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Stan Becton | | January 8, 2023

Buck Buchanan Award: Complete history of the FCS defensive honor

North Dakota State's football dynasty

The Buck Buchanan Award is given each year to the most outstanding defensive player in FCS football. Illinois State linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh won the 2022 award on the day before the FCS championship game.

Here's everything you need to know about the annual honor, presented by Stats Perform FCS.

MORE: Walter Payton Award history | Jerry Rice Award history

FCS Buck Buchanan Award: What is it and who is it named after?

The Buck Buchanan Award debuted in 1995 to honor the most outstanding defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

A national panel of more than 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries vote on the award's winner, based on players' regular-season performances. Voting is conducted before the start of FCS playoffs.

The Buck Buchanan Award is one of five national awards announced by STATS FCS:

  • Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year)
  • Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year)
  • Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year)
  • Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year)
  • Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year

The defensive player of the year award's namesake, Junious “Buck” Buchanan, was an AFL and NFL legend with the Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs, earning eight-straight AFL All-Star and NFL Pro Bowl trips, two AFL Championships, and a Super Bowl IV ring. The 1963 first-overall pick began his journey at FCS program Grambling State from 1959-1962.

Buchanan, an All-American defensive tackle, measured in at 6’7’’ and 280 pounds. After joining Grambling State on an “if” scholarship, Buchanan quickly became one of the best players in Grambling State history. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.

Southeast Mo. State Athletics Zach Hall Buck BuchananSoutheast Missouri State LB Zach Hall won the 2018 Buck Buchanan Award

FCS Buck Buchanan Award: When is the winner announced?

The Buck Buchanan Award winner is revealed annually at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation the night before the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas. The 2022 recipient was announced Saturday, Jan. 7, 2022, in a broadcasted show. 

All five STATS FCS national honors are celebrated at the banquet, though the Jerry Rice, Eddie Robinson and Doris Robinson winners are all announced ahead of time. The Payton and Buchanan award winners are revealed for the first time as part of the ceremony.

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The first 35-man Buck Buchanan Award watch list is released in the preseason by STATS FCS. The list has updated periodically throughout the regular season, culminating in the invitation of finalists to attend the banquet.

FCS Buck Buchanan Award: Complete history of past recipients

Illinois State linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh is the 28th recipient of the Buck Buchanan Award after beating out fellow finalists John Pius (William & Mary) and David Walker (Central Arkansas). Vandenburgh had 100 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 14 sacks,  2 forced fumbles and an interception during the 2022 season.

Linebackers have accounted for a position-best 16 winners since the award debuted in 1995. 11 defensive ends, one defensive tackles, and one cornerback have also been honored. Cal Poly and Montana lead all schools with three winners apiece.

Only one player has lifted the hardware in consecutive years: Appalachian State standout linebacker Dexter Coakley won in 1995 and '96, the first two seasons of the award’s history.

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Other notable past honorees include eventual NFL stars Jared Allen (Idaho State, 2003) and Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman, 2002). See the full list below.

FCS Buck Buchanan Award winners (1995-2021):

2022 Zeke Vandenburg, Illinois State Linebacker Top moments
2021 Isaiah Land, Florida A&M Linebacker Top plays
2020 Jordan Lewis, Southern Defensive End  
2019 Dante Olson, Montana Linebacker  
2018 Zach Hall, Southeast Missouri State Linebacker  
2017 Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State Defensive End  
2016 Karter Schult, Northern Iowa Defensive End  
2015* Tyrone Holmes, Montana Linebacker  
2015 Deon King, Norfolk State Linebacker  
2014 Kyle Emanuel, North Dakota State Defensive End  
2013 Brad Daly, Montana State Defensive End  
2012 Caleb Schreibeis, Montana State Defensive End  
2011 Matt Evans, New Hampshire Linebacker  
2010 J.C. Sherritt, Eastern Washington Linebacker  
2009 Arthur Moats, James Madison Defensive End  
2008 Greg Peach, Eastern Washington Defensive End  
2007 Kroy Biermann, Montana Defensive End  
2006 Kyle Shotwell, Cal Poly Linebacker  
2005 Chris Gocong, Cal Poly Defensive End  
2004 Jordan Beck, Cal Poly Linebacker  
2003 Jared Allen, Idaho State Defensive End  
2002 Rashean Mathis, Bethune-Cookman Cornerback  
2001 Derrick Lloyd, James Madison Linebacker  
2000 Edgerton Hartwell, Western Illinois Linebacker  
1999 Al Lucas, Troy State Defensive Tackle  
1998 James Milton, Western Illinois Linebacker  
1997 Chris McNeil, North Carolina A&T Defensive End  
1996 Dexter Coakley, Appalachian State Linebacker  
1995 Dexter Coakley, Appalachian State Linebacker  
*-Stats Perform FCS Defensive Player of the Year

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