Harlon Hill 2016

WEDNESDAY - November 30, 2016


FLORENCE, Ala. -- A field of 43 initial nominees has been trimmed to nine national finalists in regional voting for the 2016 Harlon Hill Trophy as the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year.

The finalists were selected by the NCAA Division II sports information directors in regional voting and will now be placed on the national ballot where all 171 of the division's SIDs will select the award's 31st winner. The top two players from three super regions advanced to the national ballot, and three advanced from Super Region 4 due to a tie in the voting.
The list of 2016 finalists is comprised of six quarterbacks, two running backs and one receiver.

Seven of the finalists helped lead their teams into the 2016 NCAA Division II playoffs and five are on team's competing in this weekend's quarterfinal matchups.

Advancing from Super Region 1 are senior receiver Garry Brown of California University (Pa.) and senior quarterback Jeff Ziemba of Shepherd University (W.V.).

Super Region 2 is represented by senior quarterback Jacob Tucker of the University of North Alabama and senior quarterback Raleigh Yeldell of Newberry College.

The top vote getters in Super Region 3 are senior quarterback Trey Heid of Augustana University (S.D.) and senior quarterback Kyle Zimmerman of Northwest Missouri State University.

Advancing from Super Region 4 are sophomore running back Marty Carter of Grand Valley State University (Mich.), senior quarterback Justin Dvorak of Colorado School of Mines and senior running back Austin Ekeler of Western State Colorado University.

Brown has shattered the program’s receiving records while helping the Vulcans claim the PSAC Championship and advance to the Super Region One Championship. He ranks fourth overall in NCAA Division II with 23 total touchdowns and leads wide receivers at all NCAA levels in scoring at 12.5 points per game. Brown also leads active players in NCAA Division II with 41 receiving touchdowns, including a school-record 20 this season. The Columbus, Ohio, native was named PSAC West Offensive Athlete of the Year and earned first-team All-PSAC West laurels at both wide receiver and return specialist. Brown sits fourth in the country with over 185 all-purpose yards per game behind over 600 combined return yards, highlighted by both a kickoff and punt return for touchdown.

Carter, who was named the 2016 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year, leads the nation in rushing with 1,807 yards and 19 touchdowns on 238 carries. His 1,807 rushing yards is the top regular season rushing mark in GVSU football history, while the 1,486 rushing yards in GLIAC action ranks seventh all-time in league history. The East Chicago, Ind., native is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, a mark that ranks second nationally and first among all running backs with 200 or more carries. Carter also led the GLIAC in all-purpose yards with 1,884 yards. Marty tallied seven runs of 53 yards or more, six of which went for touchdowns and he had 20 rushing plays of 20 yards or more in 12 games. Carter broke the 100-yard rushing mark nine times, including a GVSU single-season record four games of 200 yards or more. He set the Grand Valley State single-game rushing record with 298 yards vs. Northern Michigan and was named the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week three times. Carter led the GLIAC and ranks fifth nationally in rushing Tds with 19, while ranking first in the GLIAC and 11th nationally in total points.

Dvorak, a Tomball, Texas native, was one of college football’s top quarterbacks in 2016, leading NCAA Division II in passing yards and touchdowns as a senior. Dvorak led Mines to a share of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship and an appearance in the NCAA Second Round, the program’s best showing since 2004. Dvorak threw for 4,584 yards and 53 touchdowns, rushing for eight more, as he led the nation’s #1 total offense. He was named the RMAC Offensive Player of the Year after establishing the RMAC career records for passing yards, total offense, and passing touchdowns.

Ekeler, from Eaton, Colo., was the driving force for Western State Colorado University in 2016. While setting almost every career rushing record in Western history, the senior running back led all NCAA divisions in rushing yards through the first eight weeks of the season and was the NCAA’s active career rushing leader through the first nine weeks (currently sits second). Despite only playing in one of the final eight quarters of the season, Ekeler was the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s leader in rushing yards and rushing yards per game. He is currently second in Division II with 149.5 average rushing yards per game.

Heid, from Lakeville, Minn., was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season in 2016. He led the NSIC and set an Augustana single season record with 3,582 passing yards in 2016 while throwing for a league-high and single season record 41 touchdowns. Heid accounted for 51 total touchdowns on the season as he led the Vikings with 721 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Heid led the NSIC and the entire country averaging 391.2 yards of total offense per game in 2016. He passed for 250-plus yards in all 11 games in 2016, while throwing two or more touchdown passes in all 11 contests. Heid threw for over 300 yards in six games and tossed four or more touchdowns in 7 of 11 games.

Tucker was named Gulf South Conference Offensive Player of the Year in his first season as a starter, while leading the Lions to a 9-1 record, a GSC Championship and the top seed in Super Region 2. The Linden, Tenn., native ranks among the GSC leaders in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring. He has thrown for 2,257 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 719 yards and 14 TDs. Those numbers are even more impressive considering that he did not play in the fourth quarter of six games due to large UNA leads. Tucker will lead North Alabama against North Greenville Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Division II Playoffs.

Yeldell led one of the nation’s most prolific offenses in 2016 as the Wolves bounced back from an opening day defeat to win 10 consecutive games, claim the South Atlantic Conference championship, and earn the No. 2 seed in Super Region 2. The SAC Offensive Player of the Year and winner of five total Player of the Week awards led the nation in completion percentage at 70.3 percent, ranked fifth with 26.0 completions per game, had the sixth-most passing yards per game at 308.7, and accounted for 341.8 yards of total offense per game to rank eighth. Despite missing two games, the Edgefield, S.C., native became Newberry’s first-ever 3,000-yard passer, set a new school record with 3,418 yards of total offense, accounted for 33 total touchdowns and captained an offense that established school records in total yards, passing yards, points, and touchdowns.

Ziemba, from Newark, Delaware, has led Shepherd to a 12-0 record and into the quarterfinals of the Division II Playoffs Saturday against California, Pa. He has completed 226-of-331 passes for 3,315 yards and 28 touchdowns and has been intercepted only five times. He ranks second nationally in pass efficiency rating (177.3), fourth in passing yards per pass attempt (10.02), ninth in passing yards per game (301.4), and 10th in passing yards (3,315). Ziemba helps Shepherd rank first in team passing efficiency (185.09), third in completion percentage (.692), and sixth is passing offense (339.0).
Zimmerman was the 2016 MIAA Offensive Player of the Year, leading the Bearcats to an undefeated regular season and the top seed in Super Region Three. A fifth-year senior and native of Overland Park, Kan., Zimmerman waited 55 games before he made his first career start this season after backing up a pair of first-team All-MIAA performers. This year, Zimmerman has thrown for 3,242 yards and 35 touchdowns, completing 250-of-364 attempts with just two interceptions. He has also run for 276 yards and seven touchdowns. He will lead the Bearcats against Harding Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Division II Playoffs.

National voting will conclude on December 10 and the winner of the 2016 award, which is presented by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee, will be announced on Friday, December 16.
The winner will be honored at a luncheon on the University of North Alabama campus on January 6, 2017.
The Hill Trophy is sponsored by the City of Florence, Ala., Opti-Net, Herff Jones and the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa.

North Dakota State quarterback Jeff Bentrim won the initial Hill Trophy in 1986, followed by three-time winner - Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) running back Johnny Bailey - in 1987, 1988 and 1989.

Another North Dakota State quarterback, Chris Simdorn, claimed the 1990 award, followed by Pittsburg State receiver Ronnie West in 1991, Pittsburg State running back Ronald Moore in 1992, New Haven running back Roger Graham in 1993, Valdosta State quarterback Chris Hatcher in 1994.

North Alabama linebacker Ronald McKinnon became the first and so far only defensive player to win the award in 1995, followed by Truman State running back Jarrett Anderson in 1996, Bloomsburg University running back Irvin Sigler in 1997, Emporia State running back Brian Shay in 1998 and Northern Colorado quarterback Corte McGuffey in 1999.

The award had its second two-time winner when Valdosta State quarterback Dusty Bonner claimed the Hill Trophy in 2000 and 2001.

Grand Valley State quarterback Curt Anes won the Hill Trophy in 2002, followed by North Alabama quarterback Will Hall in 2003, Colorado School of Mines quarterback Chad Friehauf in 2004 and East Stroudsburg’s Jimmy Terwilliger in 2005. Four straight Hill Trophies were won by running backs, beginning with Chadron State’s Danny Woodhead in 2006 and 2007. Abilene Christian’s Bernard Scott won in 2008, followed by Wayne State (Mich.) running back Joique Bell in 2009.
Central Missouri quarterback Eric Czerniewski was the 2010 Hill winner, followed by Mars Hill running back Jonas Randolph in 2011, Shippensburg’s Zach Zulli in 2012, Bloomsburg running back Franklyn Quiteh in 2013 and Ferris State quarterback Jason Vander Laan in 2014 and 2015.

2016 Harlon Hill Trophy Finalists

SUPER REGIONAL 1 Ht Wt Cl Pos. School Hometown
Garry Brown WR 6-1 200 SR California, Pa. Columbus, Ohio
Jeff Ziemba QB 6-3 212 SR Shepherd Newark, Del.

SUPER REGIONAL 2 Ht Wt Cl Pos. School Hometown
Jacob Tucker QB 6-2 185 SR North Alabama Linden, Tenn.
Raleigh Yeldell QB 6-0 175 SR Newberry Edgefield, S.C.

SUPER REGIONAL 3 Ht Wt Cl Pos. School Hometown
Trey Heid QB 6-2 197 SR Augustana (S.D.) Lakeville, Minn.
Kyle Zimmerman QB 6-1 200 SR Northwest Missouri State Overland Park, Kan.

SUPER REGIONAL 4 Ht Wt Cl Pos. School Hometown
Marty Carter RB 6-0 202 SO Grand Valley State East Chicago, Ind.
Justin Dvorak QB 6-0 200 SR Colorado School of Mines Tomball, Texas
Austin Ekeler RB 5-9 198 SR Western State Eaton, Colo.

Alphabetical Listing of 2016 Finalists
Garry Brown WR 6-1 200 SR California, Pa. Columbus, Ohio
Marty Carter RB 6-0 202 SO Grand Valley State East Chicago, Ind.
Justin Dvorak QB 6-0 200 SR Colorado-Mines Tomball, Texas
Austin Ekeler RB 5-9 198 SR Western State Eaton, Colo.
Trey Heid QB 6-2 197 SR Augustana (S.D.) Lakeville, Minn.
Jacob Tucker QB 6-2 185 SR North Alabama Linden, Tenn.
Raleigh Yeldell QB 6-0 175 SR Newberry Edgefield, S.C.
Jeff Ziemba QB 6-3 212 SR Shepherd Newark, Del.
Kyle Zimmerman QB 6-1 200 SR Northwest Missouri State Overland Park, Kan.


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National Harlon Hill Awards Committee
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