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Matt Henningsen
December 8, 2021

UW-Madison engineer, football standout Henningsen is “Academic Heisman” finalist

Written By: Webmanager

A University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering master’s student and starting defensive end for the Wisconsin Badgers football team was a finalist for the nation’s top honor for academic excellence.

Matt Henningsen, a student in the Machine Learning and Signal Processing accelerated master’s program in the UW-Madison College of Engineering, was recently selected as a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete and one of 13 finalists or the 2021 William V. Campbell Trophy, often referred to as the “Academic Heisman.” The honors recognize the best football players in the nation for combined academic success, on-field performance and exemplary leadership.

Henningsen, a Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin native, has excelled both on the field and in the classroom, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2020 and continuing on with his master’s-level studies in 2021. During his entire academic career, he maintained a 4.0 undergraduate average, the only 2021 Campbell Trophy finalist to do so.

award finalists
ECE master’s student Matt Henningsen was among 13 finalists for the prestigious Campbell Award, which honors the academic achievements of college football players.

Over his 41 career games with Wisconsin, where he started as a walk-on, Henningsen has recorded 89 total tackles (13 for losses), eight quarterback sacks, and has produced three fumble recoveries, two for touchdowns. In 2021, he was named to the All-Big Ten third team.

He is a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and was named a first-team Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Henningsen plans to complete his master’s degree in December 2021, just 12 months after beginning the challenging program that takes most students 16 months. During his time at UW-Madison, Henningsen also has worked on several research projects, including one with Biomedical Engineering Professor Walter Block and colleagues to develop a convolutional neural network to detect cerebral hemorrhaging on MRIs. The group has submitted the findings from its study to the Journal of Neurosurgery.

“It’s no easy feat to earn a 4.0 from a highly ranked electrical engineering program, but to do it while also performing at such a high level in a high-caliber football program is a testament to Matt’s dedication to all he pursues,” says Susan Hagness, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UW-Madison. “To say that Matt has made the most of his time at UW-Madison is an understatement!”

Henningsen is just the seventh UW-Madison football player named an NFF National Scholar- Athlete since 1966. Notable winners of the Campbell Trophy include NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

Learn more about Matt Henningsen’s time as a student athlete at UW-Madison.