Vander Laan named GLIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University standout quarterback Jason Vander Laan not only excelled on the field this past year, but also ranked among the top performers in the classroom as he was named the 2014-15 GLIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Friday.

Vander Laan and Ashland University senior track and field thrower Jessica Bridenthal were tabbed as the male and female recipients of the prestigious league honor. The award is given to only one male and one female athlete from any sport in the conference.

As the GLIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Vander Laan now advances to the regional ballot for the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association Scholar-Athlete of the Year program with the organization eventually choosing the National Scholar-Athlete of the Year later this fall.

Vander Laan becomes the first FSU student-athlete to receive the league’s highest scholar honor since former defensive lineman Jake Visser claimed the distinction in 2008-09. Both Visser and 2006-07 recipient Mike Klobucher of the Bulldog football program eventually went on to claim the National Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.

Vander Laan became the first FSU player and only the third in GLIAC history to receive the coveted Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player in NCAA Division II last fall. In 2014, he quarterbacked the Bulldogs to their first 11-0 regular-season in the 106-year history of FSU football.

The 6-foot-4, 241-pounder had 20 rushing touchdowns, while completing 183 of 275 passes for 2,381 yards and 30 more scores as a junior. He ranked as the nation’s top rushing quarterback at all levels and was tops in the country in passing efficiency (177.8), along with points responsible for this past year (300) entering the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The three-year starter achieved All-America recognition from numerous sources, including being voted the Daktronics, Football Gazette and Beyond Sports Network National Offensive Player of the Year. He also earned regional Offensive Player of the Year recognition from multiple sources and also was the only quarterback on the 2014 Associated Press Little All-America first team, the 2014 American Football Coaches Association All-America first team and the 2014 Daktronics All-America first team.

Behind Vander Laan’s play as the signal caller, FSU led the nation in total offense during the regular season. It also was second in scoring offense and fourth in rushing. The Bulldogs compiled 700 yards or more in three games and set a school single-season scoring record with 559 total points last season. FSU also established new school marks for total offense and rushing in 2014.

The veteran signal caller, who became the school’s all-time leader in total offense and career rushing yards last fall, is the only active quarterback in college football at any level with more than 50 passing and rushing touchdowns in his career. He needs less than 800 yards to become the all-time leading rushing quarterback in Division II history, and already owns the Division II single-season record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game, season and career.

Vander Laan led the Bulldogs to the school’s first GLIAC Championship in 15 years, first outright league crown in 18 years and first NCAA Division II Playoff appearance since 1996. FSU’s 11-1 overall record under 2014 GLIAC and AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Tony Annese was the school’s best in 19 seasons.

In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Vander Laan was chosen as a GLIAC Commissioner’s Award recipient for the second time last fall and named to the Capital One Academic All-District IV first team. He’s a two-time nominee for the AFCA Good Works Team and a three-time GLIAC All-Academic Excellence Team selection. The two-time team captain is active in FSU’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and highly involved in a number of community service projects. He is majoring in applied math/actuarial science at FSU.

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