GREENSBORO, N.C. – Guilford College senior Matt Pawlowski was named one of four finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, NCAA Division III football’s highest honor, Tuesday afternoon. The news comes one day after the Quakers’ quarterback was named D3football.com’s Offensive Player of the Year for the South Region.
Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John’s (Minn.) University present the 23rd annual Gagliardi Trophy December 16, in Salem, Virginia. The winner will be announced at a banquet to start the Division III championship weekend, culminated by the Amos Stagg Bowl, Division III’s national title game, December 18. The four finalists will attend the banquet, which will be video-streamed live on D3football.com.
The Gagliardi Trophy, given annually since 1993, recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service. The award is named after John Gagliardi, Saint John’s legendary Hall of Fame head football coach, who retired after the 2012 season with 489 career victories, the most in college football history.
Pawlowski, a two-time Gagliardi semifinalist, was one of Guilford’s four All-South selections, along with first-team receiver Adam Smith and second-team punter Tyler Hunt and return specialist De’Eric Bell. South region sports information directors and D3football.com staff selected the 77 all-region honorees from a pool of 240 students nominated by Division III members. All-region selections are eligible for selection to D3football.com’s All-America teams, which will be announced Dec. 18 during D3football.com’s pregame coverage of Stagg Bowl XLIII.
Pawlowski earned Guilford’s first regional Offensive Player of the Year after leading the Quakers to a record-setting, nine-win season. The 6-2, 205-pound senior completed a school-record 39 touchdown passes, which ranks third in Division III through games of December 5 and is the second-highest total in Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) history. He connected on 227-of-350 passes (64.9%) for 3,333 yards with just two interceptions. Pawlowski stands fifth in Division III in passing yards, passing yards per game (333.3), and sixth in total offense per game (344.1).
A second-team all-region selection in 2014, Pawlowski won his second straight J. Stokely Fulton ODAC Offensive Football Player of the Year Award last month, becoming the first offensive player to win the league’s top honor in successive seasons. His best performance came in a school- and league-record 611-yard, seven-touchdown passing effort October 31 at Catholic University of America, earning his second player of the week award of 2015, plus D3football.com / Scoutware Team of the Week honors. His 648 total offensive yards and 611 yards in the game both stand second nationally among all NCAA quarterbacks in 2015.
In addition to his on-field exploits, Pawlowski is an honor-roll student at Guilford and majors in sport management. He has also participated in a number of Guilford’s community-service initiatives, including the team’s New Student Move-In Day. Pawlowski has also mentored students at Guilford Middle School for two seasons and served as a motivational speaker to local high school and middle school students. He and teammate Mitch Ferrick own and operate the Air Raid Training Academy, a program established to train youth and high school quarterbacks.
Smith was a First Team All-South selection after collecting his third straight First Team All-ODAC award this fall. The 5-10, 175-pound wideout set numerous league and school records in the finest of his four seasons. He ranked second in the league with 89 receptions for 1,262 yards and 18 touchdowns, both conference highs. His 18 touchdown catches set a Guilford standard and rank second in ODAC history. He also sits fifth among Division III touchdown reception leaders through games of December 5. Smith posted the second-highest receiving yards total in Guilford history with a figure that stands ninth nationally. He ranks sixth in Division III in receiving yards (126.2) and seventh in receptions (8.9) per game. The team captain stands 18th nationally with a league-best 11.0 points per game average.
A 2014 Second Team All-South pick, Smith captured two ODAC Offensive Player of the Week Awards this year and garnered his fourth career spot on the D3football.com / Scoutware Team of the Week. He landed both honors after catching 10 passes for a school-record 253 yards (fifth in league history) and a career-best three touchdowns in the Quakers’ win over Shenandoah University. Smith was also named ODAC Offensive Player of the Week after making 11 grabs for 195 yards and three scores in Guilford’s Homecoming triumph over Averett University.
Bell was a Second Team All-South honoree as a return specialist after setting school and ODAC marks for single-season all-purpose yardage (2,235), which ranks second in Division III. The 5-6, 205-pound sophomore was a First Team All-ODAC all-purpose back and set the Guilford standard with 736 kickoff return yards. His league-leading 30.7-yard kickoff return average ranks fourth nationally through games of December 5. Bell returned a Division III-best four kicks for touchdowns (2 kickoffs, 2 punts) and stands second in the country with 995 combined kick return yards. He also served as Guilford’s top running back, collecting 943 rushing yards, which ranked third in the ODAC, and nine touchdowns.
Hunt, a senior, twice a third-team All-South honoree, becomes Guilford’s first three-time all-region performer with his selection to the second team. He currently leads Division III with a 42.9-yard punting average, second-best in ODAC and school history. If he maintains his top national ranking, he will become just the fourth two-time Division III punting champion and the first since 2006. Hunt totaled 1,543 yards on 36 punts and placed 13 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line. He had a long punt of 65 yards, one of his eight kicks of at least 50 yards and one of 25 that travelled at least 40 yards. Guilford’s punt coverage team, combined with Hunt’s powerful leg, helped the Quakers lead Division III with a 39.22-yard net punting average.
In four seasons, Hunt averaged a school and league-record 41.4 yards per punt in 141 attempts. His average stands 13th in Division III history. He set ODAC and school standards with a 43.8-yard average in 2013 and booted a school-record 81-yard punt in 2014. Hunt set a Guilford record with six all-conference selections, including three straight First Team All-ODAC punter honors.
Coach Chris Rusiewicz’s Quakers (9-1, 6-1 ODAC) set at least 29 Guilford records in the best football season in school history. The team’s nine wins and six league victories both set school standards. Rusiewicz could return as many as 17 starters in 2016, including Bell.