The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame today released a list of 3,284 student-athletes who have already earned their undergraduate degrees and will be playing college football this fall while pursuing second diplomas. This season marks the fourth year the NFF has compiled the list of graduated players. Click the link above to see the full list of graduates as a PDF.
“The National Football Foundation takes great pride in its role as a leading voice in the promotion of the scholar-athlete,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “And highlighting the more than 3,000 student-athletes who have not only earned their undergraduate degrees but are now pursuing additional diplomas sends a powerful message about the doors that college football opens. This list allows us to showcase those individuals who have truly taken full advantage of the opportunities created by college football.”
The NFF compiled the list with the help of sports information directors from all divisions of the NCAA and NAIA who identified the players on their 2021 fall rosters who have already earned their undergraduate degrees. A total of 279 schools responded, creating the list of 3,284 student-athletes who are slated to play this year while pursuing additional diplomas. An additional 17 schools responded that they had no graduated players on their rosters.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all 2020 fall athletes. Many seniors have decided to take advantage of this, and are returning to the field in 2021, leading to an increased number of graduates this season. The table below showcases the number of graduates playing college football each season since 2017. (Note: The NFF did not tally the number of graduates during the 2020 season.)
The numbers include 1,922 players from 125 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), 922 players from 83 schools in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), 336 players from 35 schools in Division II, 84 players from 29 schools in Division III and 20 players from seven schools in the NAIA.
Illinois and Texas A&M-Commerce led all schools with 29 graduates on each of their rosters for the 2021 season.
Nearly every FBS school that responded reported a double-digit number of graduates, with the following schools joining Illinois with at least 20: Baylor (28), Western Kentucky (27), Arizona (26), Minnesota (26), Louisiana Tech (26), Pittsburgh (25), SMU (25), South Alabama (25), Ball State (24), Liberty (24), Arizona State (23), Auburn (23), Northwestern (23), Virginia (23), Memphis (22), Charlotte (21), Iowa State (21), Kent State (21), Louisville (21), Toledo (21), UCF (21), Boston College (20),Colorado State (20), Kansas State (20), Marshall (20), Nebraska (20), South Carolina (20), Southern Miss (20), Tulsa (20) and Utah State (20).
Northern Colorado and Towson lead all FCS schools that responded with 24 graduates on each of their rosters. Other FCS schools with at least 15 include Austin Peay (23), Chattanooga (23), Sacramento State (22), Youngstown State (22), James Madison (21), Montana (21), North Carolina Central (21), Portland State (20), William & Mary (20), Villanova (18), Alabama A&M (17), Sam Houston (17), Bethune-Cookman (16), Central Arkansas (16), UT Martin (16), Charleston Southern (15), Duquesne (15), Gardner-Webb (15), Missouri State (15), Murray State (15) and Northern Arizona (15).
The following Division II programs that responded joined overall co-leader Texas A&M-Commerce with at least 10 graduates on their fall rosters: New Haven [CT] (28), West Alabama (19), Shepherd [WV] (16), Wingate [NC] (15), Henderson State [AR] (14), North Greenville [SC] (14), Slippery Rock [PA] (13), Concordia-St. Paul [MN] (12), Colorado School of Mines (11), Fort Hays [KS] (11), Harding [AR] (11), West Florida (11), Ashland [OH] (10), Ferris State [MI] (10).
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY) topped all of the Division III programs that responded with 11 graduates on its football roster while Kansas Wesleyan’s five topped the seven NAIA respondents.
Publishing a list of the graduates playing college football represents the latest addition to the NFF’s list of initiatives designed to promote the scholar-athlete ideal, dating back to 1959 and the launch of the highly prestigious NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards Presented by Fidelity Investments. The NFF has distributed more than $35 million in scholarships, including $11.9 million to 878 individuals via the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards and another $23 million through its nationwide Chapter Network.
Other key components of the NFF efforts to promote the scholar-athlete ideal include The William V. Campbell Trophy®, the NFF Faculty Salutes presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF Team of Distinction and the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association.
“Today’s release allows us to recognize a truly exceptional group of college football players,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “And it expands our efforts to highlight the integral role that college football has played in the education of millions of student-athletes over the years. It is often said that college is not about the four years on campus but the next 40 years of your career. Clearly those on this list have made the most of their college experiences, and we are extremely pleased to shine a light on their accomplishments.”