CAL's Mohamed Shows True Meaning of 'Student-Athlete'
Mike Mohamed is a quiet and unassuming guy who happens to be one of the best college football players in the country.
When he's playing linebacker for the California Golden Bears, the 6-3, 245-pound senior becomes a fearless, reckless, tackling machine, who wreaks havoc on opposing offenses. When he steps off the field, he's a model student and will graduate in the spring with a 3.43 grade point average in business.
That striking balance between disruptive force on the field and mild-mannered, upper-echelon student is why Mohamed has been selected as one of 16 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, or "Academic Heisman," which will be awarded tonight at the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
Each Campbell Trophy finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, and one of the 16 will be announced as the recipient of the Campbell Trophy during the event. The honor, endowed by HealthSouth, recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Renamed last fall in honor of Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit, former player and head coach at Columbia University and the 2004 recipient of the NFF's Gold Medal, the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.
Mohamed is wrapping up his senior year with two classes - Communication for Leaders and Personal Financial Management.
"What a wild ride it's been," Mohamed said. "When I first came in as a freshman I never would have expected this to happen. Everything has gone by so fast, but it's been an amazing experience. I have really enjoyed myself."
It certainly hasn't been easy. Maintaining a 3.51 GPA in business at Cal is no simple task, especially when you have to balance playing football alongside a full slate of coursework.
"The biggest challenge was learning how to manage my time," Mohamed said. "There is a lot of time spent on the field and in meeting rooms and you have classes on top of that. I really had to learn when and where to cut out free time. It was a big shock at first, but after my freshman year I felt like I really adjusted."
Mohamed recognizes that his achievements are not his alone. He credits teammates and coaches with pushing him on the field, while his academic advisors, tutors and study partners all helped him excel in the classroom.
"Collectively, a lot of people got me to where I am," Mohamed said.
That puts him in New York City for the first time in his life. He is there, ready for Tuesday's nights presentation, with his family and head coach Jeff Tedford.
"Mike is well-deserving of being a finalist," Tedford said. "He epitomizes the highest character and positive qualities of a student-athlete. He's a great student, great player and great leader. There's no doubt that he deserves this. I know from going to the ceremony when Alex Mack won two years ago, that there were a lot of impressive people there that represented all levels of football. To be one of the people in that group says a lot."
And it means a lot to Mohamed.
"Just being here and being part of this award is such an honor," Mohamed said. "I'm excited about the dinner and I'm looking forward to being in the same room with so many big time people."