MURRAY — The embodiment of the phrase student-athlete, James Sappington of the Murray State football team added another honor to his distinguished career Tuesday when he was named to the 2019 FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star team.
Sappington was one 53 individuals that was selected from a pool of over 110 applicants. Leading the way was the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which placed nine student-athletes on the 2019 Academic All-Star Team. The MVFC was followed closely by the Colonial Athletic Association and the Big Sky Conference, which tallied six recipients each, while Sappington was one of five recipients from the OVC.
Football players from all FCS institutions are eligible for the award. Each of the nominees were required to have a minimum grade point average of 3.20 (on a 4.00 scale) in undergraduate study and have been a starter or key player with legitimate athletics credentials. They must have reached their second year of athletics and academic standing at the nominated institution and have completed a minimum of one full academic year at the nominated institution. They also must have participated in 50 percent (50%) of the games played at their designated position.
Sappington graduated last May with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance and returned to Murray State this fall to pursue a graduate degree and complete his football eligibility. Despite an injury limiting him to just seven games, the Peculiar, Missouri native made them count as he finished with nine catches for 86 yards and three touchdowns.
However, Sappington’s legacy will be less about his on field accomplishments, though significant, and more about his off-field accomplishments. On top of being an exemplary student and participating in countless community service activities, Sappington was also the quintessential teammate.
Recruited as a kicker, Sappington served as a backup to Connor Mitchell during his freshman year. The following year, just when he was poised to take on the starting role, he suffered an injury forcing the addition of Gabriel Vicente. With the success of Vicente, Sappington served as kicker on kickoffs only that year, but he wanted more. The following spring, he told the staff he had more to offer and suggested a move to tight end. It turned out Sappington did have more to offer, as he finished his junior season with 439 yards on 24 catches with two touchdowns to lead the Racers in yard per catch on the season 18.3. For his work both on the field and the classroom that year, he earned a place on the prestigious CoSIDA Academic All-District team as a tight end.