Senior Defensive Tackle One Of 24 Competing For Player Of The Year Award

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Senior All-America defensive tackle Jake Visser (Coopersville) of the Ferris State University football squad has been chosen as one of 24 candidates for the prestigious Harlon Hill Award, which is presented annually to the top football player at the NCAA Division II level. The list of candidates was announced Thursday (Nov. 6) by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee.

Jake Visser The list includes six players from each of Division II’s four Super Regionals. Players are nominated and voted on by the sports information directors at the 154 NCAA Division II football-playing institutions. The 24 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 November 14.

The winner of the 2008 award, which is presented by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee, will be announced at the 23rd annual Harlon Hill Trophy Presentation Banquet on Friday, December 12 at the Florence Conference Center at 6:30 p.m. (EST). This year’s Hill Trophy Banquet will also include the tenth induction into the Division II Football Hall of Fame and be held in conjunction with the NCAA Division II Championship Game scheduled for December 14 at Florence’s Braly Municipal Stadium.

The Hill Trophy is sponsored by the City of Florence (Ala.), Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, Opti-Net, the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa and Herff Jones. There were 32 candidates initially nominated by the sports information directors at their respective schools and those nominations were then reviewed by the Hill Regional Advisory Committees, which trimmed the list of final candidates.

The group of 24 candidates includes 13 quarterbacks, five running backs, three receivers, a defensive tackle, a linebacker and a cornerback. There are 17 seniors, six juniors and one sophomore. Visser is one of only three defensive players on the list and the only lineman on either side of the football. He's among three players who are candidates from Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) member schools, joining quarterbacks Brad Iciek of Grand Valley State and Ashland's Billy Cundiff.

The 6-2 Visser is the first Ferris State football player to be listed among the candidates for the prestigious award since former wide receiver Clarence Coleman finished fifth overall in the voting as a national finalist in 2001. Former quarterback and current FSU offensive coordinator Matt McCarthy was a Northeast Region Candidate in 1999 while quarterback Bill Love earned runner-up honors for the award in 1995. Linebacker Monty Brown placed fifth as a national finalist in 1992 and quarterback Dave DenBraber was also chosen as a national finalist in 1987 before placing seventh overall.

Presently this campaign, Visser has recorded 90 tackles (47 solo) and 14.5 tackles for loss (-63 yards) in addition to 6.5 sacks (-47 yards), two fumble recoveries, two blocked kicks and a forced fumble thru 10 games of action. He also notched his first career touchdown with a 34-yard interception return in last Saturday's (Nov. 1) contest at Hillsdale. He currently ranks tied for second this season among the GLIAC leaders in tackles for loss (1.45 pg.) and is tied for eighth in sacks (.55 pg.) along with 10th in total tackles (8.9 tpg.).

Visser currently ranks ninth on the school’s career tackles chart with 380 tackles in his career. He also is listed fourth on the FSU all-time sack leaders list with 26.5 sacks in his career and is 2.5 shy of tying former standout Ed Philion (1990-93) for third place on the school chart. Additionally, Visser is also tied for first place with two former Bulldog greats in Monty Brown (1989-92) and Philion, who both played in the NFL, with seven career fumble recoveries.

This season, Visser was tabbed as a consensus preseason All-America selection by being named to the 2008 Lindy's College Football Preview All-Division II Preseason First Team, the D2football.com Preseason All-America First Team, the Sporting News Division II Preseason All-America Team along with the Consensus Draft Services (CDS) Division II Preseason All-America Second Team. Lindy's also selected Visser as its Division II Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Visser capped off a memorable junior campaign in 2007 by earning first-team All-America recognition from D2football.com, the American Football Coaches Association and Don Hansen's Football Gazette. He was also named to both the Daktronics All-America Second Team squad and the Associated Press Little All-America Second Team. Visser claimed ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America First Team honors in addition to being one of inaugural fall recipients of the GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Athletics and Academic Excellence a year ago.

In 2007, Visser tallied the squad's second-highest tackles figure (106) and led the squad in tackles for loss with 14.5 for minus 62 yards, which ranked fifth in the conference. He also had a team-best nine quarterback hurries along with 5.5 sacks for a loss of 41 yards. The team Most Valuable Player Award recipient received 2007 first-team All-Northwest Region accolades for the second consecutive year and was tabbed as the GLIAC's Defensive Lineman of the Year after earning all-conference first team laurels for the second year in a row. Along with placing fifth among last season's league leaders in tackles for loss, Visser also ranked sixth in total tackles (9.6 tpg.).

Ferris State wraps up the 2008 campaign and its 100th season of varsity action by hosting the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals in their regular-season finale Saturday, Nov. 8, at FSU’s Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Mich. Kickoff for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) encounter is set for 12 p.m. (EDT) and it represents Ferris’ annual Senior Day contest. Visser will be among 17 seniors honored prior to the contest.

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