McDonald Named to the National Football Foundation's 50th National Scholar-Athlete Class

Ryan McDonald plays offensive line at Illinois, just like his dad, Phil, did in the 1970s.
Ryan McDonald plays offensive line at Illinois, just like his dad, Phil, did in the 1970s.

Oct. 29, 2008

Illinois senior center Ryan McDonald has been named a 2008 National Scholar-Athlete as announced by the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Football Hall of Fame. He is one of 15 finalists that will vie for the Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth.

Ryan McDonald
Offensive Lineman, University of Illinois
Aerospace Engineering - 3.81 GPA
Recipient of the Coach Lou Saban National Scholar- Athlete Award Funded by George M. Steinbrenner III

Illinois' Ryan McDonald has effectively balanced gridiron success and academic excellence, becoming the eighth Fighting Illini player named an NFF National Scholar-Athlete.

A 2007 ESPN The Magazine First Team Academic All- America selection, McDonald was named the 2008 Anson Mount Scholar-Athlete Award recipient. An honors graduate of Illinois' prestigious aerospace engineering program, which is ranked among the top five in the country, he was named to the Dean's List or better every semester of his undergraduate career. McDonald was also a three-time Academic All-Big Ten choice.

A four-year starter, the Holland, Mich., native is on pace to break the school record for most starts in a career. A vital part of the Illini offense that led the Big Ten in rushing in 2006 and '07, McDonald led Illinois to a record-breaking 2007 season and the team's first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1984. He was key to an offensive line that set the school record for fewest sacks allowed in a season (16) in 2007.

In honor of his mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, McDonald organized a team of fellow players for the 2008 MS Walk, raising $1,500 for the charity. He is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Here are the 15 finalists:

  • ANDREW BERRY - CB - Harvard University
  • RYAN BERRY - QB - South Dakota State University
  • CHASE DANIEL - QB - University of Missouri
  • BRIAN FREEMAN - OT - Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.)
  • CASEY GERALD - CB - Yale University
  • GRAHAM HARRELL - QB - Texas Tech University
  • QUIN HARRIS - LB - Louisiana Tech University
  • JEFF HORINEK - LB - Colorado State University
  • RYAN KEES - DE - St. Cloud State University (Minn.)
  • ALEX MACK - C - University of California (Berkeley)
  • Ryan McDonald - OL - University of Illinois
  • GREG MICHELI - QB - Mount Union College (Ohio)
  • DARRYL RICHARD - DT - Georgia Tech
  • BRIAN ROBISKIE - WR - Ohio State University
  • LOUIE SAKODA - P/K - University of Utah

    The NFF's National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is recognized as the first and most prestigious initiative in the history of college sports to honor football players for their combined athletic ability, academic success and civic leadership.

    Candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. Selected by the NFF Awards Committee, the 15 National Scholar-Athlete Award recipients will be honored at the 2008 NFF Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 9 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The event will also include the induction of the 2008 College Football Hall of Fame and the presentation of several major awards.

    Each will receive an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship, and one of the 15 will be announced as the recipient of the 2008 Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Established to honor former NFF Chairman Vincent DePaul Draddy, a Manhattan College quarterback who developed the Izod and Lacoste brands, the award comes with a 24-inch, 25-pound bronze trophy and increases the winner's scholarship to $25,000. A total distribution of more than $275,000 in scholarships will be awarded that evening.

    2008 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class Notes

  • 3.71 Average GPA
  • 12 Team Captains (R.Berry, Daniel, Freeman, Harrell, Harris, Horinek, Kees, Mack, McDonald, Micheli, Richard, Robiskie)
  • 15-of-15 Academic All-Conference Athletes
  • 10 All-Conference Athletes (A.Berry, Daniel, Harrell, Harris, Horinek, Kees, Mack, Micheli, Robiskie, Sakoda)
  • Six ESPN The Magazine Academic All- America Selections (A.Berry, Freeman, McDonald, Micheli, Richard, Robiskie)
  • Four All-America Picks (Daniel, Mack, Micheli, Sakoda)
  • One Heisman Trophy Finalist (Daniel)
  • One Rhodes Scholar Semifinalist (Gerald)
  • Five Four-Year Starters (A.Berry, Harris, Horinek, McDonald, Sakoda)
  • Six Members of Nationally Ranked Teams (A.Berry, Daniel, Harrell, Micheli, Robiskie, Sakoda)
  • Five Members of Conference Championship Teams (A.Berry, R.Berry, Gerald, Micheli, Robiskie)
  • Two Players in a National Championship Game (Micheli, Robiskie)
  • Eight Offensive Players (R.Berry, Daniel, Freeman, Harrell, Mack, McDonald, Micheli, Robiskie)
  • Six Defensive Players (A.Berry, Gerald, Harris, Horinek, Kees, Richard)
  • One Special Teams Player (Sakoda)