Some of Penn State’s best football players are also the program’s smartest.
Senior defensive end Pete Massaro and junior guard John Urschel received first-team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American honors Thursday afternoon. Less than five hours later, the duo joined 26 teammates as academic All-Big Ten selections.
Receiving academic awards is nothing new for Massaro. He made the” Capital One/CoSIDA team in 2010. He was not eligible for the honor last year because he missed the entire season with a knee injury.
His second first-team selection caps an impressive academic career. Massaro graduated last December with a 3.85 GPA in finance. He’s scheduled to earn a second degree in economics later this month.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Massaro said in a statement. “I actually had this date circled on my calendar. This is one of those things you work for when you are a college student-athlete. It’s a fantastic feeling.”
Urschel has never received anything less than ‘A’ in college. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA in math last May and he’s scheduled to earn a master’s degree next spring. Urschel recently had his first academic paper published.
“This is a great honor and I’m very glad to be able to represent Penn State,” Urschel said. “I’m very thankful for the professors, advisors and coaches who have helped me be able to succeed in the classroom and on the football field.”
Both players held key roles for the Nittany Lions. Massaro endured multiple injuries to become a regular part of the defensive line rotation. Urschel was a first-team All-Big Ten coaches selection.
Penn State and Notre Dame were the only schools with multiple first-team academic All-Americans. Penn State has produced at least one academic All-American in nine of the last 11 seasons.
The Big Ten led all Division I conferences with nine first- or second-team selections this season. Players must be a starter or key performer and carry a 3.3 GPA or higher to win the award.
The Nittany Lions’ academic All-Big Ten haul includes 12 players who received offensive and defensive starts this past season. Five offensive linemen who earned starts – guards Urschel, Miles Dieffenbach and Ty Howle, center Matt Stankiewitch and tackle Mike Farrell – were among the 259 Big Ten football players honored.
Tight ends Garry Gilliam, Kyle Carter and Matt Lehman, linebackers Glenn Carson and Mike Hull, wide receiver Alex Kenney and Massaro also started at least one game and earned conference academic honors. Kenney is a State College High School graduate.
Key specialists Sam Ficken and Jesse Della Valle also made the list.
Letterwinners with GPAs of 3.0 or higher in their second academic year are eligible to become academic All-Big Ten selections.
Hodges wins New Jersey award
Linebacker Gerald Hodges has been selected the New Jersey Division I College Player of the Year by the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club of South Jersey.
The senior will be honored at the organization’s 68th annual awards banquet Monday in Cherry Hill, N.J. Hodges led the Nittany Lions with 109 tackles and seven pass breakups. He started all 25 games the past two seasons and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last week.
Former Nittany Lions who have won the award include Milt Plum, Dave Robinson, George Landis, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Greg Buttle, Ken Kelley, Andre Collins, Tony Sacca, Aaron Collins, Kareem McKenzie and Johnnie Troutman.
Hodges, Mauti land agents
Two members of the management firm Priority Sports announced on Twitter that they are representing Hodges and fellow linebacker Michael Mauti.
Hodges is working with former Penn State defensive tackle Deryk Gilmore. Mauti is working with former Philadelphia Eagles director of player personnel Mike McCartney.
Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are among the firm’s other football clients.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy.