Nearly 50 Penn State football student-athletes earn 3.0 GPA or better in fall

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State football team produced another superlative academic performance during the fall 2013 semester, with nearly 50 squad members earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average, including three with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

A total of 48 Nittany Lions earned a 3.0 GPA or higher, the fourth-highest fall total in program history, trailing only the record 55 honorees in 2008, 50 (2004) and 49 (2009).

Among the 48 Nittany Lions posting a 3.0 GPA or higher, 13 earned dean's list recognition by earning a 3.5 GPA or higher this past semester.

This academic performance brings to 50 the total number of Penn State football student-athletes with a cumulative 3.0 or higher GPA through the fall semester. A total of 41 of the 50 returned for the 2014 spring semester.

Senior guard John Urschel (Williamsville, N.Y.) posted a perfect 4.0 GPA last fall to complete his Penn State career with a 4.0 GPA in all his undergraduate and graduate studies. Urschel was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and first-team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American and a 2013 third-team Associated Press All-American. Urschel was the 2013 recipient of the Campbell Trophy, presented by the National Football Foundation to the nation’s premier college football scholar-athlete, and also earned the Senior CLASS Award for college football.

Joining Urschel with a 4.0 GPA during the fall semester were freshman fullback Brandon Smith (Winfield) and sophomore kick snapper Tyler Yazujian (Royersford), both of whom were on the dean’s list.

Among the other returning Nittany Lions who made the dean’s list last fall were safety Jesse Della Valle (Pittsburgh), placekicker Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.), wide receiver Gregg Garrity (Pittsburgh), linebacker Ben Kline (Seven Valleys), tackle Andrew Nelson (Hershey) and fullback Dom Salamone (Dillsburg).

Kline joined Urschel on the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District team last fall for the second consecutive year.

Seventeen true freshmen earned a 3.0 GPA during the fall semester, including tight end Adam Breneman (Mechanicsburg), defensive tackle Parker Cothren (Huntsville, Ala.), Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.), wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (Fredericksburg, Va.), kick snapper Zach Ladonis (Nescopeck), safety/kick returner Von Walker (Mill Hall), quarterback Austin Whipple (Wexford), Garrity, Nelson and Smith.

Among the returning Nittany Lions joining Della Valle, Ficken and Kline with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA entering the spring semester are:  defensive end Brad Bars (Nashville, Tenn.), linebacker Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J.), tight end Kyle Carter (Bear, Del.), guard Miles Dieffenbach (Pittsburgh), defensive tackle Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Md.), linebacker Mike Hull (Canonsburg), safety Ryan Keiser (Selinsgrove), wide receiver Geno Lewis (Wilkes-Barre) and running back Deron Thompson (Lititz).

This is the latest success in a long line of academic achievement for members of the Penn State football program, who consistently are at or near the top nationally in academic success:

-- Penn State football student-athletes who enrolled in the University from 2003-06 earned a superlative NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 85 percent, according to the 2013 NCAA Graduation Rate Report. Penn State’s GSR was among the top 10 percent in the nation, tied with Rutgers and TCU for No. 12 overall among the 124 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.

-- The Nittany Lions’ football graduation rate was tied for No. 2 among all public FBS schools, trailing only Boise State. Penn State’s graduation figure was 15 points higher than the 70 percent FBS average and was second to Northwestern among Big Ten institutions, according to the NCAA in October.

-- The Penn State football program has had 63 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America selections all-time, the second-highest total among all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.

-- The Nittany Lions’ 18 Academic All-Americans over the past eight seasons (16 first-team) leads the nation. The Penn State football team has had a least one first-team Academic All-American in 10 of the past 12 seasons (19 overall first-team selections since 2002).

-- A total of 332 Penn State football student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since 1993 for owning at least a 3.0 grade point average and being a letterwinner. The Nittany Lions had 24 honorees last fall.

Penn State announced the hiring of James Franklin as its 16th head football coach on Jan. 11. Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions open the 2014 season on Aug. 30 vs. UCF in Dublin, Ireland, at the Croke Park Classic.

Penn State returns 15 starters (seven offense, seven defense, one specialist) and will host Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State (Nov. 29), Ohio State (Oct. 25), Northwestern (Sept. 27-Homecoming) and Maryland (Nov. 1) during its 2014 Big Ten home schedule. The Nittany Lions will play a trio of 2013 Top 10 teams next season.

For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing 2014 season tickets, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit or call 800-NITTANY from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Season ticket renewals are being taken online and Nittany Lion Club members are reminded that the deadline for donations is Feb. 1.

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Media Contacts: 

Jeff Nelson

Last Updated January 23, 2014