Some college football players aspire to win the Heisman Trophy. Others covet various awards given to the best player at their position.
Hale Hentges, Alabama’s tight end from Jefferson City, Missouri, was elated to see his name on a watch list last month. And while he was listed as a candidate for the Mackey Award for the best player at his particular position, it was his recognition on the preseason list for the Wuerffel Trophy that most excited him.
“Definitely a surprise,” Hentges said. “Obviously I have extremely high goals for myself, but just seeing it actually in writing is something that has been extremely remarkable, and I can’t express my gratitude to people that put me on that list.”
Danny Wuerffel, for whom the award is named, played quarterback at Florida in the 1990s, but the award isn’t position-specific. It was created in 2005 and is awarded by the Emerald Coast All Sports Association at its banquet in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to the Football Bowl Association player who “best combines exemplary community service with academic and athletic achievement.” Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi nicknamed it “the Humanitarian Heisman.”
The 6-foot-5, 254-pound senior has played in 43 games in his Alabama career, making 13 starts. He has caught 11 passes for 90 yards with three touchdowns, but has made his mark mostly as a blocker.
It’s the kind of unselfish sort of role you might expect from someone who devotes himself to service to others.
“I feel like I hang my hat so much on blocking,” he said. “I know that so many people overlook that, but to just be out there and be able to do your job every single play is something that I take a lot of pride in.
“Hopefully people take note of that because that’s what’s important to me, just getting my job done.”
Hentges graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in May, finishing with a 3.744 grade-point average. He has made the Dean’s List six times, the SEC’s academic honor roll three times and is currently enrolled in graduate school working toward a master’s degree in marketing.
His community service includes volunteer work to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity, hospital visits on Alabama’s bowl trips and involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Former Crimson Tide offensive lineman Barrett Jones won the Outland Trophy, the Rimington Trophy, the Jacobs Blocking Trophy and the William B. Campbell Trophy, along with first-team All-America recognition and other awards. He won the Wuerffel Trophy in 2011 and ranks it among his highest honors.
“It means a lot to me because the awards that were not just football were cool,” Jones said. “The fact that it was supposed to be a combination of academics, athletics and community service, I always wanted to be well-rounded and I think that’s what this award is all about: not just contribute on the field, but also in the classroom and mainly the community service aspect of it seems to be maybe the most important aspect of this trophy.
“All the winners look forward to getting back together every year. It’s a neat deal. Other than (Tim) Tebow it’s not the same name-brand type guys, but it’s a bunch of great dudes who have had very successful careers after football doing different things. It’s a really cool community and a really cool award.”
That’s why Hentges was so proud to see his name on the watch list. He’s a player at the top program in the country, but wants you to know that there is more to him than football.
“So many people just look at us strictly as football players because that’s all they ever see, but it’s a community, it’s a lifestyle, it’s everything that you do here,” he said. “It’s so much more than just football, so I’m glad to be able to be on that watch list to kind of show some of that hard work that I’ve been doing off the field.”
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.