Virginia senior cornerback Chase Minnifield was honored Monday as the recipient of the 2011 Pop Warner National College Football Award, which annually recognizes a Pop Warner alumnus that “has made a difference on the field, in the classroom and in his community,” according to the organization’s press release.

Minnifield was named an all-ACC first team selection for the second consecutive season this year. He also is semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

Off the field, Minnifield earned a degree in sociology in three and a half years and currently is enrolled in a graduate degree program for education. For the past few years, he has been involved in the school’s Athletes Committed to Community and Education program, which is designed to promote education through a partnership with schools in the Charlottesville area.

In fact, Minnifield had just returned from his weekly stint helping teach a physical education class at Walker Upper Elementary School when he learned he’d received the award. He will travel to Orlando on Wednesday for a formal presentation.

“It’s kind of awesome because Pop Warner was a big part of my upbringing,” Minnifield said. “I really, truly believe you learn a lot growing up with your coaches and just being around your [teammates]. … This is a great honor, and I really appreciate it.”

Minnifield said the Pop Warner team he played on while growing up in Lexington, Ky. went 50-2 in a five-year span. Minnifield’s coach on that Pop Warner squad was his father, Frank, who once played in the NFL.

Known on the team for his intense preparation and analytical approach, Minnifield said he tries as often as possible to stress to the kids he encounters through his various community service activities the benefits of performing well in school.

“Every time I get a chance, I try to pull a few kids aside and just ask them how they’re doing in their academics,” Minnifield said. “Because being in the position that I’m in, I know that they look up to what I do and how I am, per se, and I can have an impact on how they feel or how they see things. Because when I was younger, I looked up to kids like myself, so I know that they will listen.”