Jarrell NeSmith of Russellville, Ala., has been recognized as “Student of the Block” for Block Three at Tusculum College.
The “Student of the Block” award recognizes students for academic achievement, campus leadership or community service, but it is difficult to decide for which of these three areas that Jarrell NeSmith should be recognized because he has excelled at all three, said Dr. David McMahan, dean of students at the college, during the award ceremony.
NeSmith, a senior majoring in pre-medicine with a concentration in biology, came to Tusculum College as a football recruit with a goal of high achievement in the classroom and hard work on the gridiron. “It was a chance to get away from home and experience something new,” says NeSmith of his college choice. “The campus was small in size, quiet, had a great community and held a great deal of diversity.
His interest in the medical field was born from watching his mother’s love for her 20-year nursing career. Always placing academics as his first priority, NeSmith has been an exemplary example of perseverance, action and hard work in the classroom, maintaining a 3.87 grade average and earning the praise of each professor he encounters.
Robin Tipton, assistant professor of chemistry, said, “There are two things that really stand out when I think back to Jarrell in my classes. The first item is Jarrell’s smile and easygoing personality. He always came to class with a positive attitude and kept the upbeat mood throughout the class period.
“Jarrell has a natural ability to work with others, and students in class were always asking him for assistance. The second item is a song he wrote in organic chemistry I about alkanes, alkenes and alkynes. The song was not an assignment, but was actually written as a way to relive some stress of studying for his first test. It is not very often that I have a student who goes out of his way to put time and energy into a class-related activity that has no effect on his grade, but that is the type of student Jarrell is.”
Tipton, as well as biology professors Dr. Robert Davis and Dr. Debra McGinn, are whom NeSmith counts as the professors who had the most influence on him during his time at Tusculum. “They were all very helpful throughout my collegiate career and made sure of my general learning. They were truly concerned about my learning success after Tusculum College.”
Among his favorite classes in addition to biology and physiology were physical fitness and wellness and service-learning, he says, because they allowed him “to learn in a hands-on style about the human body and to get out and help people in the community, getting a true feel for community service.”
NeSmith has a desire to serve those in both the campus and greater communities. He enjoys his community service opportunities such as working with Habitat for Humanity and being a “Big Buddy” to an elementary school student and relishes his influence with younger students, advising them to focus on academics and continue to maintain academic excellence as their priority.
As he prepares to graduate later this month, NeSmith says he will miss all these opportunities for engagement. “The people are who I will truly miss. I’ve made more than friends; these people are my family. I will also miss the faculty and staff who have supported me and the atmosphere of the campus.”
A modest and humble individual, NeSmith takes his accomplishment and honors in stride, always giving thanks to those who have helped him garner the accolades. “It’s a great honor that people thought highly enough of me to nominate and select me for ‘Student of the Block.’ I’m glad to be able to represent the school to the best of my ability.”
Deborah Davis, associate director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer for the college, spoke of his personality and character in her nomination. “Whether it is the flash of his Hollywood, camera-worthy smile or the way he carries himself with poise and dignity, Jarrell is a natural born leader in both the academic and athletic realms . . . Jarrell has accomplished so much in such a short span of time. If I were lucky enough to have a son of my own, I would want him to embody the character and qualities of this fine young man.”
NeSmith has garnered numerous honors for both his academic excellence and athletic achievement on the football field.
He is the only NCAA Division II representative on the 2009 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Team, which includes Heisman Trophy candidates Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. He was one of the 16 national finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. Earlier this fall, he was also a Southeast Region representative for the 2008-09 Division II Commissioner’s Scholar Athlete Award and was a national semifinalist for the American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team.
He was selected as the 2008-09 recipient of the South Atlantic Conference President’s Award, becoming only the second football player in the history of the award to earn the conference’s most prestigious honor. He is also a three-time recipient of the SAC Scholar Athlete Award, becoming the first football player in league history to receive the honor three times.
NeSmith also earned a spot on the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America® Football First Team. He was an Academic All-America® Second Team selection last year, marking the first time a Pioneer football player has garnered Academic All-America® honors twice in his career.
He is a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, and has been listed on the President’s List and Dean’s List academic honors lists throughout his time at Tusculum. NeSmith has also received the E.H. Sargent Science Award, which is given to the top science major at the college; the Duffield Award, presented to the student athletes at Tusculum with highest grade point average; and the Tusculum Academic Freshman of the Year Award, which recognizes the member of the freshman class with the highest GPA.
On the football field, he is a two-time All-South Atlantic Conference First Team selection, including this year when he led the league in receiving yards per game, averaging 67.8 yards per contest. The senior tight end posted 56 catches for 678 yards and three touchdowns. He earned All-America honors in 2008 from three organizations as he posted 67 receptions for 635 yards and seven touchdowns and was also an All-Conference and All-Region selection.