Six years ago Logan Brettell, Blue Valley High’s backup quarterback, observed and admired the Tigers’ starter, Kyle Zimmerman.
“I remember staying after practices, throwing with him,” Brettell said. “I really looked up to him. That’s who I wanted to be.”
Those Blue Valley quarterbacks went on to have plenty in common.
Both led teams to state championships, Zimmerman in 2010 and Brettell in 2013.
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This season, they’re first-year college starters and could not have achieved greater success to date, leading their teams to perfect records and deep postseason runs.
Zimmerman has steered Northwest Missouri State to a 12-0 record and the NCAA Division II quarterfinals.
Brettell guides the NAIA’s top offense at Baker University, which has advanced to the national semifinals with a 13-0 record.
This week, the quarterbacks were again linked, this time by one of the top honors in college sports.
Zimmerman and Brettell were chosen Academic All-American of the Year for their classifications.
The awards were created and are presented by College Sports Information Directors of America. Academic All-America teams are selected for NCAA Divisions I, II and III as well as in the college division, which includes NAIA, Canadian and junior colleges.
A top player — an academic MVP — is selected for each group. This year, that’s Zimmerman and Brettell. For them, work in the classroom has been as much a priority as on the field.
“I understood from day one that football wasn’t always going to be there for, and someday there would be bigger things to pursue,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman, a fifth-year senior, has started graduate school. He has a 3.95 GPA in business management.
Waiting his turn to become a starter in the Bearcats program has paid off for Zimmerman, who was the MIAA offensive player of the year and has thrown 35 touchdown passes and two interceptions. He’s also a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the NCAA Division II player of the year.
“His consistency all year is something you really look for in an MVP,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. “To be such a strong player each week is extremely impressive to me.”
Top-ranked Northwest, the defending NCAA champion, meets Harding (Ark.) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Maryville, Mo.
Brettell, a junior, carries a 3.82 GPA studying public relations. He’s the sixth Baker athlete to become an Academic All-American and the first to win the top honor.
“Logan is the epitome of a student-athlete,” Baker coach Mike Grossner said.
The Wildcats, ranked second in NAIA, play host to ninth-ranked Western Oregon at 1 p.m. Saturday in Liston Stadium in Baldwin City, Kan. It’s Baker’s first trip to the national semifinals since 1993.
Brettell leads the nation in passing yards with 4,404 and his 45 touchdown passes are a school record.
“Every student-athlete today can attest to the fact that balancing school with a sport can be extremely challenging,” Brettell said. “It takes a great deal of self-discipline to handle them both efficiently.”
Both players said their school’s academic environment — and the school work emphasis provided by their parents — played roles in the achievements.
Zimmerman and Brettell said they’ve followed each other’s progress.
“He’s playing at an amazing program,” Brettell said of Zimmerman. “He’s worked hard, he’s been patient, and I’m really happy for him.”
Zimmerman remembered his former teammate for his work ethic.
“He put in the hard work, even as a young guy,” Zimmerman said. “I knew then he’d wind up being extremely successful.”