Indiana Epsilon (Hanover) sophomore defensive lineman Jake Stilwell (Pendleton, Ind.) has been chosen as a finalist for the inaugural Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s top small-college defensive player.
Presented by the Little Rock Touchdown Club, the Cliff Harris Award is named for the overlooked high school player from tiny Des Arc, Ark., who played at Ouachita Baptist University and later went to five Super Bowls and six Pro Bowls as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cliff Harris Award is slated to be presented annually to a player from among the nearly 500 NCAA II, NCAA III and NAIA colleges and universities. Finalists and the recipient are selected by head coaches and a committee of college and pro football greats, including Harris, Roger Staubach, Gene Stallings and Gil Brandt.
Stilwell, a two all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference selection, is the only sophomore among the 49 finalists for the honor.
During the 2013 season, he set a Hanover single-season record with 15 sacks (-93 yards) and led the Panthers’ linemen with 50 tackles, including 33 solo stops and 18 tackles for loss (-103 yards).
He also posted a team-high three forced fumbles and had one fumble recovery.
The winner of the Cliff Harris Award will be announced Tuesday, Dec. 24, and honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual banquet in February, 2014. The event will feature guest speaker Lou Holtz.