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Banas and Nearhoof Both Named Academic All-Americans

Friday, December 07, 2012

Pittsburgh -- Senior linebacker Brad Banas (Houston, Pa. / Chartiers Houston) and senior defensive lineman Nolan Nearhoof (Gibsonia, Pa. / Mars Area) of the Robert Morris University football team each earned a highly prestigious award Thursday afternoon as both garnered Capital One Academic All-America honors in an announcement made by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
 
Nearhoof, a biology major, claimed his third-consecutive Academic All-America honor, but his first of the First Team variety, while Banas, an engineering major, claimed a spot on the Second Team.
 
The Division I Academic All-America football teams encompass student-athletes from both the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) levels although three-quarters of this year’s selections came from FBS schools. In fact, Robert Morris is the only FCS institution to have more than one football Academic All-American in 2012. Additionally, RMU was the only Northeast Conference (NEC) school to garner an Academic All-American award in football this year.
 
Banas and Nearhoof become the first-ever pair of Colonial teammates from any RMU sport to both claim Academic All-America honors in the same year. Their selections also mark just the second time in league history that a NEC football program had more than one student-athlete chosen for such honors in the same season.
 
These two honors continue a recent trend of academic success for RMU football student-athletes. The Colonial football program has now collected seven Academic All-America awards in the past nine years. In comparison, since the NEC began sponsoring football in 1996, all other league schools combined (including past football-playing members) have netted 13 such awards in the sport of football.
 
This First Team award is one of the most significant, but far from the first, honors Nearhoof has claimed for his performances on and off the field. With Thursday’s announcement, Nearhoof becomes the first football student-athlete from any NEC school (including past football-playing members) to earn three Academic All-America honors in a career. Additionally, he becomes just the third student-athlete ever from any sport to earn three Academic All-America honors among the histories of the 12 current NEC members.
 
nearhoofmugNearhoof (pictured at left), who owns a 3.74 grade point average, has claimed the NEC’s Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year award in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the 2012 award yet to be announced. Furthermore, Nearhoof was recently selected as one of 15 National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar-Athletes  and was the only one at the FCS level. As a result, he was granted an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and was a finalist for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy that recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.
 
Nearhoof saved his best for last as the senior set career highs in a number of key categories in 2012 while consistently causing havoc in opponents’ backfields. He posted a career-best 76 tackles in 2012, second on the team, while starting all 11 games at defensive end. However, he really made his mark by tackling opponents behind the line of scrimmage as he tallied a career-high 13 tackles for loss, a mark which included 10.5 sacks. In doing so, he became just the third Colonial to post a double-digit sack total in a single season. Nearhoof not only led the NEC in sacks per game, but he currently ranks sixth nationally in that category. Nearhoof also added 11 quarterback hurries and two pass breakups this year. He posted eight tackles, including five solo stops, and a sack against eventual NEC champion Wagner and registered 11 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in a win over local rival Duquesne.

Nearhoof’s final season capped off an incredible career that saw him rewrite the Robert Morris and Northeast Conference record books. He finished his four years and 40 career games with 26.5 sacks, a figure that not only blew past the previous top mark at RMU, but was also good enough to move him into the top spot in the career annals of the NEC. He notched 36 career tackles for loss, a mark that ranks among the top five all-time at RMU, while posting 213 overall tackles and three fumble recoveries in his illustrious career.
 
Nearhoof was the only defensive lineman honored, on the First or Second team, from the FCS level, and his 76 tackles in 2012 were the most among all the defensive linemen selected. Other First Team honorees on the defensive line included a starter on a team heading to a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Bowl and a Big Ten player.
 
Banas has a 3.95 cumulative GPA and is also minoring in alternative energy and sustainability. Although this is his first Academic All-America award, Banas has been on the cusp of reaching this achievement for a couple of years as he earned his third First Team Academic All-District honor this past November. He is also a three-time member of both the NEC Academic Honor Roll and the NEC Commissioner’s Honor Roll with the 2012 announcement still to come.
 
Banas (pictured at right) started each of the Colonials’ 11 games in 2012 at outside linebacker and tallied a career-high 63 tackles, including 28 of the RMUbanamugsolo variety. He posted a career-best eight tackles for loss and added three sacks on the season. Banas also provided the team with one of its two defensive touchdowns on the year when he intercepted a pass at Bryant and returned it 55 yards to the end zone to tally his first-career score, becoming the 15th Colonial ever to notch a ‘pick-six’. Banas registered 10 tackles, including a career-high three tackles for loss, in a surprise win over previously undefeated Lafayette Sept. 29 and also hit double digits in tackles against both of the NEC’s co-champions, Albany and Wagner. He also posted a career-best three pass breakups in a come-from-behind win at Sacred Heart, including one on the Pioneers’ final drive to preserve the RMU lead.
 
Banas played in 39 career games, including earning 31 starts over the past three years. He made 151 career stops and added 17.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Banas had 10 career passes defended, including two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble over the past four years.
 
Similar to Nearhoof, Banas was also the only FCS student-athlete selected at his position on either the First or Second Team. Included among the other linebackers selected was Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o of Notre Dame as well as two starting linebackers from Big Ten teams.
 
While Robert Morris was the only FCS school with two selections, it joined a select group of universities that had more than one student-athlete honored that included Northwestern and Notre Dame.
 
With the announcement, Nearhoof becomes just the fourth student-athlete from any sport in RMU history to be named a First Team Academic All-American.
 
Earlier this season, Banas and Nearhoof had become the first two student-athletes from any sport in Robert Morris history to garner three First Team Academic All-District honors in a career.
 
The student-athletes on the Division I Academic All-America Football First Team combined for a 3.715 GPA.

ABOUT ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY
Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.