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ORLANDO, Fla. – John Urschel doesn’t have to wait until next month’s NFL Draft to join an exclusive club that includes only top athletic talents. He’s now part of a group that is considered the cream of the crop.

The Canisius High School and Penn State graduate attained another prestigious honor Friday night that places him in the company of stellar athletes such as 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis and five-time NFL MVP and one-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning. Urschel was named winner of the 84th Sullivan Award during a ceremony at the Amateur Athletic Union’s national headquarters here.

The Sullivan Award honors an athlete who demonstrates the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism.

Urschel beat out Florida track and field athlete Cory Ann McGee and Nebraska volleyball player Kelsey Robinson for the honor.

“John ranks among the best scholar-athletes to ever set foot on the gridiron, having achieved the highest levels of excellence in the classroom and on the playing field,” said National Football Foundation President and CEO Steve Hatchell. “He is a great ambassador to football, Penn State and all aspiring amateur athletes. He is first class in every way and absolutely deserving of this recognition.”

Urschel, a News All-Western New York First Team selection and Trench Trophy winner during his high school football playing days in 2008, was one of 15 guards invited to participate in last February’s NFL Combine.

The third-team All-American and two-time Big Ten First Team All-Star paved the way for three 1,000-yard rushers at Penn State, helping the Nittany Lions to winning seasons in each of his four years on the team.

However, the 6-foot-3, 315-pounder proved to be an even bigger star in the classroom.

He earned his degree in three years, added a master’s degree during his fourth year and is on his way toward earning another degree in math.

He also taught a class last fall during football season, which was among the reasons, along with his 4.0 grade-point average, he was selected as the National Football Foundation’s recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy as college football’s premier scholar-athlete last December.