The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) recently announced that Ferris State University defensive tackle Jake Visser (Coopersville), who concluded his collegiate playing career last fall, was chosen for membership into the organization's prestigious 2009 NFF Hampshire Honor Society, which is comprised of the top college football players from all divisions of play who each maintained a 3.2 GPA or better.
A total of 564 players from 266 schools qualified for membership in the society's third year, a 27 percent increase from the 2008 class. In its inaugural year in 2007, the Hampshire Honor Society honored over 300 students from 195 schools. Visser and Wayne State's Andrew Bates were the only players from a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) institution to receive the honor this year.
This marks the third consecutive year at least one FSU football player has received Hampshire Honor Society accolades. Linebacker Mike Klobucher was inducted as part of the inaugural class following the 2006-07 school year, while defensive end Erik Schumacher was inducted a year ago.
"We strongly believe that football is unique in its ability to foster academic achievement in our young people, and this year's class contains countless examples of our nation's brightest young leaders," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell.
Qualifications for membership in the inaugural NFF National Honor Society include being a starter or a significant substitute in one's last year of eligibility at an accredited NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III, or an NAIA college or university; achieving a 3.2 cumulative grade point average throughout entire course of undergraduate study; and meeting all NCAA-mandated progress towards degree requirements.
Visser, who signed a priority free agent contract and has been working out this summer with the National Football League's (NFL) Houston Texans, recently was honored as the male recipient of the GLIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award for the 2008-09 athletics season. The 6-2 Visser, a 2009 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Postgraduate Scholarship winner, recently was also honored as the school's Dean Davenport "Bulldog of the Year" Award recipient for the second-straight season.
A two-time (2007 & 2008) ESPN The Magazine College Division Academic All-America First Team selection, Visser capped off an outstanding career by being named among the 24 candidates for the 2008 Harlon Hill Award, which is annually presented to the top collegiate player at the Division II level. He was the only offensive or defensive lineman from across the nation to make the list. Visser attained all-conference accolades for the fourth-straight year which included first-team recognition for the third year in a row and was voted the GLIAC's Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2008 for the second consecutive campaign.
Visser, who was honored as an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and Daktronics All-America First Team pick, competed in the annual NCAA Division II All-Star Game, the 2009 Valero Cactus Bowl, in January in Kingsville, Texas. The 2008 GLIAC Jack McAvoy Award winner for character and leadership on and off the field, Visser claimed AFCA All-America First Team honors as a senior for the second consecutive year. He was also recognized as a GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Academic and Athletics Excellence honoree for the second time.
Visser added to his impressive list of postseason accolades by being tabbed as a first-team All-American by D2football.com and Don Hansen's Football Gazette. He was also named to the Associated Press Little All-America First Team, making him a consensus first team All-America choice by every source covering Division II football.
As a senior, Visser was also chosen as the 2008 Daktronics Super Region Three Defensive Player of the Year and among the national finalists for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award after being chosen as Super Region Three's Co-Winner of that honor. He received the most first-place votes nationally for the Upshaw Award and finished third overall in the final voting process. He also received Daktronics Super Region Three First Team laurels, making him a three-time Daktronics First Team All-Region pick.
In 2008, Visser led the Bulldogs with 105 total tackles (56 solo), 16.0 tackles for loss (-71 yards) in addition to 7.5 sacks (-54 yards), two fumble recoveries, four blocked kicks and a forced fumble in 11 contests. He also notched his first career touchdown with a 34-yard interception return at Hillsdale (Nov. 1). The returning All-America pick and two-time (2007-08) team Most Valuable Player Award recipient finished the year ranked third among the GLIAC leaders in tackles for loss (1.45 pg.), third in sacks (.68 pg.) along with seventh in total tackles (9.5 tpg.).
Visser concluded his Ferris career ranked sixth on the school's career tackles chart with 395 total stops. He also placed fourth on the FSU all-time sack leaders list with 27.5 sacks and tied for first place with seven career fumble recoveries. Prior to his senior season, Visser was tabbed as a consensus preseason All-America selection by numerous publications, including Lindy's College Football Preview which chose him as its Division II Preseason Defensive Player of the Year following a memorable junior campaign in which he attained All-America First Team honors both on the field and in the classroom.
As a junior in 2007, Visser earned first-team All-America recognition from D2football.com, the AFCA and Don Hansen's Football Gazette. He was also named to both the Daktronics All-America Second Team squad and the Associated Press Little All-America Second Team. Visser claimed ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America First Team honors in addition to being one of inaugural fall recipients of the GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Athletics and Academic Excellence a year ago.
In 2007, Visser tallied the squad's second-highest tackles figure (106) and led the squad in tackles for loss with 14.5 for minus 62 yards, which ranked fifth in the conference. He also had a team-best nine quarterback hurries along with 5.5 sacks for a loss of 41 yards. The team Most Valuable Player Award recipient received 2007 first-team All-Northwest Region accolades for the second consecutive year and was tabbed as the GLIAC's Defensive Lineman of the Year after earning all-conference first team laurels for the second year in a row. Along with placing fifth among last season's league leaders in tackles for loss, Visser also ranked sixth in total tackles (9.6 tpg.).
The National Honor Society becomes the latest component of the organization's efforts to promote combined athletic and academic success. Launched in 1959 with a donation from Hall of Fame coach Earl "Red" Blaik, the NFF's National Scholar-Athlete Awards program became the first initiative in history to credit a player for his combined academic success, football performance and community leadership.
Since its inception, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards program has awarded $8.9 million to 708 top scholars and community leaders. Currently, the NFF distributes more than $300,000 a year at the national level through the program to 15 individuals. Each winner of a National Scholar-Athlete Award receives an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship. Additionally, the Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth, is given to one member of each year's class as the absolute best. The winner of the Draddy, claimed by Cal center Alex Mack in 2008, receives a total scholarship of $25,000 and a stunning 24-inch, 25-pound bronze trophy. Through, its chapter network, the NFF awards an additional $800,000 to local high school student- athletes, bringing the NFF's annual scholarship total to more than $1.1 million.