MANHEIM, Pa. – Ferris State senior defensive end Austin Edwards has been named the recipient of the 2019 Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club, project coordinator Zech Hess announced on Wednesday.
The Upshaw Award is presented annually to the top NCAA Division II 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, Edwards receives a trophy in the likeness of Upshaw and recognition at the Manheim Touchdown Club’s annual banquet in May. Jones also receives an automatic invitation to participate in the East/West Shrine Game.
Edwards became the first defensive player to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Player of the Year Award since 2005 after leading the Bulldogs to an undefeated regular season, a second consecutive GLIAC Championship and a No. 2 ranking nationally. He followed up an All-America-caliber season in 2018 with his third All-GLIAC First Team selection. Anchoring one of the stingiest defenses in Division II, Edwards enters the NCAA Quarterfinals with 49 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Through 11 games, the Bulldogs’ defense ranks eighth nationally in total defense, first in third down conversion defense and third in scoring defense.
“We had a group of extremely talented finalists this year,” said Hess. “Austin’s production and dominance for a winning program like Ferris State clearly set him apart to the voters. We congratulate Austin and wish him the best of luck in the NCAA playoffs and as he pursues the next level of football.”
In one of the most narrowly-decided final votes in Gene Upshaw Award history, Edwards finished with 215 points and first-place votes on 29 percent of the ballots, edging Tarleton State defensive end B.J. Jefferson, who received with 206 points and three fewer first-place votes. Valdosta State offensive lineman Adonis Sealey finished in a close third with 195 points. Placing fourth with 188 points was Slippery Rock left tackle Chris Larsen. Lenoir-Rhyne defensive end Jaquan Artis placed fifth with 147 points. Colorado School of Mines left tackle Grant Stewat finished sixth and was followed by Truman State defensive end Sam Reeves and Indiana (Pa.) center Jeff Arnold.
“The only thing that exceed’s Austin’s performance of the field is his attitude off of it--that includes his work ethic and humility,” said Ferris State Head Coach Tony Annese. “He cares about every one of his teammates. Austin has been such a great leader on our defensive line and his development over the past four years has played a key role in our continued and sustained success. He’s a dominating player at the line of scrimmage and really has played a big role in the success of our defense this year. We’re fortunate to have not only a great player, but such a great person as one of our team captains and leaders.”
Edwards is the 16th 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. Three of the 2018 finalists signed with NFL teams in the offseason, and finalist Trey Pipkins was drafed by the Chargers. Previous winner Matt Judon (Grand Valley State, 2015) as well as 2012 finalist Ryan Jensen (Colorado State-Pueblo), 2015 finalist Morgan Fox (Colorado State-Pueblo) and 2017 finalist Alex Cappa are currently on NFL rosters.
Picture of Austin Edwards, the 2019 MTC Gene Upshaw Award recipient, at the 2020 East West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg Florida. Edwards played at Ferris State. He is a defensive end. He is pictured with Zach Hess and Mike Williams.
Gene Upshaw Previous Award Winners
CONTACT Zech Hess, Manheim Touchdown Club (firstname.lastname@example.org) Ethan Hulsey, Gene Upshaw Award National Coordinator (email@example.com – 717-871-4154)