Tigers one of only two Iowa schools to be recognized
On the field, inside the classroom, and out in the community — members of the Gilbert football team excel in all three environments.
Don’t just take our word for it. Listen to the National Football Foundation (NFF).
On Wednesday, the Gilbert Community School District was pleased to learn the Tigers’ football program received a 2023-24 NFF National High School Academic Excellence Award. Presented by the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, this award goes to the top academic football teams from each state, and service work in the community is also factored into the winners. The initiative is designed to inspire and foster a culture of academic excellence in high school football teams throughout the nation.
Gilbert and Van Meter were the only two Iowa schools to receive the award. Only 56 schools nationally were honored.
“The neatest thing about this is being able to celebrate all of the things that people don’t always think about,” Gilbert head football coach Graham Lundt said. “It’s cool this foundation is doing this because they get to recognize a program. Winning and losing is important, but it’s not the only important thing.”
Eligibility requirements for the award include:
- A minimum cumulative team GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
- A superior academic application and performance.
- A successful football season.
The Gilbert football team compiled a 3.61 GPA with four of its players owning a 4.0 GPA. In all, 27 of the 31 juniors and seniors were named academic all-district this past fall, and eight players were honored with academic all-state status.
In the community, members of the football team routinely offer help to families who are moving, and they are the featured attractions at the Kids Camp that occurs over the summer, complete with a homemade Slip N Slide.
Gilbert put together a 6-3 season on the field in 2023. The Tigers won their opening six games of the season and were ranked as high as No. 2 (Class 4A) by some publications.
Lundt pointed out that many of the things celebrated in this award – the academic success, the leadership success, the community outreach success – took place prior to the start of the 2023 season. At that time, Gilbert had won only one of its previous 19 games.
“We want to go undefeated in everything we can control, and this is something we can control,” Lundt said, referring to the classroom and off-the-field success. “Every single person in the program can be a part of it because every single person can contribute to academic success, to leadership success, to growing as an individual.”
Each state high school coaches association selects its respective state’s winners from the pool of nominees. A selection committee, assembled and led by the NFF, will be responsible for choosing the one school as the recipient of the Hatchell Cup as the best team in the nation.
The winner of the Hatchell Cup will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and it comes with a $10,000 donation.
This NFF program began in February of 2021. The awards represent the first nationwide recognition honoring individual high school football teams for excellence in the classroom and community.
The Grundy Center High School football team was the national award winner in 2022-23.