Montana football team captain and William V. Campbell Trophy finalist Derek Crittenden is officially one step closer to becoming a Rhodes Scholar after receiving an invitation to participate in the District 14 interview process in Seattle on Nov. 20-21.

In the U.S., 32 Rhodes Scholarships are awarded nationally in 16 districts. As a finalist for District 14, Crittenden is one of the select few scholars from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington who will compete for just two Rhodes Scholarships, which support two-three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

"This interview is the accumulation of making the most out of my experience at the University," said Crittenden. "I'm extremely honored to represent Montana on one of the biggest stages in the academic world."

Crittenden is Montana's seventh Rhodes finalist in the past 11 years. UM has produced 28 scholarship winners, dating back George Barnes, who won the Rhodes in 1904.

According the Rhodes Trust website, Rhodes Scholars are judged not only on their outstanding scholarly achievements, but also their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their leadership capabilities in their chosen field.

The scholarship is named after Cecil Rhodes, who stipulated in his will that the award be presented on the following criteria: 1) Literary and scholastic attainments,
2) Energy to use one's talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports, 3) Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship, and 4) Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.

"The competition for this award is intense, as some of the best, brightest and most ambitious students across the nation apply. It is a substantial achievement simply to make it to this final stage of screening," said UM Rhodes representative and student adviser Ashby Kinch.

"He is an inspiring example of the energy, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity we hope to see in our most talented students. We hope the committee sees the tremendous promise and potential that we see in Derek."

In preparation for his Rhodes interview, Crittenden will undergo a mock interview process that will test his capabilities to think on his feet while competing against some of the region's greatest minds.

In Seattle, Crittenden will undergo two full days of meetings, social activities and interviews that will culminate with the announcement of the two scholarship winners late Saturday afternoon.

As such, Crittenden was forced to make the difficult choice to miss the annual Griz-Cat game, but for Montana coach Bob Stitt, the choice was clear. 

"The Rhodes scholarship is the opportunity of a lifetime for Derek. It's so important for his future, the team and the University of Montana that we want to do everything possible to help him achieve it."

Should Crittenden be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, he plans to study organic chemistry in his post-graduate work at Oxford.

Until that time, he and his Montana teammates will be in Pocatello, Idaho, this weekend to face Idaho State in a key Big Sky Conference matchup.