MANHEIM, Pa. (GoThunderWolves.com - Dec. 16, 2013) - Colorado State University-Pueblo defensive end Darius Allen has been named the 2013 recipient of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club, projected coordinator Don Harris announced on Monday.
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 each of the football-playing Division II institutions comprise the voters.
In receiving the honor, Allen becomes the first CSU-Pueblo athlete since 1989 to be named a national player of the year and third since CSU-Pueblo became a four-year institution in 1963. In 1988 and 1989, former All-American wrestler Chuck Pipher was named the NAIA Outstanding Wrestler.
As a recipient of the Gene Upshaw Award, Allen 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 generally receives an automatic invitation to participate in the East/West Shrine Game and the NFLPA All-Star Game but because Allen is a junior, he is not eligible to participate in the postseason all-star games.
Allen, a 6-3, 239-pound junior, was a feared pass rusher for the ThunderWolves, ranking among the Division II leaders in sacks with 15.5 and ranked in the top 10 in tackles for loss with 23.5 in 12 games. He set school records for sacks and tackles for loss. Allen is just the second defensive player to win the Gene Upshaw Award and is the first since Grand Valley State's Mike McFadden won it in 2005 and 2006.
Allen received a first or second place vote in over 50 percent of the ballots. Grand Valley State senior center Matt Armstrong finished second and was followed by Bloomsburg senior guard Brian Clarke, who was a two-time finalist. Shippensburg defensive end Jake Metz finished fourth and was followed by Henderson State center Kelton Hays, Mars Hill defensive end Troy Harris, Lenoir-Rhyne defensive end Blake Baker and Minnesota State Mankato defensive end Chris Schaudt.
Six of the eight finalists played for teams that reached the NCAA Division II Playoffs, and Baker's Lenoir-Rhyne team will play for the national title on Saturday.
"In our 10th year of this award we are very pleased to announce Darius Allen as the 2013 award winner," said Harris. "Darius was a preseason Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and he certainly lived up to those expectations. He has a very bright future ahead of him."
Allen helped CSU-Pueblo to an undefeated regular season and a No. 1 seed in NCAA Super Region 4. After 13.5 sacks in the regular season, Allen registered two more and 4.5 tackles for loss in the team's NCAA playoff loss to Grand Valley State. He totaled 60 tackles on the season.
"Darius is a prime example of somebody who does what it takes to become a PACK football player," said CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen. "He has the passion, tenacity, and heart that it takes to be successful both at this level and to potentially play on Sundays. He is one of the main reasons why we have won 37-straight regular season games and continue to compete for a national championship year in and year out. Darius is very deserving of this award and I am extremely proud of him."
Allen landed Daktronics All-Super Region 4 First Team and All-RMAC First Team honors after his record-setting season. He was the catalyst of a defensive that ranked 18th nationally in sacks and 22nd in tackles for loss. CSU-Pueblo has landed a Gene Upshaw Award finalist in back-to-back seasons. Ryan Jensen, now on the Baltimore Ravens' active roster, was a finalist in 2012.
"Darius is as dominating a defensive presence as I've been involved in during my 25-plus years in coaching," said Wristen. "He routinely draws double-teams and still uses his physicality to wreak havoc on the quarterback and create opportunities for his defensive line mates. He is the focal point of the strongest unit on our defense, and despite all the attention he draws, he still is routinely in the backfield making the stop."
Allen is the 10th 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 have achieved success at the highest level. Previous winners Joe Long (Wayne State, 2011) and Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock, 2010) are currently on NFL rosters. 2012 finalists David Baas (Missouri Western State), Manase Foketi (West Texas A&M), Ryan Schraeder (Valdosta State) and Ryan Jensen are all currently playing in the NFL.