LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – National rushing leader Gabriel Watson of the University of Sioux Falls Football Team is one 37 student-athletes nationally who have been nominated for the 2018 Harlon Hill Trophy as the Division II College Football Player of the Year.
Of the nominees, nine represent Super Region 1 with nine from Super Region 2, eight from Super Region 3 and 11 from Super Region 4. The group of 37 student-athletes includes 13 quarterbacks, nine running backs, eight wide receivers, three defensive ends, three linebackers and one defensive back. The list of nominees features 21 seniors, 10 juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.
The sports information directors at the 166 NCAA Division II football-playing institutions nominate and vote on the award. The 37 initial candidates will be placed on regional ballots and the top two players from each of the four NCAA regions will advance to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on Monday, November 26. The sports information directors at their respective schools initially nominate candidates. The SIDs in those Super Regions vote for their top five candidates. The winner is then determined in a nation-wide vote of the Division II sports information directors.
The winner of the 2018 award will be announced on Friday, December 14 and the winner will be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club awards banquet on January 10, 2019.
Watson, who was named the NSIC Offensive Player of the Year, had a school-record 11 straight games of 100 yards or more rushing while churning for an NCAA DII-best 1,957 yards on 269 carries with an NCAA DII-high 26 TDs. What is remarkable about the USF running back is that Watson had 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the first game he played at USF, which was a 27-24 win over Concordia-St. Paul in the home opener. He followed up that performance with games of 172 yards and 193 yards. Against Minot State, he accumulated 205 yards rushing on 15 carries with two touchdowns and played just one half.
Originally of Piedmont, Calif., Watson had a breakout season in his first year with USF. The first-team All-NSIC honoree set seven school records and averaged 7.3 yards per carry. He was named the D2Football.com National Player of the Week after setting a single game USF record of 320 yards on 19 carries with five TDs against MSU Moorhead.
A three-time NSIC Player of the Week, he recorded seven games of 150 yards or more with three games of at least 200 yards or more. Watson, who scored two or more TDs in a game eight times and had at least three TDs four times, ranks first in NCAA DII in five categories (rushing, 1,957; rushing yards per game, 177.8; rushing TDs, 26; total points, 156; total touchdowns, 26 and ranks second in scoring at 14.2 ppg).
The Hill Trophy is named for the late Harlon Hill - the former University of North Alabama standout - who excelled with the Lions from 1950-53 before going on to fame in the National Football League with the Chicago Bears.