Hope College football standout Brandon Graham of Hudsonville has been awarded a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in recognition of academic and athletic excellence.
Graham is one of 35 honorees from all NCAA football teams. He is one of two students being honored from MIAA member schools. The other is Albion senior Neil Johnson of Rochester Hills. The NCAA created the postgraduate scholarship program in 1964 to honor outstanding student-athletes from NCAA member institutions who are also outstanding scholars. Honorees receive a $5,000 scholarship for postgradauate study at the university or professional school of their choice. Graham becomes the ninth Hope student-athlete to receive this distinction since 1974. "Submitting Brandon Graham's credentials for an NCAA postgraduate scholarship was a natural," said Dr. John Van Iwaarden, professor of mathematics and the Hope College faculty representative to the NCAA. "We all know about his superb athletic achievements, but the faculty people who interact with him on a daily basis know of his outstanding academic performance done with quiet confidence and kindly attitude. Brandon is eminently qualified for this award as a model of the true NCAA student-athlete." A kinesiology major with a grade point average of 3.40, this is the second academic honor presented to Graham as a scholar-athlete. He earlier was named a GTE Academic All-American. This past fall he led the Flying Dutchmen to a co- championship of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA). A tailback, he became the first Hope football player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons and the first player in modern day conference history to lead the league in rushing for three years. He was voted Michigan's NCAA Division III football player of the year by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame and was a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy as the nation's top Division III football player. He is presently one of 27 candidates for Michigan's top 1997 sports figure by the Detroit Free Press. Last month he played in the Aztec Bowl in Mexico. The game pitted 36 of the best Division III players in the United States against the Mexican national championship team. Graham rewrote the Hope record book, finishing with 4,362 yards rushing and scoring 49 touchdowns. He rushed for 100 yards in every game this season and in 21 of 25 games as a starter. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. William (Kathleen) Graham of Hudsonville. Other Hope football players to receive the NCAA award are Ron Posthuma (1974), Craig Groendyk (1980), Kurt Brinks (1983) and Scott Jecmen (1985). Other honorees have included Randy Cutler (baseball, 1985), Jennifer Straley (swimming, 1988), Jeff Bannink (swimming, 1993) and Derek VanderHeide (swimming, 1997).