College Football's All Book-Smart Team
With the focus constantly on winning games, bowls, and championships, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that college football players are, quite simply, college students.
While a good number of top FBS players are in school simply to play football, there are many athletes that take full advantage of their opportunity to get a top-quality education from some of our nation's best institutions.
We thought it was high time these players get their due, and so we're honoring them here by naming them to our own little All-America Team of sorts—the All Book-Smart Team.
Here are ten of the top student-athletes to play college football.
Barrett Jones, Alabama
Barrett Jones may have just completed his junior year of eligibility, but he already has a degree to his name from the University of Alabama.
And his degree in accounting was earned with a 4.0 GPA.
Now-former teammate Trent Richardson referred to Jones as “a nerd,” owing to the fact that Jones is about as smart and relatively uninteresting as a guy can be off the field. Brad Smelley even told ESPN “[Jones is] probably the most straight-laced guy I know.”
With Jones' talent, he certainly has a bright future in pro football ahead of him. But on the astronomically small chance the NFL doesn't work out for him, there's always that accounting degree earned summa cum laude on which he can fall back.
Patrick Ward, Northwestern
Northwestern may not be a program known for its high football rankings or an overflowing trophy room, but the Wildcats don't field a team full of dummies either.
Patrick Ward is entering his senior season for the Wildcats, and in addition to his skillful play on Northwestern's offensive line, he's shown quite a bit of skill in the classroom too.
Ward currently sports a 3.92 GPA, and it's not in “movement science” or some other football player major; Ward is majoring in mechanical engineering.
It's probably safe to say that if Ward doesn't make millions in the NFL, he'll have every opportunity to do so in the aerospace sector.
Cody Wilson, Central Michigan
Cody Wilson is doing a lot more with his time at Mount Pleasant than hauling in passes for the Central Michigan Chippewas. Wilson is quickly approaching his graduation with a degree in marketing.
When he does graduate from CMU, he'll do so with a nice GPA too, which currently sits at 3.75.
If the NFL is his ultimate goal, he'll be a great addition to any franchise—either as a player or in the marketing department.
Dalton Wilson, South Carolina
A Williston, South Carolina native, Dalton Wilson hasn't had the most productive on-field career at South Carolina.
Having spent most of his time on special teams, Wilson has just one carry to his credit thus far in his career at fullback—which gained zero yards.
But even if he isn't tearing it up on the field for the Gamecocks, Wilson certainly ranks as one of the smartest guys on campus with a 3.98 GPA while pursuing his degree in Finance and Business Economics.
Who knew fullbacks could do that much heavy lifting outside of the weight room?
Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
We all know offensive linemen are some of the smartest guys on the football field. But if you need any more proof, look no further than Oklahoma's junior center, Gabe Ikard.
A zoology major, Ikard is entering his junior year with a perfect 4.0 GPA intact.
Perhaps he's spent some of his off-hours studying the various animals lined up opposite him each week...
Sean Fisher, Nebraska
Linebackers can lay down some of the most ferocious hits in football.
Sean Fisher, senior linebacker from Nebraska, can put a licking on the books too. Nearing graduation, Fisher still carries a 4.0 while majoring in business administration.
Maybe after his college days are over, he can up his draft stock by providing some sound business advice to various NFL owners.
Mike Sadler, Michigan State
Mike Sadler knows he's the one football player on the Michigan State roster than no Spartan fan wants to see on the field.
But life as a punter isn't all bad.
Sadler is making the most of his time at MSU by pursuing a degree in Applied Engineering Sciences. It even sounds hard, but Sadler clearly has impressive hang time with his professors, as he's sporting a 4.0 GPA.
This Grand Rapids native will find plenty of job opportunities once he graduates, even if it doesn't involve kicking footballs.
Matt Milner, East Carolina
There are perhaps few people on a college campus that live and breathe Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion—a object in motion tends to stay in motion—on a daily basis.
Football players are some of those few people. So are Physics majors. In Matt Milner's case, he's both.
The 6'4", 259-pound defensive end can also quote Newton's Second Law, which states that an object's force is equal to the mass of the object times the change in velocity of that object over a period of time. If you need help, Mr. Milner can arrange a demonstration for opposing quarterbacks.
And just in case you doubt Milner's skills in the area, he has the 4.0 GPA to prove it.
Jacob Russell, Texas A&M
Jacob Russell may be a fresh-faced frosh from Sulphur Springs, Texas, but that doesn't mean he's not already making an impact at Texas A&M.
This 6'2", 225-pound soon-to-be sophomore linebacker will have plenty of opportunities to make a name for himself on the field for the Aggies.
But just in case Russell doesn't strike it big in the SEC, he has every opportunity to do so elsewhere with his degree in Petroleum Engineering—which he's currently pursuing with a 4.0 GPA.
Andrew Rodriguez, Army
We'll finish with Andrew Rodriguez from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
This Mechanical Engineering major may have completed his four years at West Point, and his football playing days are behind him, but we still felt inclined to include him because of his remarkable accomplishments.
Rodriguez graduated from West Point with an eye-popping 4.14 GPA—and, yes, that's on a 4-point scale. A 4.0 GPA is difficult enough, particularly at a school like West Point and in a field like Mechanical Engineering. But to pull off a 4.14 defies explanation.
Our nation will be well-served by men like 2nd Lieutenant Andrew Rodriguez manning our front lines, and the taxpayer investment in his education was well worth it.
Rodriguez was also named the 2011 recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, which goes to the nation's top scholar-athlete in football.