Michigan State hockey player Jeff Lerg has been named the Michigan College Athlete of the Year, as announced by the Detroit Athletic Club on Monday.
The award is given to one male and one female college athlete who has demonstrated excellence in both academics and scholastics, as well as showing strong citizenship through school leadership, community involvement, and volunteerism. Lerg, a Livonia native, was honored on Monday night in a ceremony at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Tiffany Ofili, a sophomore track and field athlete from the University of Michigan, is the female college-division winner.
"We’re extremely proud of Jeff - I’m not sure that I’ve ever coached a more complete, well-rounded student-athlete," said MSU head coach Rick Comley. "Jeff’s honors and awards are well-deserved - he works extremely hard, and it is nice to see that he is rewarded not only for what he does for us on the ice, but also for all the time and commitment he puts into his academics and community service."
"Jeff Lerg certainly embodies the ideal of the student-athlete," added Michigan State director of athletics Mark Hollis. "We are thrilled for Jeff that he gets recognized not only for his considerable athletic talents, but also for his academic accomplishments and community service endeavors as well."
Lerg has not only established himself as one of the elite goaltenders in college hockey, but is also putting together one of the most accomplished careers of any Spartan athlete. In 2007-08, he put together one of the most decorated campaigns in school history. The netminder was a Hobey Baker finalist, a Second-Team All-America selection, the CCHA First-Team goaltender and the CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year. In addition, he was a finalist for the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete, as well as a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year honors.
In addition to earning team MVP honors for the second consecutive season, the junior finished the season ninth in the country in saves percentage (.926), which is tied for sixth-best all-time in the MSU annals, and a 2.22 GAA, which ranked 18th nationally and ninth-best in the Spartan record book. His 24 victories was the fourth-highest total in the country this season, and puts him tied for eighth in the MSU records. He set his career-best in shutouts (four, eighth all-time at MSU) and saves (1,136, which ranks third in the MSU annals). Lerg’s career numbers also rank among the top five all-time at Michigan State in several categories: save percentage (.922), second; saves (2,956), second; goals-against average (2.22), third; career shutouts (10), fourth; wins (67), fifth; games played (114), fourth; and consecutive games played (63), first.
Lerg is a three-year starter who has guided the hockey program into at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament for three straight seasons, making Michigan State one of just three schools to accomplish that feat along with Boston College and North Dakota. He backstopped the Spartans to the 2007 NCAA title and was named the University’s George Alderton Award winner as the top male athlete of the year. In addition, he was named the USA Hockey College Player of the Year. As a freshman, Lerg emerged as the starter in January and went on an impressive run that saw him earn CCHA Rookie of the Year honors, then emerged as the CCHA Tournament MVP when he helped the Spartans capture the 2006 CCHA title.
Lerg’s academic standing is as impressive as his hockey resume. He maintains a 3.75 grade-point average as a finance major and has twice been the Spartan’s nominee as the CCHA Scholar-Athlete, which honors one athlete per team. In 2007-08, he was the CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was a Second-Team CoSIDA Regional All-American in 2007.
Meanwhile, he has also involved himself with several community service initiatives. Lerg participates in the Big Brothers program and is a big brother to 10-year-old Malik from Lansing. He has participated in Teams for Toys, an MSU initiative for all athletic teams which "adopts" a family at the holidays. In addition, he has worked with Trick or Treat for kids with cancer, the "Make A Change" program which raises money for cancer research, the Asthma Association, Children’s Miracle Network, Project Read at local elementary schools, "Jump Start Your Heart," Junior Spartan Tailgate and "Fall into Fitness" (promoting health and wellness).
Photo courtesy Michigan State Athletics