Wesley quarterback Callahan wins Gagliardi Trophy

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Wesley quarterback Joe Callahan poses with the Gagliardi Trophy Wednesday night. (Larry Radloff, D3photography.com)

SALEM, Va. — Joe Callahan would rather be going back to Dover with a national championship trophy.

But the Wesley College quarterback will leave Salem with perhaps Division III football’s second-best prize — the Gagliardi Trophy.

Callahan was named the Wolverines’ second winner of the prestigious award on Wednesday night at the Gagliardi presentation banquet in Salem, site of Friday night’s national title game.

As a junior, Callahan was a finalist for the award, which is symbolic of the country’s best small-college football player.

“I think before they announced that I was probably more nervous than I have been for any football game so far,” Callahan said afterward. “I really wanted to win this year. It would have been tough making a seven-hour drive back (to Delaware) losing.”

“To win the Gagliardi Trophy is the greatest honor in small college football and there is no one in the country more deserving than Joe Callahan,” said Wesley coach Mike Drass, who attended the banquet. “I’m so proud of Joe for this accomplishment, and so excited for the Wesley College football program.

“It’s not often that you have a first-team All-American on the field that is also a first-team All-American in the classroom. But that’s what we have in Joe. It’s been a privelege to coach him during his time at Wesley.””

Callahan joins defensive back Rocky Myers (2004) as the two Wolverines to win the Gagliardi.

Myers is the only South Region player to win the award in its 23-year history. With Wesley joining the New Jersey Athletic Conference this year, Callahan now becomes the first East Region player to win it.

This year’s other Gagliardi finalists were Guilford quarterback Matt Pawlowski, tackle David Simmet from St. Thomas and St. John’s running back Sam Sura.

Callahan broke the NCAA Division III single-season record for passing yards and became the first quarterback in Division III history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season (5,063). Callahan threw for 55 touchdowns, the second-most in a season by a Division III quarterback.

He joins Hawaii’s Colt Brennan as the only two players to throw for 5,000 yards and 55 touchdowns in a season.

The senior led the Division III in seven major offensive categories: passing touchdowns, passing yards, passing yards per game, points responsible for, points responsible for per game, total offense and yards per pass attempt. He also finished among top five in passing efficiency. completion percentage, and completions per game.

Callahan was also named a CoSIDA Academic All-American, selected to the first team. He has maintained a 3.42 cumulative GPA in the exercise science program at Wesley.

He is also an active volunteer in the Wesley College and Greater Dover community. He has participated in many charitable organizations and events including the Muscle Movement Foundation, the Lower Delaware Boys and Girls Club Alcohol Awareness Day, the Read Across America program, as well as the ‘Cougars for a Cause’ 5k in conjunction with the Campus Community School in Dover.

Besides Drass, also accompanying Callahan in Salem to accept the award were his parents Joe and Judy Callahan, his sister Susan, his girlfiend Carolyn Rossetti, coaches Mike Drass, Chip Knapp, and Steve Azzanesi, as well as Wesley president Robert Clark.

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