Aurora's Zimbelman Named Gagliardi Trophy Semfinalist

Aurora University junior quarterback Gavin Zimbelman has been selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 Gagliardi Trophy, the premier individual award in NCAA Division III Football. (photo: Paul Middlestaedt)
Aurora University junior quarterback Gavin Zimbelman has been selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 Gagliardi Trophy, the premier individual award in NCAA Division III Football. (photo: Paul Middlestaedt)

Release courtesy of Aurora University athletics communications

AURORA, Ill. --- Aurora University junior quarterback Gavin Zimbelman has been selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 Gagliardi Trophy, the premier individual award in NCAA Division III Football. Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John's University (Minnesota), which presents the Gagliardi Trophy, announced the semifinalists for the annual award on Tuesday.

Zimbelman, who was named the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Offensive Player of the Year last week, is the first Spartan to advance to the semifinal stage of the award process. Click here to view 2019 season highlights of Zimbelman.

During the 2019 season, Zimbelman completed 280 of 441 passes for 3,614 yards with 57 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and ran for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He is the Division III national leader in passing touchdowns (57), points responsible for (368), points responsible for per game (33.5) and total offense (366.2 per game) while ranking second in passing yards (3,614), fourth in passing yards per game (328.5) and seventh in completions per game (25.45). He helped lead AU to the 2019 NACC championship and an appearance in the Division III Football Championship. 

A business administration and sport management double major, Zimbelman has volunteered with the Aurora Area Interfaith Food pantry, served as a mentor for the Triple Threat mentoring program, which provide activities for at-risk youth, as well as served as a volunteer at the CAAEL basketball tournament, helping successfully serve a wide range of student with respect to age, disabilities, race, socio-economic background and culture.

Nine seniors and three juniors make up the semifinalists for the 2019 Gagliardi Trophy. The semifinalist list also contains nominees from all four NCAA regions. Six quarterbacks and four running backs head up the list. Six of the twelve participated in the first round of the Division III Football Championship.

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 in 2012 with 489 career victories, the most in college football history. John passed away in October 2018 at the age of 91.

On Thursday, Dec. 12, D3football.com will announce the four finalists via live stream at 3:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. CT. The winner of the 2019 Gagliardi Trophy will be announced by D3football.com on Friday, December 20, as part of Stagg Bowl pregame coverage.
 
The trophy design features a sculpture of Gagliardi and a player, representing the teacher-coach and the student-athlete in a one-on-one sideline consultation. Hand-cast in bronze on a polished wood base, the trophy stands nearly two feet tall and weighs approximately 64 pounds. The words "The Gagliardi Trophy presented by Jostens & J-Club" are printed on the acrylic panel behind the figures. The words "Division III 2019 Player of the Year" and "Honoring Excellence in Football, Academics and Community Service" are etched on two panels below the figures.

Nominations were submitted by colleges across the country, and the semifinalists were selected by the J-Club Board of Directors. In past years, between 10 and 13 semi-finalists have been named. This year, 12 semifinalists will move on to the national selection committee. The Gagliardi Trophy national selection committee is comprised of 16 Division III coaches (four from each NCAA Region), four Division III Administrators (one from each region), eight regional notable voters (two from each region), and eight national voters with Division III backgrounds, plus one fan vote that will be live soon on D3football.com and running until Monday, Dec. 9, the same day the national-selection voting is closed. No J-Club members vote.
 
Other semifinalists are Jackson Erdmann, quarterback from Saint John's University, Joe Germinerio, quarterback from Ithaca College, Jaquan Hemphill, running back from Hardin-Simmons University, Joey Longoria, defensive tackle from University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Alex Minton, running back from Denison University, Mason Opple, quarterback from Hope College, Josh Parks, running back from University of St. Thomas, Broc Rutter, quarterback from North Central College, (Ill.), Robert Shufford, running back from Birmingham-Southern College, Wyatt Smith, quarterback from Linfield College and Cole Spieker, wide receiver from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse