Dallas Cowboys

Finalists named for Jason Witten namesake collegiate award

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year, is also a finalist for the Jason Witten Award.
Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year, is also a finalist for the Jason Witten Award. AP

Jason Witten has been impressed with the number of nominees for the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year.

Among those considered included USC’s Jake Olson, a blind long snapper, and Colorado State’s Zack Golditch, an offensive lineman who was shot in the neck during the 2012 Aurora, Colo., theater shooting.

Witten and his group made the tough calls to narrow the field of 20 semifinalists to three finalists on Monday.

The three finalists for college football’s newest award are Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, UCF’s Shaquem Griffin and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. The award honors players who show exemplary leadership both on and off the field.

All three will attend the award ceremony on Feb. 22 at The Star in Frisco where the winner will be announced.

“I am very excited to announce these three exceptional young men as the finalists for the inaugural Collegiate Man of the Year,” Witten said in a statement. “Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shaquem Griffin and Mason Rudolph are outstanding leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they embody what the sport of college football is all about. It was a nearly impossible task to choose just three from all of the great student-athletes nominated.

“There are so many outstanding leaders who are great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example they set on and off the field.”

Here is how the release describes each of the finalists:

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jr., DB, Alabama) is the leader of fourth-ranked Alabama’s feared defense and is unquestionably one of the best overall players in the country. But his dedication to academics, which earned him a spot on the SEC’s Academic Honor Roll last year, and focus on community work, where he has done mission trips and been a leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has made him a standout off the field as well.

Shaquem Griffin (Sr., LB, UCF) has become one of the nation’s top defensive players and led his team to an undefeated season and a conference title, despite having only one hand. He has been an inspiration to his teammates and has already graduated with a degree in sociology. A regular volunteer at local Boys & Girls Clubs,Griffin is the reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Mason Rudolph (Sr., QB, Oklahoma State) is one of the college football’s premier quarterbacks and the unquestioned leader of the 19th-ranked Cowboys. Rudolph has been a strong presence in the Stillwater community, where he has worked with countless children’s programs and developed friendships with local children who are seriously ill. He has routinely posted some of the best passing marks in all of college football while becoming a standout in the classroom.

The winner of the award will receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s athletic scholarship fund.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison