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2015 Gene Upshaw Award Winner Announcement

Written by: on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015. Follow David Mika on Twitter.



MANHEIM, Pa. – Grand Valley State senior defensive end Matt Judon has been named the recipient of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club, projected coordinator Don Harris announced on Wednesday.

The Upshaw Award is presented annually to the top NCAA Division II junior or senior offensive or defensive lineman in the nation. Sports information directors from the football-playing Division II institutions comprise the voters.

As a recipient of the Gene Upshaw Award, Judon receives a trophy in the likeness of Upshaw and recognition at the Manheim Touchdown Club’s annual banquet in May. The winner of the award receives an automatic invitation to participate in the East/West Shrine Game.

Judon, also voted the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Defensive Player of the Year, leads the nation, regardless of division, in sacks with 20. Judon is just a half-sack away from the single-season Division II record and has the sixth-most sacks in the history of college football. His 23.5 tackles for loss totaling 134 yards are fourth-most in Division II. Judon has piled up 70 tackles, three passes defended, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and eight quarterback hurries. Judon recently tied 2013-14 Gene Upshaw Award winner Darius Allen for eighth in Division II history in career sacks with 34.0. He also set a new school record for sacks, passing current Jacksonville Jaguar linebacker Dan Skuta.

Judon is the third Grand Valley State player to win the award and the first since 2007. Brandon Barnes won the award in 2007, and Mike McFadden was a back-to-back winner in 2005-06. No other football program since the award was started in 2004 has even two different winners.

“We are really pleased that this year’s award winner led all of college football (all levels) with 20 quarterback sacks this past season,” said Harris. “Matt is in position to set a Division II record in sacks. Those are incredible accomplishments. When you have that kind of talent as your award winner, it goes to show you the caliber of individuals that are competing for this award at the Division II level. We wish him the very best as he takes those skills to the next level.”

The initial field of 47 nominees was narrowed to eight after a round of voting at the Super Region level. At the national level, Judon received a first-place vote on 42 percent of the ballots and was a top-three selection in 42 of 50 ballots submitted. His 339 points were 49 more than runner-up Morgan Fox of Colorado State-Pueblo. Slippery Rock’s Cory Tucker finished in third place, followed by Joshua Gordon of Minnesota State Mankato, Joey Ray of Lenoir-Rhyne, Collin Bevins of Northwest Missouri State, Andrew Cohen of West Chester and Dylan Donahue of West Georgia.

Six of the eight finalists played for teams that reached the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Judon’s Lakers have already won two games and square off against Fox’s Colorado State Pueblo team in the NCAA Quarterfinal on Saturday, Dec. 5. Judon has made quite an impact in the postseason already, totaling 2.0 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the first-round win over previously unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Ashland. Against then-undefeated Ferris State in the second round, Judon piled up 12 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and a QB hurry.

“I am in my sixth year as head coach at Grand Valley State and Matt Judon is the best defensive lineman that we have had during that time and one of the top two in my 12 years on the staff with the only other player being Dan Skuta who is in his seventh year in the NFL,” said Grand Valley State head coach Matt Mitchell. “Matt is an outstanding teammate and a leader that has made the climate in our locker room one that I have never been around before.”

Judon is the 12th recipient of the award named in honor of former Texas A&I (now Texas A&M Kingsville) University and NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Gene Upshaw. Upshaw, a 1987 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, served 25 years as the executive director of the NFL Players Association until his death in 2008.

Gene Upshaw Award finalists continue to achieve success at the highest level. Previous winner Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock, 2010), 2005 finalist Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg) 2008 finalist Dan Skuta, 2012 finalists David Bass (Missouri Western State), Ryan Schraeder (Valdosta State) and Ryan Jensen, and 2014 finalists Caushaud Lyons (Tusculum) Julian Howsare (Clarion) are all currently on NFL rosters.

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