JONESBORO, Ark. (9/27/17) – A two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection highlighted in a recent Sports Illustrated article as the only current FBS player in the nation to earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before the start of his true senior season, Arkansas State cornerback and return specialist Blaise Taylor was named a William V. Campbell Trophy semifinalist Wednesday by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF).
Taylor is one of 181 semifinalists up for consideration of the award that recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation. The NFF will announce 12-14 finalists on Nov. 1, and each of them will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments.
The finalists will travel to New York City for the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 5, when 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 28th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.
Candidates for the award must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, possess a GPA of at least 3.2, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers and athletics administrators.
Taylor earned his Master of Business Administration in August 2017 with a 3.82 GPA, and he also graduated Magna Cum Laude in August 2016 with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. A member of the Arkansas State University Chancellor’s List, Dean’s List, Athletics Director’s Honor Roll and Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List, Taylor earned both degrees in less than four years.
“I’ve never heard of that, don’t know that I’ve ever seen it,” A-State head coach Blake Anderson said in a media interview this fall about Taylor earning both degrees before the start of his true senior season. “That’s what he wanted to do. Nobody forced him – it’s just something he wanted to do. He’s so involved in the community. Every time you turn around, he volunteers for something. Out here (on the football field), he’s playing better than he’s ever played. He tutors other guys, you name it. He’s unique. He’s one of a kind. I’m happy to have him on our squad."
The Waco, Texas, native has been named a Top 10 junior in the College of Business, and he is a recipient of the Strong-Turner 3.0 Society Award. Taylor was also one of just eight students to receive a prestigious Distinguished Service Award from Arkansas State University in April 2017.
A 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee and two-time Wuerffel Trophy Watch List member, Taylor has been heavily involved in community service while also spending time on the Arkansas State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He recently created a non-profit organization with his sister, sophomore A-State women’s basketball guard Starr Taylor, titled “The Power of 1 and 2.” The organization is designed to work with underprivileged at-risk children. He is highly invested in working with at-risk youth, including participating at a local alternative school called Success Academy.
Taylor is active with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has organized and coordinated student-athletes’ efforts to sponsor a child at Christmas by collecting monetary donations and purchasing gifts on the children’s Christmas lists.
A speaker at the first ever Annie Camp Junior High School football team’s “Mom’s Night,” Taylor has also been an Autism Walk participant, acted as a Special Olympics volunteer and worked with community health and wellness education activities, as well as alcohol and drug awareness events. He is a Word Campus Church member, where he has also participated in community service events. Additionally, Taylor volunteers at local schools and churches as part of team community service projects, and he participated in the “Feed the Children” event at the 2016 Cure Bowl.
Taylor is a 2017 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection as both a return specialist (first team) and defensive back (second team). His football career has seen him pile up 78 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 18 pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick while earning all-conference recognition in both 2014 and 2016.
A member of the 2017 Hornung Award Watch List, Taylor has is three-time Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and was named the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Punt Returner of the Week on Nov. 17, 2014. He is the A-State career record holder for career punt return yards (896), which is also the second most in Sun Belt Conference history.
The senior standout holds three of the top-10 marks in school history for punt return yards in a game, as well as in a season. He is the second all-time leader in Sun Belt Conference history for punt returns for a touchdown (4), while his 896 career punt return yards are the second most in the nation among active players.