NEW YORK - While freshman linebacker Jesse Hiss had aspirations of playing collegiate athletics back in high school, he also knew how important his academics were.
"Academics have always been another thing to help get recruited," Hiss said. "A lot of schools don't recruit guys that don't have great scores. Just another tool to get noticed."
On the football field, colleges did take notice of Hiss, who posted 428 tackles, five sacks, 25 tackles for a loss, 12 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles, 11 pass breakups and four interceptions as a linebacker during his high school career. At running back, he totaled 207 carries for 1,621 yards and 26 touchdowns.
However his classroom resume is just as impressive as His was the valedictorian at Basehor-Linwood High School in Bonner Springs, Kan., and had a 4.0 grade point average, an impressive mark considering none of the classes he took had weighted grades like many high schools offer today.
In addition to his grades, he earned the highest honor roll all eight semesters of high school, was a member of the National Honor Society, a senior class officer, and spent his Monday nights throughout the school year as a study hall tutor.
Hiss won a Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete Award and earlier this fall he learned that he added a national scholar-athlete accolade as well.
In October, the National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame announced that Hiss was one of five winners of the 2012 NFF National High School Scholar-Athlete Award. Each recipient is selected as the best of the best from their region of the country at the high school level, with all five winners (currently playing college football) being recognized solely for their previous accomplishments in high school.
Hiss is the winner of the Midwest Region, out of the Sunflower (Kan.) Chapter, and joins Ryan James (from Piscataway High School in Piscataway, N.J.; currently attending Lehigh University), Alex Lyons (from DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas; currently attending Rice University), Joshua Weeks (from Show Low High School in Show Low, Ariz.; currently attending Brigham Young University), and Sam Yules (from Moses Brown School in Providence, R.I.; currently attending Stanford University) as the other regional winners throughout the country.
"It feels pretty awesome," Hiss said of being one of five student-athletes in the country to pick up this year's award.
"It is a great blessing. God has done wonders in my life. Not just physically and athletically, but he has also given me strong, sharp mind, which I am truly grateful for."
On Tuesday, Hiss and the other four winners were honored at the NFF Annual Chapter Luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, just head of the evening's College Football Hall of Fame ceremonies.
Hiss was an invited walk-on for the University of Colorado football team this season, practicing mostly on the scout team while also getting a better understanding of the college game, both mentally and physically.
A business management major at CU, he said that he would like to continue to work in his desired profession after college.
"I want to start my own company, like my dad did," he said.
His father, Drew, started a payroll business when Jesse was a little kid, and grew the company big enough to merge it with another one in Ohio.
"He grew up on a small farm in western Kansas; a come from nothing story," Hiss said. "It is kind of inspiring.
Hiss said he gains inspiration from his father's journey through the business world, something that he will likely take with him throughout his journey in college football and in business.