‘It Means Everything’: Linebacker Relishes Winning the ‘Academic Heisman’

UVA linebacker Micah Kiser accepts the Campbell Trophy Tuesday at the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame’s annual dinner, held in New York City. (Photo courtesy of UVA Athletics)
December 06, 2017

As part of his “Financial Management and Budgeting in Higher Education” course in the Curry School of Education last week, University of Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser presented an analysis paper in which he wrote about trends in revenues and expenditures within Power 5 conference universities.

“He just impressed me with his grasp of the subject matter,” said Justin Thompson, Curry’s associate dean for management and planning, “and his ability to present it with confidence, engage his classmates on their level and to respond to questions in a really thoughtful and well-informed way.”

Those same adjectives can be used to describe the grace in which Kiser accepted the Campbell Trophy during the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame’s annual dinner, held Tuesday in New York City. At the black-tie event, Kiser thanked his parents, professors, athletic administrators, academic advisers, teammates, coaches and a bevy of others.

Known as the “Academic Heisman,” the Campbell Trophy recognizes the best football scholar-athlete in the nation.

“I don’t think there’s any more deserving individual – a young person who better epitomizes what a scholar-athlete is,” UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage said. “There’s nobody more deserving than Micah Kiser.”

Kiser’s big night in the Big Apple drew praise from UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan as well.

Kiser, who is up for a long list of awards this winter, said the Campbell was the one he most wanted to win.

“On the field, off the field, in the community, in the classroom – it takes everything into consideration,” Kiser said Wednesday afternoon. “For me to be chosen to win this award – it means everything.”

Kiser, who has helped lead the Cavaliers to their first bowl game since 2011 – they will face the U.S. Naval Academy in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 in Annapolis, Maryland – was selected from a field that included 181 semifinalists and 13 finalists.

In the wake of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August, it was Kiser who organized the now-iconic photo of the football team, arms locked, standing at the Rotunda – a potent symbol of the team’s unity in the wake of the white supremacist violence.

“Micah Kiser is an amazing young man,” head football coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “For him to win the ‘Academic Heisman’ is a powerful tribute to not only him, but his parents [and] also the University of Virginia. It’s the perfect award for excellence in leadership for not only a young man, but an institution.”

On the field, Kiser is leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in tackles for the third straight season. In the classroom, the Baltimore native – who is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education – has a 4.0 grade-point average.

Kiser, who earned his undergraduate degree in foreign affairs in May, is the second UVA player to win the Campbell Trophy, joining linebacker Thomas Burns, a nuclear engineering major who won the award in 1993.

For winning the Campbell, Kiser earned a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.

Kiser recently had hand surgery, but said he expects to be recovered in time for the bowl game.

He said he plans on pursuing an NFL career, then hopes to follow in Littlepage’s footsteps and one day become an athletic director.

Coming out of high school, Kiser had scholarship offers from Stanford, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, Florida and others.

“UVA was a 40-year decision for me,” Kiser said. “I knew how a degree from UVA would carry weight everywhere – all around the world. It’s been a great five years, which is really going to set me up well for the future.”

Media Contact

Whitelaw Reid

University News Associate Office of University Communications