive starts. A 2017 honorable mention All-Big Ten performer, he is also the team leader when it comes to community service initiatives. Allegretti is active in volunteering for the Tom Jones Challenger League, and he is the team’s Uplifting Athletes chapter president and Lift for Life organizer, where he helped to raise over $88,000 for rare disease research and awareness over the last two years. He was named to AFCA Good Works Team preseason watch list for the second straight year. He is also a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, having already graduated with a degree in accountancy.
David Montgomery, Iowa State (Jr., RB) – A Preseason All-American and member of the Maxwell and Doak Walker Award Watch Lists, as well as a PFF All-American and First Team All-Big 12 in 2017. Montgomery has been singled out by head coach Matt Campbell as the main leader of the well-publicized changing of the culture within the ISU locker room over the last two years. David took it upon himself to gather players for extra workouts in his free time and to organize community volunteer work. Montgomery is a regular with hospital and school visits, and he is also the leader of the team’s Victory Day celebration, an annual event where the team hosts children with disabilities for a chance to run plays at Jack Trice Stadium.
Joe Dineen, Jr., Kansas (Sr., LB) – Dineen is one of just three players in KU history to be voted a team captain three times. He currently leads the FBS in solo tackles (9.0 per game) and leads the Big 12 in total tackles. He has already earned his bachelor’s degree in management and leadership with an entrepreneurship concentration, and he is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honoree. Dineen has been very active in numerous community service initiatives across the Lawrence community, including KU’s reading program and Special Olympics football clinics. He has also organized events to benefit a local child battling cancer whom he befriended while visiting a children’s hospital.
Dalton Risner, Kansas State (Sr., OT) – One of the top offensive linemen in the nation who is coming off an All-Americam season last year. He is a three-year captain and a First Team Academic All-Big 12 performer each of the last two years. Off the field, Risner’s leadership in the community is evidenced by the countless other community service initiatives he has led. These include the RiseUp Foundation, which he started to encourage everyone to RISE above the evil and sin in this world and be a positive shining light in the lives of others. He is also a frequent visitor to Buttonwood Special Needs Home, and he is a Big Brother to a child fighting leukemia.
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tenn. St. (Sr., QB) – Owns nearly all MTSU career passing records and ranks fourth nationally in career passing yards among active players. He has been named to the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Wuerffel and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch Lists the last three years. He entered this season as one of just three players nationally with an undergraduate and master’s degree in hand. Stockstill earned the Terry Whiteside award following spring drills for excellence in academics, football, strength training, community service and campus activities. Off the field, he works with Special Olympics and Summer Camp Ability, where he taught drills and the game of football to special needs students.
Tommy Doles, Northwestern (Sr., OL) – A three-year starter, Doles is on the Outland Trophy Watch List and was a 2017 Third-Team All-Big Ten choice. He is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, a Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Representative, and a Northwestern Associate Student Government Senate Representative. Doles has led the NU Football program in community service hours and projects during his time as a Wildcat. He has been actively involved with Northwestern Reach Out and Reinforce Respect, Lurie Children’s Hospital visits, Northwestern Football Youth Clinics, the Northwestern Dance Marathon and Misericordia Candy Days.
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (Sr., LB) – A two-year captain, Tranquill is on the watch lists for the Butkus Award and Wuerffel and Lott Impact trophies. He earned the Rockne Student-Athlete Award last year, and he was a Pop Warner College Football Award finalist, as well as a Senior CLASS Award Nominee and CoSIDA First Team Academic All-American. Only the 23rd two-time captain in Notre Dame history, he has overcome two ACL tears and a position change. Tranquill serves as a mentor for the Core Leadership Team for Lifeworks Ministry, is a member of Notre Dame Christian Athletes, Team Fellowship, AWP Sports in his native Fort Wayne, and is an athlete ambassador for Dream Teams. He is also a member of Rosenthal Leadership Academy.
Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion (Sr., DE) – A first-Team All-Conference USA choice at DE last year, Ximines holds the ODU school records for sacks in a season and career. He has the second most sacks among active FBS players. Ximines is a four-time Dean’s List honoree and four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll. A two-year captain, Oshane will graduate in December and is the unquestioned leader on his team. He volunteers his time to local youth groups, and participates in local Special Olympics and bone marrow and clothing drives.
Justin Herbert, Oregon (Jr., QB) – Seen by many as the top QB prospect in the country, Herbert is on watch lists for the Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas and Maxwell Awards. He is also on the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy for his work in the community, which includes hospital visits and serving as a mentor to young elementary school students. He has a 4.0 GPA and plans to go to Medical School.
Trace McSorley, Penn State (Sr., QB) – Sits atop the Penn State career completion percentage (61.6) and career passing efficiency (152.9) lists. McSorley graduated with a degree in accounting and is working towards a second degree in journalism. He is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, and he spent the summer of 2017 interning for Merrill Lynch and Bank of America in State College. Trace is a two-time team captain, as voted on by his teammates and the coaching staff. He served as the President of the Penn State Uplifting Athletes chapter in 2017 and was the Vice President in 2018, helping the chapter raise money for kidney cancer treatment and research.
Kielan Whitner, Syracuse (Sr., LB) – The team’s leading tackler, Whitner has been on the Dean’s List three times, and he is a six-time member of the SU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll (min. 3.0 GPA). Whitner is also a three-time ACC Honor Roll selection and was selected to the 2015 All-ACC Academic Football Team. He is involved in Eternal Hope for Haiti, where he has done two mission trips working on construction of two orphanages. He is also involved in Uplifting Athletes, where he assisted in organizing the chapter’s “Lift for Life” events. Whitner is also a past member of the Syracuse Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he is a member of the 2018 AFCA Good Works Team for his dedication to volunteerism.
Kyle Phillips, Tennessee (Sr., DE) – A semifinalist for the 2018 Campbell Trophy and a 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee, Phillips was the recipient of the 2018 Andy Spiva Award as the most improved defensive player of the spring for Tennessee. He is a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and is a three-time Vol Scholar. Phillips completed his undergraduate degree requirements a year early and is pursuing a master’s degree in sport management. He was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) National Leadership Honor Society and named to the 2017 SEC Community Service Team. He was also inducted into the 2016-17 VOLeaders Academy Class took and part in a 13-day study-abroad trip to Vietnam.
Andrew Beck, Texas (Sr., TE) – A fifth-year tight end who missed the 2017 season due to injury, but was still a team captain. He was named second team preseason All-Big 12 by Phil Steele in 2018 and named to the Mackey Award watch list. Beck graduated in May with a degree in Corporate Communications, and he is a two-year captain. He has participated in fundraising for Dell Miracle Children through UT’s annual dance marathon event. He also helped rebuild the playground at the Oak Spring Elementary School last summer after an arsonist burnt it down. Beck has also done hospital visits and spent time with juvenile offenders in Austin.
Ty Summers, TCU (Sr., LB/DE) – Summers was the 2017-18 TCU Fellowship of Christian Athletes Bob Lilly Male Athlete of the Year. He was named to the 2018 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List, which recognizes the nation’s top defensive player in terms of his impact on and off the field. He has already earned his undergraduate degree and is playing this fall as a graduate student. Summers is actively involved with S.P.A.R.K., a community outreach program organized by TCU football student- athletes, and is a frequent speaker at area schools. He is heavily involved in the TCU Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization and is also a two-time Academic All-Big 12.
D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin (Sr., S) – A third-year starter, Dixon was named first-team All-Big Ten last year. He began the 2018 season on the watch lists for the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Wuerffel Trophy. A multiple-semester Dean’s List student, Dixon has been named Academic All-Big Ten each of the last two seasons and was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation psychology. The youngest of four children, Dixon is a product of the foster care system. He has volunteered his time at more than 30 events through the Badgers Give Back community service initiative and has long been one of the group’s most dedicated volunteers across all sports at UW.
Jason Witten presents the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award to UCF’s Shaquem Griffin.