From Carnegie Mellon University Athletics
Selected as the best and the brightest from the college gridiron, from a nationwide pool of 181 semifinalists among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA, The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced today that Carnegie Mellon's senior running back Sam Benger (Hingham, Mass.) is one of 13 finalists for the 2017 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments. The award recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Benger is the lone Division III representative and is joined by Slippery Rock University's Marcus Maryin as the only non-Division I honorees.
"I am honored and humbled to be recognized. I am truly fortunate because my teammates, coaches, trainers, and family have put me in a position to be successful," said Benger.
The ideal role model on the Carnegie Mellon campus, Benger carries his on-field excellence into the classroom and community, establishing himself as the Tartans' fourth NFF National Scholar-Athlete, joining 1987 honoree Bryan Roessler, 2006 honoree Aaron Lewis and 2008 recipient Brian Freeman.
"I try my hardest to capitalize on the opportunity I was given to be a student-athlete at CMU, so seeing this recognition is gratifying. Ultimately, it's a testament to the quality of the people I have around me," added Benger.
The 13 finalists will each receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class. The finalists will travel to New York City for the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 5, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports. At the event, one member of the class will be declared the winner of the 28th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000. The event, which will take place at the New York Hilton Midtown, will be live streamed on ESPN3, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.
"Sam is the most talented football player I have had to honor to coach in my thirty-two years at the helm of the Carnegie Mellon Football Program," said Head Coach Rich Lackner. "Sam's physical tools, stats, awards and accomplishments speak for themselves. Beyond his academic accomplishments in our Tepper School of Business and football accolades, you should know that Sam is one of the most driven, humble and unselfish individual I have ever met. His work ethic, determination, positive attitude and moral compass are unmatched within our program."
Benger currently leads the team in rushing and ranks fifth in the PAC and tops in the UAA with 864 yards on 140 carries for an average of 6.2 yards per touch. The senior has recorded two 200-yard contests this season and has eight for his career.
Benger is the program's all-time leading rusher, as he has run for 5,197 yards in 41 career games. The senior has rushed for 58 touchdowns and has six receiving scores for 64 touchdowns in his career. Benger needs one more rushing scores to become the school's all-time leader. His yardage, along with his 58 rushing touchdowns and 865 carries rank third on the PAC all-time list. Last season, he set the single-season school record with 26 rushing touchdowns.
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Benger surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier, marking the sixth and seventh times in school history it had been done. He rushed for 1,671 yards last season and in 2015 led the nation with 2,092 yards, averaging 190.2 yards per game. Benger became the 21st player in Division III history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau, which also set the school's single-season mark.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound back is a two-time AFCA Division III Coaches' All-American, D3football.com All-American, CoSIDA Academic All-American and PAC Offensive Player of the Year. Earlier this season, he was a nominee for the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. In 2016, he was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III South Offensive Player of the Year and as a sophomore was the UAA Offensive Player of the Year while garnering All-America recognition from The Associated Press (AP).
Benger, a business administration major, has a 3.67 grade point average, while appearing on the Carnegie Mellon University Dean's List. He has earned PAC and UAA All-Academic honors twice and was a 2016 UAA President Scholar-Athlete Team honoree. This past summer, Benger interned for Deloitte and during their Impact Day, where all employees go out into the community and do service, he worked on renovating a dilapidated elementary school.
The running back has volunteered for the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital Donate Life. He mentors in the Pittsburgh Area for several young men battling illness, especially with one juvenile diabetic like Benger himself. He works to talk with them, cheer them up, and provides tips on how to best manage their illness. Benger also has volunteered at the Western Spring Sectional competition of the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania and with the 1,000+ Service Day initiative at Carnegie Mellon which brings together students, faculty, staff and alumni to volunteer at multiple sites throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.
Benger took part in the 2017 Innovate x PGH Social Innovation. During this, he organized a student competition aimed at solving some of Pittsburgh's toughest social problems (homelessness, hunger, poverty). The event gathered students and teams who developed solutions to Pittsburgh's social issues and pitched ideas to judges in a "Shark-Tank" style setting. Winning ideas gained funding and corporate support to facilitate their implementation into the community.
"Sam is the epitome of a student-athlete, and has represented our university as well as anyone can for the past four years," said Director of Athletics Josh Centor. "While his accomplishments on the field speak for themselves, it is the impact Sam makes off the field that makes him so remarkable. He is a leader of leaders, and his humility knows no bounds. Watching him play football, and getting to know him as a student and person, has been one of the great privileges of my career."