VALLEY CITY (VCSU) – Valley City State University student-athlete Joshua McKnight has been selected as the national winner of the NAIA’s A.O. Duer Scholarship Award.
The NAIA national office made the announcement Tuesday, honoring McKnight with a $1,000 scholarship and an invitation to be recognized at the NAIA National Convention in New Orleans next spring. This prestigious award is presented each year to one male and one female junior NAIA student-athlete, recognizing those who have excelled in scholarship, character and citizenship while attending an NAIA institution. McKnight is the first VCSU student-athlete to ever receive one of the three individual national awards presented annually by the NAIA.
“I’ve known Josh since he was a senior in high school and have enjoyed working closely with him during his first three years at VCSU,” said Dave Bass, VCSU’s faculty athletic representative who facilitated McKnight’s nomination. “Josh models the character values, the academic record and the athletic abilities to represent the A.O. Duer Award.”
McKnight is the first North Star Athletic Association student-athlete to ever receive the A.O. Duer Award, which has been presented annually since 1967. He is also just the second student-athlete from a North Dakota institution to receive the honor. The award is named in recognition of the NAIA’s former executive secretary. Nominees must have attained a junior level academically, and must have at least a 3.75 GPA. The final selection is based on scholarship, character, citizenship and playing ability.
A native of New Rockford, N.D., McKnight joined the VCSU football program as a walk-on running back in 2017 and has since played his way into a key role on the team. He carried the ball 86 times for 269 yards last season, and has now scored seven career touchdowns after finding the end zone in the 2020 season opener on Saturday.
“Starting from his days as a walk-on freshman to our program, Josh has never missed an opportunity to do anything he can to help our program,” said VCSU head coach Dennis McCulloch. “Whether it is volunteering for scout team duties – even when he was receiving ample playing time on Saturdays – or offering to do any dirty work on special teams, there is no job that Josh sees as beneath him.
“Consistently during his time at VCSU, Josh has not only had a knack for making big, momentum changing plays, but he has done so when we needed it most,” said McCulloch, citing key touchdown runs by McKnight last season against rivals University of Jamestown and Mayville State.
Academically, McKnight is pursuing a degree in business process integration management. He has tallied a perfect 4.0 GPA through his first three years and was named to the President’s Honor Roll each of his six semesters. McKnight has also been named an NSAA and NAIA Scholar-Athlete.
“In addition to his stellar academics, he is a leader in the classroom,” said Brenda Tyre, Associate Professor of Business. “He actively engages in class, participates in discussions and assists fellow classmates.”
“Since his first semester at VCSU, Josh has brought intelligence and authentic enthusiasm, sincerity and commitment to VCSU’s academic and athletic communities,” said Jodi Shorma, an assistant professor of English at VCSU.
On campus, McKnight has been involved in the National Society of Leadership and Success, the VCSU Chi Alpha organization and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes group. He also volunteers for blood drives and has assisted with Special Olympics activities and youth football camps.
“Josh has shown great character wherever he goes, whether that is pushing his teammates while in the weight room, running on the field or walking across campus talking with other students, faculty or staff,” said Ethan Bakken, VCSU’s strength and conditioning coach. “He shows a great deal of respect to everyone he comes in contact with.”