MANHEIM, Pa. – Slippery Rock senior defensive end Marcus Martin has been named the recipient of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club, projected coordinator Don Harris 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, Martin 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 receives an automatic invitation to participate in the East/West Shrine Game.
After a 2017 season in which he led Division II in sacks with 15 ½ and tackles for loss with 26 ½, Martin staked a claim for the most productive defensive lineman in NCAA history. He set the NCAA all-division career sack record with 56, and also established a new Division II record for career tackles for loss with 92 ½. Martin was named the PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Year for the third consecutive season, making him the first player in league history to win four straight major postseason awards. A three-time Super Region one Player of the Year and two-time consensus All-America selection, Martin started all 48 games Slippery Rock played in his career. He was also a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American.
“We are very pleased with this year’s award winner,” said Harris. “The defensive numbers that Marcus was able to put up during his four years at Slippery Rock are amazing. We congratulate Marcus on winning the 2017 Gene Upshaw Award and wish him the very best in the future.”
Martin, a two-time national finalist for the Upshaw Award, ran away with the voting. He received a first-place vote on an Upshaw Award-record 73 percent of the ballots submitted. Martin is the second Slippery Rock player to win the award, joining 2010 winner Brandon Fusco. He is also the second consecutive winner from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, following 2016 winner Jordan Morgan of Kutztown.
The initial field of 44 nominees was narrowed to eight after a round of voting at the Super Region level. At the national level, Martin totaled 341 points—more than 100 points clear of runner-up Jake Daugherty of Ferris State, who totaled 216. Daugherty received one first-place vote and second-place votes on 25 percent of the ballots. Shepherd offensive linemen Lavonte Hights finished one point behind Daugherty in third place, and Minnesota State defensive end Evan Perrizo landed in fourth, just one point behind Hights. Humboldt State offensive lineman Alex Cappa placed fifth and was followed by Central Missouri left guard Chris Gomez, West Georgia center Harley Vaughan and Bowie State left tackle Victor Tamba Jr.
“Marcus is the best football player I have ever seen at this level in my 22 years of coaching in Division II,” said Slippery Rock head coach Shawn Lutz. “While he has the numbers and the NCAA all-time records to show that, he also has a drive I’ve never seen in another player. He works incredibly hard every single day on and off the field and he never settles. You’ll never see him give up on a play or stop running on the field and you’ll almost never see him even come off the field. This year, we even have him playing kick coverage because he just wants to be on the field doing whatever he can to help us win. I don’t think many NFL prospect linemen are playing kickoff coverage, but that is the kind of guy Marcus is. He’s humble and quiet, especially for the success he has had. We’ve been so lucky he chose our program and we are incredibly proud of him.”
Martin is the 14th 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. Previous winners Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock, 2010), Matt Judon (Grand Valley State, 2015), Jordan Morgan (Kutztown, 2016), 2005 finalist Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg), 2012 finalists David Bass (Missouri Western State), Ryan Schraeder (Valdosta State) and Ryan Jensen (Colorado State-Pueblo), 2015 finalist Morgan Fox (Colorado State-Pueblo) and 2016 finalist Dylan Donahue (West Georgia) are all currently on NFL rosters.
- 341 points - Marcus Martin, Slippery Rock
- 216 points - Jake Daugherty, Ferris State
- 215 points - Lavonte Hights, Shepherd
- 214 points - Evan Perrizo, Minnesota State
- 211 points - Alex Cappa, Humboldt State
- 188 points - Chris Gomez, Central Missouri
- 169 points - Harley Vaughan, West Georgia
- 167 points - Victor Tamba Jr., Bowie State