Eastern Kentucky University Honors Scholar and football quarterback Tyler Swafford is the winner of the 2016 Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, STATS LLC announced today. The award is given each year to a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) student-athlete who excels not only on the field and in the classroom, but in the community and beyond.
The award is named in honor of the wife of the legendary coach at Grambling State, Eddie Robinson.
Swafford will receive the award on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas, the night before the FCS National Championship game. The Doris and Eddie Robinson Award will be presented along with the Walter Payton Award, the Buck Buchanan Award and the Jerry Rice Award at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet.
On Nov. 19, Swafford was chosen as EKU’s first Mitchell Scholar, and the first from a public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program is a national, competitive scholarship sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance. The scholarship has become so popular that in the previous three years, of the 10 individuals to be offered both a Mitchell Scholarship and Rhodes Scholarship interview, eight opted for the Mitchell.
Swafford will spend the 2017-18 academic year working on a postgraduate degree at University College Dublin in Ireland.
The Franklin, Tennessee, native showed his dedication to academics and athletics on that same day. Swafford interviewed for the prestigious scholarship at 8:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C. He then boarded a plane bound for Central Kentucky Regional Airport just south of Richmond. He arrived in Kentucky at 12:40 p.m., just 80 minutes before he was to take the field as the Colonels’ starting quarterback against league rival Eastern Illinois. Not long after the game he learned, out of more than 320 applicants, he was one of 12 who would comprise the 2018 class of George J. Mitchell Scholars.
The senior globalization and international affairs major will study geopolitics and global economy in Dublin.
Swafford plans to pursue a career as an international human rights attorney after he graduates in May 2017. Two experiences at EKU – one as a member of the Honors Program and the other as a member of the football team – galvanized his career choice. He was part of the University’s Honors delegation to the Salzburg Global Citizenship Seminar this past May, an experience that included a “profound” trip to the Dachau concentration camp.
In May 2015, Swafford joined 19 football teammates and three coaches to serve with the Hands and Feet Project in quake-ravaged Haiti, where he was “deeply impacted” by the Haitians’ “innocent love for life, sports and people.”
This past summer, Swafford helped resettle a family of six Syrian refugees through Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
In addition to being a George J. Mitchell Scholar, Swafford has a 4.0 cumulative GPA, is an EKU Honors Scholar and will earn his degree in just three years (May 2017). He is a recipient of the Ohio Valley Conference Academic Medal of Honor (given annually to the student-athletes who achieves the highest grade point average in a Conference-sponsored sport) and is on the OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll.
On the field this season, Swafford amassed 940 passing yards, five passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He went 5-for-6 with a touchdown pass at Purdue, threw for a season-best 289 yards versus Murray State and tossed two touchdown passes while helping EKU tie the program record for points in a game (67) at Austin Peay.
The Mitchell Scholarship Program, named for a long-time distinguished U.S. senator and statesman, is designed to introduce and connect generations of future American leaders to the island of Ireland. Applicants are judged on three criteria: academic excellence, exemplary leadership and a sustained commitment to community and public service. The program provides tuition, accommodation, a stipend for living expenses and travel.
Swafford was chosen as the Doris Robinson Award recipient from a list of finalists representing all 13 FCS conferences. The other finalists were: Dayton linebacker Christopher Beaschler (Pioneer Football League), New Hampshire cornerback Casey DeAndrade (CAA Football), Saint Francis place-kicker Lance Geesey (Northeast Conference), Liberty offensive lineman Lucas Holder (Big South Conference), Alcorn State linebacker Michael Hurns (Southwestern Athletic Conference), North Dakota linebacker Brian Labat (Big Sky Conference), Wofford place-kicker David Marvin (Southern Conference), Delaware State offensive lineman Ernest Mengoni (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), Northern Iowa defensive end Karter Schult (Missouri Valley Football Conference), Stephen F. Austin safety Marlon Walls (Southland Conference), Penn wide receiver Justin Watson (Ivy League) and Holy Cross wide receiver Jake Wieczorek (Patriot League).