FLORENCE, Ala. — For the second year in a row, Pittsburg State senior receiver-return man John Brown has been nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the award which honors the most outstanding Division II player.
With one game remaining in the regular season, Brown leads the Gorillas with 53 catches for 1,038 yards and 12 touchdowns. Despite the fact opponents frantically kick away from Brown on punts and kickoffs, he's returned a kickoff for a touchdown to contribute to his 1,625 all-purpose yards.
Brown enjoyed banner days this season against Lincoln and Central Missouri — nine catches for 237 yards and four scores against the Blue Tigers, 12 for 199 and two against the Mules. The 237 yards fell one yard shy of the school single-game record, the four scores matched the single-game record and 12 catches fell short by one of Brown's own record he established last season.
During his three-year tenure in Pittsburg, Brown has established school records in the trinity of career receiving categories with 174 receptions, 3,220 yards and 32 touchdowns. He's rewritten and remolded career standards at the receiver position . . . as the Gorillas have evolved offensively.
The 28 Harlon Hill candidates this season include 17 quarterbacks, seven running backs, three receivers and one linebacker — seven candidates from each of the four Super Regions.
Sports information directors from each of the 168 football-playing schools in NCAA-II nominate and vote on these players. The 28 candidates must go through the regional voting stage, which concludes Nov. 22 and which leads toward the presentation of the 28th annual Harlon Hill Trophy on Dec. 20, the Friday on the eve of the National Championship Game.
Brown's competition in Super Region 3: Central Oklahoma junior wide receiver-return man Marquez Clark, St. Cloud State senior quarterback Phillip Klaphake, Henderson State junior quarterback Kevin Rodgers, Upper Iowa junior running back Chris Smith, Southwest Minnesota junior running back Tyler Tonderum and Minnesota State senior quarterback Jon Wolf.
Clark, a junior college All-American at Navarro who redshirted last season, has already set a UCO school single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,031. He's caught 69 passes for 1,192 yards and five TDs, returned 21 kickoffs for 477 yards and 15 punts for 319 yards and two scores, and rushed for 43 yards on five carries. Clark played for UCO head coach Nick Bobeck at Navarro, which won the national title in the Citizens Bank Bowl over Butler. The explosive all-purpose dynamo originally signed with Kansas State after Navarro but was deemed academically ineligible.
Klaphake, a candidate last season, has thrown for 2,275 yards, 20 TDs and three interceptions on 162-275 passing.
Rodgers, another candidate last season, leads the potent Henderson State offense with 3,780 yards passing, 30 TDs and nine interceptions. His biggest day was 595 yards against East Central and six touchdowns against Southern Nazarene.
Smith leads the Peacocks with 1,672 yards rushing and 16 TDs on 299 carries.
Tonderum leads the Mustangs with 1,864 yards and 18 TDs on 284 carries.
Page 2 of 2 - Wolf has been outstanding for the Mavericks of Minnesota State with his arm and his legs, throwing for 1,642 yards and 15 scores (one interception), rushing for team-highs of 846 yards and 11 TDs.
Candidates from other regions include Slippery Rock senior quarterback Nigel Barksdale, Merrimack senior quarterback Joe Clancy, Urbana senior quarterback D.J. Mendenhall, Bloomsburg senior running back Franklyn Quiteh, East Stroudsburg sophomore quarterback Matt Soltes, West Chester senior running back Rondell White and Shippensburg senior quarterback Zach Zulli (Super Region 1); West Alabama senior quarterback Kyle Caldwell, UNC-Pembroke senior quarterback Luke Charles, Tusculum senior quarterback Bo Cordell, UNC-Greenville senior wide receiver Freddie Martino, Wingate senior quarterback Robbie Nallenweg, Lane senior quarterback Chris Rini and North Alabama senior linebacker Tavarius Wilson (Super Region 2); CSU-Pueblo junior quarterback Chris Bonner, Chadron State senior tailback Glen Clinton, Findlay sophomore running back Daiquone Ford, Midwestern State senior running back Keidrick Jackson, Saginaw Valley senior quarterback Johathon Jennings, Ferris State sophomore quarterback Jason Vander Laan and West Texas A&M senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan (Super Region 4).
Shippensburg's Zulli won the award last season, throwing for 4,747 yards, 54 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games. Zulli's nowhere near his numbers from last season — 3,204 yards, 33 TDs and 11 interceptions through 10 games. Shippensburg's season should end this weekend, since it's not even in the top 10 of the regional rankings.
The last repeat Harlon Hill winner was Danny Woodhead in 2006-07 from Chadron State. Other repeat winners include Valdosta State quarterback Dusty Bonner and Texas A&M-Kingsville (formerly Texas A&I) running back Johnny Bailey, the only three-time winner.
The last winner from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association was Central Missouri quarterback Eric Czerniewski and previous MIAA winners include Pitt State receiver Ronnie West (1991), Pitt State running back Ronald Moore (1992), Truman State running back Jarrett Anderson (1996) and Emporia State running back Brian Shay (1998).
Brown's former teammate at Mars Hill, running back Jonas Randolph won in 2011.
The only receiver to win the Harlon Hill was West in 1991.