FSU’s Vander Laan a finalist for Harlon Hill Trophy

Junior signal caller one of nine national finalists for top award in Division II football

BIG RAPIDS — After shredding the record books and leading the Ferris State football team to its first 11-0 regular season in program history, junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan might have to make some more room on his trophy shelf after being named one of nine national finalists for the 2014 Harlon Hill Trophy that goes to the best player in Division II.

Vander Laan is one of seven signal callers to make the cut from the field of 36 initial nominees on Tuesday after Division II sports information directors  (SID) narrowed the field down after regional voting was completed, with the top two players from each of the four super regionals advancing to the national vote that will be decided by all 168 SIDs in Division II.

Super Region No. 4 was the only region to have three representatives after a tie in voting, with Vander Laan and fellow Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) players Ohio Dominican senior quarterback Mark Miller and Lake Erie junior running back Anthony Bilal advancing as national finalists from the region.

Rounding out the national finalists are senior quarterbacks Steven Laurino of LIU Post (N.Y.) and Sean McCartney of West Chester (Pa.) advancing from Super Region No. 1, in addition to Carson-Newman (Tenn.) senior running back Andy Hibbett and Delta State (Miss.) sophomore QB Tyler Sullivan coming out of Super Region No. 2. Super Region No. 3 finalists include Pittsburgh State (Kan.) senior signal caller Anthony Abenoja and Henderson State (Ark.) senior quarterback Kevin Rodgers.

This season’s GLIAC Player of the Year, Vander Laan filled up the scorebook at will for the Bulldogs as he led the nation in points responsible for (300) at the end of the regular season. He led the Bulldogs with 1,466 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground as the nation’s top rushing quarterback in the every competition level. He completed 183-of-275 passes for a career-best 2,381 yards and 30 touchdowns, leading the nation in passing efficiency (177.8).

Vander Laan’s production also helped the Bulldogs lead the nation in total offense (533.5 ypg) and rank second in points scored (47.8 ppg), breaking the single-season school record for points scored (559).

In his third year starting for the Bulldogs, Vander Laan individually etched his name in the FSU record books twice this season as he broke the school records for total offense with more than 9,000 total yards and he also eclipsed the career rushing record of 4,192 yards owned by Mo Harris (1996-99) in 2014.

Those statistics helped Vander Laan become just the fifth Bulldog in program history to be named a national finalist for the Harlon Hill, joining quarterback Bill Love (1995), linebacker Monty Brown (1992), wide receiver Clarence Coleman (2001) and quarterback Dave DenBraber (1987) as the only FSU players to hold that distinction.

Ferris State had its season end this past Saturday with a 46-33 loss to Ohio Dominican in the second round of the Division II football playoffs, but the Bulldogs achieved several things they haven’t done in years in 2014 after they claimed their first GLIAC title since 1999, first outright conference title in 18 seasons and first playoff berth since 1996.

Final voting for the Harlon Hill ends Dec. 13 and the winner will be announced via webcast on Dec. 19, with the winner being awarded the trophy at the National Harlon Hill Award Committee’s luncheon at the University of North Alabama on Jan. 9, 2015.

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