(Editor's note: University of Montana news release)
With two degrees already in hand, Montana senior safety TraJon Cotton added to his impressive off-field resume Wednesday as one of just four players from the Big Sky Conference to be named a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the “Academic Heisman.”
Celebrating its 34th year, the Campbell Trophy recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary leadership.
Semifinalists must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
Cotton became the first in his family to graduate from college, not once, but for a second time in the spring, earning his master’s degree in public administration on top of an undergraduate degree in public health from UM.
All the while he’s maintained a 3.41 GPA throughout graduate school as he works on an entrepreneurship certificate this fall as he prepares for a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion in life after football.
Selected by his Grizzly teammates as a team captain this season, Cotton is a three-time Academic All-Big Sky pick and earned a place on UM’s Dean’s List in the spring of 2021.
He’s played in 32 contests for the Griz since arriving in Missoula and has started 22 of those games as a staple in Montana’s defensive backfield.
He’s logged 81 tackles in his career as a safety, a fumble recovery, four pass deflections, and picked off his first pass earlier this season.
Cotton is also passionate about serving the community. Outside of football he works as an Inclusive Excellence for Student Success (IESS) Student Coordinator. IESS is a student-centered office designed to support our diverse community and engage in diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism efforts at UM, part of the university's mission to foster inclusive excellence on our campus.
The Sacramento native has volunteered nearly 170 hours in the Missoula community since arriving at UM with organizations such as the local United Way, YMCA, UM's Diversity and Inclusion Student Leadership Committee, and local elementary schools. He’s also worked as a coach at Grizzly football summer kids camps.
Montana has a long history of success with the Campbell Trophy. In 2019, Buck Buchanan Award-winning linebacker Dante Olson was named one of 18 finalists for the award, won that year by Oregon's Justin Herbert. In 2015, Grizzly defensive end Derek Crittenden was also named a finalist and flew to New York for the annual NFF Awards Dinner.
Dave Dickenson was a finalist in 1995 and attended to the Awards Dinner in New York in 2018 as an inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. Other Grizzlies to be named a finalist and scholar-athlete include Josh Branen (1997) Sam Gratton (2012), and Grizzly Sports Hall of Famer Vince Huntsberger (2001).
More recently, UM record holder Robby Hauck was named a semifinalist in 2022, NFL tackle Dylan Cook was a semifinalist in 2021, NFL receiver Samori Toure was a semifinalist in 2020, and Reggie Tilleman earned the distinction in 2018.
The NFF will announce 12-14 finalists on Oct. 25, and each of them will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the 2023 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class.
The finalists will travel to the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas for the 65th annual NFF Awards Dinner on Dec. 5, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports. Live during the event, one member of the class will be declared as the winner of the 34th Campbell Trophy® and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.