(photo courtesy of University of Montana)

The National Football Foundation announced Wednesday that Montana offensive tackle Dylan Cook has been named a semifinalist for the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the "Academic Heisman”.

Senior Associate Athletic Director Jean Gee, who oversees much of the academic progress and accomplishments of various sports at the University of Montana, spoke to KGVO News about the honor bestowed on Cook.

“I love that first of all, they name it the academic Heisman, and that they do have an award like this and to really focus in on the academic achievements of student athletes and in particular with this one for one of our football student athletes,” said Gee.

Gee described the process of nominating a student athlete for such a prestigious award.

“As schools nominate individuals, they have to be a football student athlete who's in their final year of eligibility, and they have to have had 3.2 or higher GPA,” she said. “While it is a focus on academics, they also have to have had some really outstanding athletic achievements as well, and so it's just a good representation of the all around college student athlete.”

On the field, Cook has been an integral part of Montana's prolific offense since becoming a starter in 2019. In the 2021 calendar year, Cook and the Grizzly offense have outscored their last five opponents (two spring games and a win over No. 20 Washington included) by an astounding 201-31, averaging over 40 points per game.

Gee, who works closely with student athletes to help them achieve their academic goals, said Cook’s accomplishments are extraordinary.

“Especially with my background, this just makes my heart so proud because it does focus on the academics,” she said. “It just proves that we're doing things the right way, and that our coaches are recruiting players here that can take care of business in the classroom as well as on the field. And having this honor coming to one of our student athletes is just proof. It's the data that proves that that's exactly what we're doing here.”

Gee looked back at some other Grizzly football players who have been nominated for the Campbell Trophy in the past.

“Derrick Crittenden got to go to New York and go to the dinner,” she said. “He ultimately did not win. “Dave Dickenson was a finalist. Dante Olson was a finalist. And then when we go even further back to Josh Brennan and then Vincent Huntzberger who have been finalists.”

The foundation will announce 12 to14 finalists for the Campbell Trophy on Oct. 27, and each of them will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the 2021 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Presented by Fidelity Investments.

The finalists will travel to the ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas for the 63rd NFF Annual Awards Dinner (formerly in New York) on Dec. 7, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports.

Live during the event, one member of the class will be declared as the winner of the 32nd Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.

Cook is now on the practice field preparing to play at Eastern Washington Saturday night on the red-turf field known as ‘The Inferno’, a field upon which the Grizzlies have never won.

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