Bulldogs keep piling up awards

FSU football continues to dominate postseason award lists

BIG RAPIDS — After one of the most successful seasons in the history of the Ferris State football program, it’s getting tough to keep track of all of the awards that have been bestowed on the team and its players.

With each passing day, more and more Bulldog players find themselves earning national and regional recognition and the story was no different this past week as five FSU players were named to the Beyond Sports Network (BSN) All-Super Region Four team, with junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan and senior offensive tackle Jacob VanderKlok making the first team, junior cornerback Troy Smith and sophomore punter Trevor Bermingham landing on the third team and junior defensive end Justin Zimmer earning an honorable mention.

AWARD SEASON: Ferris State junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan was named Beyond Sports Network’s Offensive Player of the Year last week. It was the fourth Player of the Year honor he has received since the end of the Bulldogs’ season. (Pioneer file photo)

AWARD SEASON: Ferris State junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan was named Beyond Sports Network’s Offensive Player of the Year last week. It was the fourth Player of the Year honor he has received since the end of the Bulldogs’ season. (Pioneer file photo)

Zimmer was also recently named a finalist for the 2014 Cliff Harris Award, which is presented to the nation’s top small college defensive player, and BSN also put VanderKlok and Vander Laan on their All-America team.

On top of that, BSN chose Vander Laan as its Offensive Player of the Year, marking the fourth time since the end of the season the junior signal-caller has been bestowed with Player of the Year honors.

While all of the accolades are certainly welcomed, Vander Laan said its somewhat bittersweet considering the Bulldogs had their first playoff run since 1996 end with a 46-33 loss to Ohio Dominican in the second round of the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs on Nov. 29, coming on the heels of the program’s first 11-0 regular season in its 106 year history.

“It was definitely a huge accomplishment to go 11-0 in the regular season, but it’s hard not to focus in on that one loss,” Vander Laan said. “We didn’t win a playoff game, but we have to be proud of the success we had this season and it helps lessen the pain a little bit.”

After a 7-4 season in 2012 and an 8-3 mark in 2013 left the Bulldogs just short of a playoff berth, the expectations were higher than ever coming into this season based on the talent they had coming back.

Ferris State didn’t disappoint,
winning its first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) title since 1999 and its first outright conference championship since 1996 to earn a first-round bye and second-round home game in the playoffs.

“It was cool to see us finally follow through on the expectations we had for ourselves,” Vander Laan said. “You saw us come together as a team and hopefully that’s something we can build off going into next year.”

Before Vander Laan and the Bulldogs begin focusing on next year, there’s one last award Vander Laan is up for: the Harlon Hill Trophy for the best player in Division II.

Vander Laan is one of nine national finalists for the award, with all 168 of the division’s sports information directors selecting the award’s 29th winner in a national voting process that ended on Saturday.

The winner of the trophy is scheduled to be announced via webcast this Friday, with the winner being honored at a luncheon on the University of North Alabama campus on Jan. 9, 2015, but Vander Laan said it’s special enough just to be recognized among several other standout players.

“It’d definitely be a really cool thing to be recognized with that kind of honor, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how I think it’s going to go,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement that goes with it, but if it happens, it happens. I’m just happy to be one of the finalists among so many other great players.”

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