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Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins Named to 2011 NFF Scholar-Athlete Class

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State fifth-year senior Kirk Cousins, the winningest quarterback in school history and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, has been named to the 2011 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Class. Based upon his selection, Cousins also becomes one of 16 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Each Campbell Trophy finalist will be presented an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship at the 54th annual NFF Awards Dinner, scheduled for Dec. 6 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City.

The NFF’s National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. Nominated by their respective schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers and athletics administrators.

Cousins becomes the fifth NFF National Scholar-Athlete in Michigan State history and the first since safety Steve Wasylk earned the honor in 1993.    

Selected from a nationwide pool of 127 student-athletes, representing all NCAA divisions as well as NAIA, the 16-member class also includes: Georgia punter Drew Butler, Delta State (Miss.) quarterback Micah Davis, Navy offensive guard John Dowd, Northwestern State linebacker Yaser Elqutub, South Dakota State running back Chris Ganious, Colorado School of Mines quarterback Clay Garcia, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish, Kansas State defensive back Tysyn Hartman, South Florida offensive lineman Chaz Hine, Purdue linebacker Joe Holland, Washington State wide receiver Jared Karstetter, Army linebacker Andrew Rodriguez, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Yale quarterback Patrick Witt and Dubuque (Iowa) wide receiver Michael Zweifel.

Named in honor of Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit, former player and head coach at Columbia University, and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal, the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 postgraduate scholarship. A total of $300,000 in scholarships will be distributed during the annual NFF Awards Dinner.

“This year’s class is one of the best ever in the 53-year history of the program,” NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell said. “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. Ensuring that they continue their education with an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship is a privilege, and we know that they have only begun to reach their potential.”

“The 2011 National Scholar-Athlete Class represents all that is right about college football,” NFF Chairman Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton (Campbell winner) and Eli were NFF National Scholar-Athletes in 1997 and 2003, respectively, said.“They have displayed the same competitive fire to win in the classroom that has distinguished them as some of the best football players in the country. In addition, each has found time to give back with an impressive list of leadership roles in their respective communities. Our goal in recognizing them is that future football players will be inspired to follow their example.”

“KirkCousins is certainly deserving of this special recognition by the National Football Foundation,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “He represents the ideal scholar-athlete. Throughout his career, Kirk has pursued excellence in the classroom and on the playing field. He’s made a tremendous effort to have a positive impact in the community as a whole. In addition, Kirk is a remarkable leader who has become a great ambassador, not only for this University and the Big Ten Conference, but all of college football. He’s a winner in all aspects of his life.”

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Cousins has completed 136-of-204 throws (.667) for 11 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2011 while leading the Spartans to a 6-1 overall record, including a 3-0 mark in the Big Ten Legends Division, and a Top 10 national ranking (No. 9 Associated Press and No. 10 USA TODAY Polls). He ranks among the Big Ten leaders in passing yards (third at 229.6 yards per game), passing efficiency (fourth with a 146.7 rating) and total offense (sixth at 219.6 ypg.).

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Cousins was selected Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week after completing 22-of-31 passes for 290 yards and three TDs against the Badgers. Thanks to his 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Keith Nicholon the final play of regulation, Cousins became the winningest quarterback in Spartan history by recording his 22nd career victory. Cousins, now 22-10 (.688) in 32 career starts, broke the mark previously held by Jeff Smoker(21 career wins from 2000-03). His three TD passes matched his career best (five times; last vs. Northwestern, 2010). In addition to his game-winning heave to Nichol, Cousins also completed scoring passes of 35 yards to B.J. Cunninghamand 15 yards to Keshawn Martin. It also marked Cousins’ fifth 200-yard passing game of the season and 20th of his career.

A Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award semifinalist for the second year in a row, Cousins is 22-10 (.688) in 32 career starts, including a 17-3 record since the beginning of the 2010 season. His career winning percentage (seventh) and career victories (ninth) rank among all active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks.

Earlier this season, Cousins became the first Spartan starting quarterback to win three-straight games over Michigan, as the Spartans knocked off the 11th-ranked and previously undefeated Wolverines, 28-14.

In MSU’s 10-7 victory at Ohio State, he connected on 20-of-32 throws for 250 yards, as the Spartans ended a seven-game losing streak against the Buckeyes and posted their first win in Columbus since 1998. His 33-yard TD strike to Cunningham in the back of the end zone gave MSU a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. His 250 passing yards marked the sixth-best single-game effort by a Spartan quarterback against Ohio State.

He completed 13-of-22 throws for 213 yards, one TD and one interception in MSU’s 45-7 victory over Central Michigan.

Cousins recorded his fourth career 300-yard passing game in a 31-13 loss at Notre Dame while setting personal bests for pass completions (34) and pass attempts (53). His 329 passing yards are the most ever by a Spartan quarterback against the Irish (previous record: 327 yards by Drew Stanton, 2005). His 34 completions are second-highest single-game total in MSU history (school record: 35 by Smoker vs. Ohio State, 2003) while his 53 attempts are fifth-best figure in school history and the most since Brian Hoyer attempted a school-record 61 passes at Penn State in 2006. In three career games against Notre Dame, Cousins completed 72 percent of his passes (68-of-95) for 734 yards, four TDs and three interceptions.

He hit 18-of-22 throws for 222 yards, including an 18-yard TD strike to Cunningham late in the third quarter, in the 2011 season opener against Youngstown State. Cousins completed his first six pass attempts for 114 yards against the Penguins.

The Holland, Mich., native currently ranks first in MSU history in completion percentage (.648; 592-of-913) and passing efficiency (146.7). Those figures also rank among the best in Big Ten history: third in completion percentage and fifth in passing efficiency. He is listed among MSU’s all-time leaders in pass completions (second with 592), pass attempts (second with 913), passing yards (second with 7,422 yards), TD passes (second with 52), 200-yard passing games (second with 20) and total offense (third with 7,264 yards). In addition, Cousins ranks among all active NCAA FBS leaders in completion percentage (12th), passing efficiency (12th), TD passes (15th), passing yards (16th) and total offense (16th).

Just the second three-time captain in the 115-year history of Spartan football, Cousins was selected to speak on behalf of all student-athletes attending the 2011 Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. His speech on “privilege and responsibility” has more than 145,000 views on YouTube. Cousins participates in the Spartan Buddies program, volunteering in the pediatric ward at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, and the Athletes in Action sports ministry. In 2010, he was named to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team, the preeminent community service award in college football, and was presented the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award (MSU recipient) and MSU’s Clarence J. Underwood Jr. Sportsmanship Award. Cousins, who carries a 3.68 grade-point average in kinesiology, is scheduled to graduate in December 2011.