Q&A: Football Player & Scholar-Athlete Jeff Minnerly
No longer 'floating' after national title, free safety and his teammates are back to work both in the weight room and in the classroom
The "floating" season is officially over for free safety Jeff Minnerly and the Eastern Washington University football team.
The junior-to-be had an honor-filled 2010 season for the Eagles, capped by Eastern's 20-19 victory over Delaware in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
But after a couple of weeks of celebrating, the Eagles went back to work with weight training and conditioning in preparation for the 2011 season. And for Minnerly, a 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., that also means maintaining the gaudy 3.88 grade point average he has accumulated at EWU thus far.
Minnerly was selected as the athletic department's male recipient of the Scholar-Athlete award for the month of December. The day before the title game, the finance major was awarded the "Elite 88" Award by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for having the highest cumulative grade point average among the participants in the game.
Minnerly was also honored as an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was also chosen for the Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). In addition, he was selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time in 2010.
Minnerly is a former quarterback who started nine of 15 games this season for the 13-2 Eagles. He finished with 50 tackles (10th on the team), three interceptions (second) and six passes broken up (fourth) for the year. He had two tackles and broke-up two passes in the championship game, and had four tackles, an interception and a pass broken up in three playoff victories in December
Early in the 2010 season, Minnerly had a friendly wager with linebacker Zach Johnson and redshirt Ronnie Hamlin as to who would cut their hair first. Since the team's appearance in Frisco, Zach has since dropped out of the competition, leaving Minnerly and Hamlin to determine a winner. Although facial hair was not included, Minnerly also sported a "Grizzly Adams" full beard until the season concluded.
Minnerly was a 4.0 student at Ferris where he excelled in football and basketball. Another former Ferris player, Jordan Tonani, recently signed a letter of intent to play football for the Eagles and attend EWU next fall.
Q: It's been a month since you won the national championship. Are you still floating or has the reality of winning the title kind of sunk in?
A: "I don't think the full reality has set in, but a lot of it has. We're back to working out now, so I definitely don't think there is anymore floating. There are a lot of good experiences that can be gained from the national championship, so I don't think that is over. But at the same time we're back to work getting ready for next year."
Q: You won the NCAA Elite 88 Award for having the highest GPA among participants in the championship game. How did that make you feel?
A: "Obviously, it's a great honor and a nice surprise. It's nice to be rewarded for working hard in school. I'm very excited and very proud."
Q: Why did you decide to come to Eastern?
A: "Basically I wanted to play football at the highest level I could, and Eastern was the top school that gave me a chance. I just followed my dream to play college football."
Q: What's the best part of being an Eastern student?
A: "The thing I like the most is the camaraderie with our team and with the athletes of other sports. Between all of the sports teams, we have pretty good relationships. I don't know if other schools and universities can say the same thing. My favorite part is how close all of the athletes are."
Q: Do you have a favorite professor, and why?
A: "The favorite professor I've had was Dr. (Garrett) Kenney. I had him my freshman year for two courses. He wasn't just a great professor but he's a great person too. It was fun to talk to him about the things we do in class and the things we had outside of class."
Q: Have you had a favorite class at Eastern?
A: "My favorite class would have to be Government 100. It was my first really big lecture class and I had it with a fellow teammate, Kyle Wilkins. It was a fun to get to go through it with Kyle."
Q: Who is your favorite teammate?
A: "I would say Anthony Larry. He puts on this big tough-guy persona, but he's not really like that off the field. He has an infectious laugh and he has a funny personality, and you wouldn't expect that from a 6-foot-3, 250-pound behemoth. So we'll go with Anthony Larry."
Q: You're a finance major. What are your plans after college?
A: "That's up in the air and my mind seems to change every three to six months. I will get a finance degree here, but I'll still have more time to attend school because of football. So I'll probably take some engineering classes and get close to an engineering degree as well. Then I'll try to find a job that I enjoy that applies to both of those fields and my talents."
Q: What is one tip you would give a student-athlete to be successful in school and in their sport?
A: "I would say time management and work ethic are the two biggest things. The better you manage your time the easier everything is going to be. Your sport is going to be a time commitment and school is obviously a big time commitment as well. It's tough to fit all your responsibilities into the day. By the same token, you have to work pretty hard to be successful in both phases. If you can combine those two things, I think anyone can be successful."
Q: How do you feel about being a role model for your fellow student-athletes?
A: "I like to show other student-athletes that they can do it too. Just because you are playing a sport doesn't mean you can't be successful in the classroom. If that means being a role model for other student-athletes and helping them toward the same academic success, I'm all for it."
Q: What is your best memory at Eastern so far?
A: "It's tough to beat the national championship, and obviously, beating Montana on the red turf was pretty cool. But my best memory has to be winning the national championship -- it's not every day you win one of those."
Q: What is your most prized possession?
A: "It would have to be my collection of Harry Potter books -- first edition of course, one through seven, and in fairly good condition. That would be what I would be most upset with if I walked into my room and it was gone."
Q: Who was your first celebrity crush and why?
A: "Reese Witherspoon probably. No reason, but she was great in Sweet Home Alabama."
Q: Do you have a hidden talent? Can you sing and dance?
A: "No, I can't sing and I can't dance at all. But I would argue that I'm a pretty good ping pong player. That might be my hidden talent, although I don't know if that counts as a talent."
Q: What is your favorite pizza?
A: "Pepperoni and black olives."
Q: What is the place you would most like to travel to?
A: "This is kind of a boring answer, but I would say Hawaii. I say that just because I haven't been there and I'd like to go. Besides that, maybe somewhere out of the country."