James Morris Named NFF National Scholar-Athlete

Oct. 31, 2013

  • Interview with Coach K. Ferentz

IRVING, Texas — University of Iowa senior linebacker James Morris has been named a 2013 National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar-Athlete. The NFF and College Hall of Fame announced the recipients Thursday.

The 16 honorees comprise the list of finalists for the 2013 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the best scholar-athlete in the nation. The list was selected from a pool of 171 semifinalists among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA.

The 2013 NFF National Scholar-Athletes will travel to New York City to be honored Dec. 10 during the 56th NFF Annual Award Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria. Each student-athlete receives an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, while the Campbell Trophy recipient earns an additional $7,000 in postgraduate funds.

“It’s a fantastic honor for James,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “The group of people who are recognized at that dinner is unbelievable; guys that are committed to being excellent football players, excellent students, and that fits James. He has been a pleasure to have in our program. He has been a model football player, leader, and student. We’re happy for James and his family.”

Morris is the sixth Iowa football student-athlete to be named a NFF National Scholar-Athlete. Former honorees include defensive lineman John Charles Hendricks (1968), defensive back Bob Elliott (1975), tight end Mike Flagg (1987), offensive lineman Derek Rose (1998) and linebacker Mike Klinkenborg (2007).

Morris is a product of a UI football program that has a long history of success in academic achievement. According to data released last week by the NCAA, Iowa earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 81 percent. That total was 11 points better than the national average for Football Bowl Sub-Division programs. The football program at the UI has scored 80 percent or better in the GSR in three consecutive years.

“We’ve always believed it’s possible to excel in both athletics and academics, and our guys would be the first to tell you they get great support from our academic student services people,” said Ferentz. “It’s like being a good football player, ultimately the students have to do the work. They are the ones that go to class and spend time on the papers and exams. At the end of the day it’s a credit to the guys being honored. He has been committed to his studies, and nobody is more committed to football. It’s another example that it is possible to do both things well.”

Morris, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior from Solon, Iowa, has been in the Hawkeye starting lineup since playing as a true freshman in 2010. He ranks eighth in career tackles (357), and this week was honored by both the Big Ten Conference and the Lott IMPACT Trophy as defensive Player of the Week. He was also recognized with the same honor by the Big Ten following Iowa’s win at Minnesota. Morris leads the Hawkeyes in tackles for loss (7.5), sacks (4) and interceptions (3) after eight games.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the National Football Foundation and offer my congratulations to the other recipients,” said Morris. “It’s hard to put into words. This is prestigious, it’s a great honor. It feels good to be acknowledged for all the hard work.

“It has been challenging; you go through peaks and valleys. Depending on your schedule, balancing football and academics can be challenging. I am fortunate to have great coaches, teammates, and outstanding support from the political science department and our academic Student Services staff, all of whom have helped me progress athletically and academically.”

Morris is one of 20 quarterfinalists for the annual Lott IMPACT Trophy, and was named to preseason Watch Lists for the Butkus, Bednarik and Nagurski awards. He was a permanent team captain as a junior and has twice earned honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition.

Morris has been an academic standout at Iowa, earning District VI Academic All-America honors as a junior, while twice being named Academic All-Big Ten. He is a political science major with a 3.84 grade-point average (on a 4.0 scale). He was honored last spring by the UI political science department as the recipient of the Third House Scholar Award. He is in his fourth year as a member of the UI Leadership Group.

Iowa (5-3, 2-2) hosts Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday at 11:06 a.m. (ABC/ESPN2). A limited number of single tickets remain for the annual “Blackout Game.” Student tickets are $50 (two allowed per student) and general public tickets are $65. Tickets can be purchased at hawkeyesports.com, by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or in person at the UI athletics ticket office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.