Mainland Regional High School junior Ryan Brenner is a finalist for PARADE Magazine's High School Football "Rudy" Award.
The award - which honors the nation's most inspiring football players - is named for former Notre Dame football player Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, who was immortalized in the 1993 film "Rudy."
It celebrates athletes for their ability to inspire and motivate their teammates, classmates and communities.
"A tragic car accident in August of 2011 left Ryan Brenner of Northfield mourning the loss of his brother and three close teammates. ... Ryan encouraged his teammates to get back out on the football field and put their hearts in it for their fallen friends," a PARADE spokeswoman said in a news release.
Four Mainland players - Casey Brenner, 17, of Northfield; Edgar Bozzi, 17, of Somers Point; Dean Khoury, 15, of Linwood; and Nicholas Conner, 16, of Northfield - died in August when the SUV they were in overturned near Exit 38A southbound of the Garden State Parkway. Four other players in the car were injured but all were released from the hospital within a day or two of the accident.
PARADE said more than 350 football players representing all 50 states were nominated by coaches, parents, teammates and friends. The award provides a total of $25,000 in academic scholarships through the Trusted Sports Foundation.
Ryan Brenner is one of two finalists from New Jersey. The other is Scotch Plains' JT Webb, who has Asperger's syndrome and ADHD.
The money will be split among the grand-prize winner, four runners-up, one fan favorite and six finalists. The winner will be featured in the Jan. 15, 2012 issue of PARADE, alongside the 2012 PARADE All-America High School Football Team.
The Rudy Award winners and finalists will be chosen by online voting and by a selection committee that includes former NFL greats Troy Aikman, Tedy Bruschi and Drew Bledsoe.
To vote, go to: HighSchoolRudyAwards.com