University of Maine sophomore running back Josh Mack, redshirt freshman linebacker Jaron Grayer and senior tailback John Smith of Husson University in Bangor have been named finalists for prestigious national awards.
Mack has been named a finalist for the STATS Walter Payton Award, presented to the Football Championship Subdivision’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Grayer is a finalist for the STATS Jerry Rice Award that goes to the FCS Freshman Player of the Year.
Smith is among 10 players named semifinalists for the 2017 Gagliardi Trophy given to the most outstanding player in Division III.
Mack ranked first in FCS rushing, tallying 1,335 yards in 10 games. It is the fourth best single-season rushing total in Black Bears history.
The sophomore also led the country with 133.5 yards per game and topped the Colonial Athletic Association with nine rushing touchdowns and 5.49 yards per carry. Mack’s 161.5 all-purpose yards average were the most in the CAA and third in the nation.
Mack, who rushed for 100-plus yards in seven of Maine’s 10 games, rushed for the most yards for a Black Bear since Marcus Williams racked up 1,406 yards in 2002. Mack ran for a career-high 255-yards against Bryant to become just the second UMaine player to rush for more than 250 yards in a game.
He again eclipsed the 200-yard mark with a 248 yards against Rhode Island to become the second Black Bear since Carl Smith in 1989 to rush for 200 or more yards twice in a season.
Grayer was UMaine’s leading tackler with 79 in 10 games this season and he led all CAA freshmen in tackles per game (7.9). He was 11th among all players in the CAA.
He was tied for third in the CAA with two forced fumbles and had at least 10 tackles in four games. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss including two sacks.
Smith a Gagliardi semifinalist
Smith is among the semifinalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, an award presented by Jostens and the J-Club of Saint John’s University (Minnesota) to the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III.
Smith is the first semifinalist in Husson and Eastern Collegiate Football Conference history.
The Gagliardi Trophy recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service. The award is named after John Gagliardi, Saint John’s legendary Hall of Fame head football coach who retired in 2012 with 489 career victories, the most in college football history.
The 25th Gagliardi Trophy will be presented Dec. 13, in Salem, Va., at a banquet kicking off the Division III championship weekend. The four finalists, who will be announced Dec. 5, will be on hand for the announcement and presentation of the trophy.
Nominations were submitted by colleges across the country, and the final 10 were selected by the J-Club Board of Directors. The Gagliardi Trophy national-selection committee is composed of 40 former small college football players, former Gagliardi Trophy recipients, business leaders, academicians and sports writers from around the country.
A fan vote, which will serve as the 41st committee member, will be launched on D3football.com Nov. 21 and run until Dec. 4.
Smith (6 feet, 218 pounds), who hails from Fayetteville, Ga., also earned the New England Football Writers Gold Helmet last weekend. He has rushed for at least 1,400 yards in each of his four seasons and this year helped Husson (9-1) earn its first-ever NCAA playoff victory.
Smith has carried times for 1,917 yards and 28 touchdowns this fall, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and 191.7 yards per game. He is the leading career rusher in Maine and New England college football history, regardless of division, with 6,597 yards.
He ran for 301 yards against Endicott on Sept. 30, and rushed for 287 yards and five touchdowns against Mount Ida on Nov. 11. He ranks fourth all time in Division III career rushing yards.
He is a three-time ECFC Offensive Player of the Year.