SALEM, Va. -- Elmhurst running back Scottie Williams has been named the winner of the Gagliardi Trophy, the award that recognizes the most outstanding football player in Division III.

Named for legendary St. John's football coach John Gagliardi, the recently retired winningest coach in college football history with 489 wins, the Gagliardi Trophy has been awarded annually since the 1993 season. Williams is the first Elmhurst player to earn the award and just the fifth running back to receive the honor over the past 20 seasons.

"I am truly speechless right now," Williams said. "I am grateful for this honor but am more blessed to have been around a fantastic group of coaches who helped me achieve all of this."

Williams powered Elmhurst to its best season in school history. The Bluejays set a school record for wins in a season (10) and won a share of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) title for the first time since the 1980 season. In addition, the Bluejays advanced to the Round of 16 of the NCAA playoffs, becoming the first Elmhurst team to be selected to the playoffs and win a playoff game.

Scottie Williams accepting the award.
D3photography.com

"Winning the Gagliardi Trophy is a great honor, but what we accomplished as a team ranks miles above any individual accomplishments," Williams said. "Our team success is what made this season special. I couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished on the field as a team and I hope that our returning players next year can build on what we achieved this season."

Named the CCIW's Offensive Player of the Year and a National Football Coaches Association All-American in 2012, Williams sparked Elmhurst's rushing attack and rewrote the college's record book in the process. He set Elmhurst single-season records for rushing yards (2,046) and rushing touchdowns (22) this season. He averaged 170.5 yards per game, ranking second in Division III in rushing and 6.2 yards per carry this season while also catching 23 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

A four-time all-conference selection, Williams shattered Elmhurst's career rushing record with 5,203 yards, eclipsing the previous mark by more than 1,600 yards while also establishing new career records for rushing touchdowns (50) and points scored (332).

He led the CCIW in rushing, totaling 1,153 yards against conference competition and closed out his CCIW career ranked second all-time with 3,507 rushing yards, finishing just 17 yards behind the league's all-time leading rusher (former NFL running back Jim Jodat).

"Scottie is one of the players we recruited in my first year," Elmhurst head coach Tim Lester said. "He was part of a group of seniors that we started our building process with. Scottie is one of the most humble players I've ever met, and he possesses all the qualities that what we look for when recruiting players to Elmhurst College. I couldn't be any happier for Scottie and his family."

A true student-athlete, Williams has had success in the classroom as well. He has twice earned Academic All-Conference honors and was a first-team Capital One Academic All-American in 2011.

Off the field, Williams has participated in President Barack Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, a nationwide initiative to promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation. He also helped build homes as part of Elmhurst's Habitat for Humanity chapter.

Along with his teammates, Williams helped raise funds for a variety of causes. He participated in the annual Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and also helped raise money for the Ray Graham Association, a local organization that provides opportunities to people with disabilities. The son of a pastor, Williams also has volunteered at a vacation bible school at his father's church, the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.

"There are a lot of awards that only recognize athletic achievement," Williams said. "So winning an award that also recognizes your accomplishments as a student and for giving back to the community makes this honor that much more special."