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Cliff Harris Award release | December 27, 2019

Lenoir-Rhyne's Kyle Dugger wins 2019 Cliff Harris Award

Watch all 6 touchdown passes from West Florida's Austin Reed in DII football championship

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas  Kyle Dugger, senior safety from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, was selected as the winner of the 2019 Cliff Harris Award  presented annually by the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Wright Lindsey Jennings, LLP. The award honors the nation’s small college defensive player of the year representing Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.

More than 5,000 defensive players from over 500 colleges are eligible to win the award. The $3,000 Cliff Harris Trophy will be presented by Cliff Harris at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet on January 9. Special guest speaker for the banquet will be two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

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Dugger, a 6’2 220 safety from Decatur, Georgia, was selected a 2019 AFCA All-American as well as All-South Athletic Conference both as a safety and return specialist for the second consecutive year. Even with an abbreviated senior season due to injury, Dugger was still a force as a pass defender and run stopper. His first defensive series of the 2019 season resulted in a 30 yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter vs St Augustine and a 63 yard interception return in the second quarter. Twice during his collegiate career, Dugger returned two punts in one game for touchdowns including two scores in the first six minutes of his 2019 game vs UVA Wise. He has a total of six career punt returns for touchdowns and holds the school for most return yards. Dugger has 237 career tackles, 10 interceptions, 36 pass break ups, 6 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks to go along with his six punt return touchdowns. His Lenoir-Rhyne team finished 13-1 and ranked No. 4 in the nation in 2019, its second highest finish in school history. Dugger will play in the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl game on January 25 in Mobile, Alabama.

From Cliff Harris:

“First, let me say congratulations to all of our 2019 Cliff Harris Award finalists and nominees. You all have played outstanding defense this season and I’m proud to have my name and football legacy associated with each one of you through this award.

It’s always challenging selecting the nation’s top defensive small college player when you start with over 500 colleges and 5,000 defensive players. However this year’s winner, Kyle Dugger, certainly stood out as one of the most explosive small college players I’ve seen in many years. Even with an injury shortened season, his impact on games was fierce and dominate. His hard work has taken him from only one small college football scholarship in high school to becoming the most elite small college defensive player in the nation. Congratulations Kyle!”

MORE: Re-live West Florida's first DII football championship

The Cliff Harris Award recognizes the top vote recipients from all three divisions. 

Division II & overall winner:  Kyle Dugger, senior safety, Lenoir-Rhyne

Division III (tie):

  • Jeff Hector, senior defensive back, Redlands (California)
  • Jordan McInerney, senior defensive lineman, Lake Forest College

NAIA (tie):

  • Jason Ferris, senior linebacker, Montana Western
  • Shaq Bradford, senior defensive lineman, Kansas Wesleyan

Past Cliff Harris Award winners, finalists


  • Division II & overall winner: Corey Ballentine, Washburn University 
  • Division III (tie): 
    • Nick Giorgio, Springfield College
    • Javon Muhammad, MacMurray College    
  • NAIA (tie):
    • Curt Boeke, Dakota State
    • Shaq Bradford, Kansas Wesleyan


  • Division III & overall winner: Michael Joseph, University of Dubuque
  • Division II (tie):
    • Marcus Martin,Slippery Rock (Pa.)
    • Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
  • NAIA: Darius Price, Siena Heights


  • Division II & Overall Winner: Connor Harris, Lindenwood
  • Division III: Chyron Brown-Wallace, St Lawrence University
  • NAIA: Sam Van Ginkel, Northwestern College


  • Division II & Overall Winner: Marquis Christian, Midwestern State
  • Division III (tie):
    • Ryan Aelker, Blufton University
    • Tom Lally, Mount Union
  • NAIA: Adam Sauder, Taylor University


  • Division II & Overall Winner: Darius Allen, CSU-Pueblo 
  • Division III: Tyre Coleman, Hobart & William Smith
  • NAIA (tie):
    • Takari Johnson, Concordia Ann Arbor
    • Ty Phillips, Missouri Valley


Division II & Overall Winner - Pierre Desir, CB – Lindenwood

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