Empey named Wuerffel Trophy semifinalist



FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — The Wuerffel Trophy, college football's premier award for community service, today named BYU center James Empey one of 12 semifinalists for the prestigious award. 

Named after Danny Wuerffel, the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida, the Wuerffel Trophy honors college football players who serve others, celebrate their positive impact on society and inspire greater service in the world.

“Once again, I'm amazed by the quality of the student athletes who impact and influence others in their communities,” said Danny Wuerffel. “We are so excited for these young men who represent the best in serving others and inspiring others to follow their lead.  Congratulations to the 2021 Wuerffel Trophy semifinalists."

A team captain and leader on the offensive line for the Cougars, Empey has started in all 41 games he has played over his BYU career. He was 2018 FWAA Freshman All-American and was named a 2021 preseason All-American by both Phil Steele and Athlon Sports. 

In addition to the Wuerffel Trophy, Empey was named semifinalist for the NFF William V. Campbell Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award. He is also a candidate for the 2021 AFCA Good Works Team and was selected to the Rimington Award Watch List for the third time and the Outland Trophy Watch List for the second-straight year. 

Empey has been active in serving others off the field through volunteer work in the community. He has worked with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake's More to Life Foundation in California and New York and organized football's involvement with the My Tiny Hero program in Utah, raising awareness for congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). 

In the classroom, Empey is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection who graduated this summer with a 3.84 GPA as a finance major with a minor in nonprofit management. He is a two-time team captain, member of the BYU Football Leadership Council and served on the Student Athlete Advisory Council at BYU.

Finalists for the Wuerffel Trophy will be announced on Nov. 22. The formal announcement of the 2021 recipient will be made on Dec. 9, with the presentation of the 2021 Wuerffel Trophy scheduled for February 2022 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Wuerffel Trophy semifinalists (listed alphabetically by university)

  • Kekaula Kaniho, Boise State University, senior, defensive back
  • James Empey, Brigham Young University, junior, offensive line
  • Austin Williams, Mississippi State University, senior, wide receiver
  • Sean Clifford, Pennsylvania State University, senior, quarterback
  • Isaiah Sanders, Stanford University, senior, quarterback
  • Elijah Hicks, University of California, senior, defensive back
  • Nakobe Dean, University of Georgia, junior, linebacker
  • Mac Brown, University of Mississippi, senior, punter
  • Patrick Fields, University of Oklahoma, senior, defensive back
  • Mo Hasan, University of Southern California, senior, quarterback
  • Brock Hoffman, Virginia Tech University, junior, offensive line
  • Mike Caliendo, Western Michigan University, senior, offensive line

Wuerffel Trophy Past Recipients
Past recipients of the award are: Rudy Niswanger – Louisiana State University - 2005; Joel Penton - Ohio State University - 2006; Paul Smith – University of Tulsa - 2008; Tim Tebow – University of Florida - 2008; Tim Hiller - Western Michigan University - 2009; Sam Acho – University of Texas - 2010; Barrett Jones – University of Alabama - 2011; Matt Barkley – University of Southern California - 2012; Gabe Ikard – University of Oklahoma - 2013; Deterrian Shackelford – University of Mississippi - 2014; Ty Darlington – University of Oklahoma - 2015; Trevor Knight - Texas A&M University - 2016; Courtney Love – University of Kentucky; 2017; Drue Tranquill - University of Notre Dame; 2018; Jon Wassink - Western Michigan University – 2019; Teton Saltes – University of New Mexico - 2020. 

About the Wuerffel Trophy
Established in 2005, the Wuerffel Trophy honors college football players who serve others, celebrate their impact, and inspire greater service in the world. A member of the National College Football Awards Association, the Wuerffel Trophy is presented annually to the FBS player who best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field.  It is the first major award honoring the character of service to others.

The Wuerffel Trophy is named after Heisman Trophy winner, College Football Hall of Famer, former NFL quarterback, and renowned humanitarian Danny Wuerffel, whose life mission is to inspire greater service in the world. Wuerffel led the University of Florida to four SEC Championships and the Gators’ first National Football Championship as the team’s star quarterback. The 1996 Heisman Trophy winner set 17 NCAA and Florida records and won a myriad of other awards including the Maxwell Award, the Davey O’Brien Award, and The William V. Campbell Trophy, presented to the nation’s top scholar-athlete. As a nationally recognized humanitarian, Wuerffel inspires leaders to use their influence to make a positive impact.