Ferris State All-America QB Jason Vander Laan Among National Nominees For AFCA Good Works Team
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Big Rapids, Mich. - Ferris State University All-America quarterback Jason Vander Laan (Frankfort, Ill./Chicago Christian), who will be a junior for the Bulldogs this fall and a returning Division II Harlon Hill Trophy candidate, was announced Tuesday (July 15) by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as one of the national nominees for the 2014 All-State AFCA Good Works Team.
For 23 years the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® has served as one of the most coveted and prestigious off-the-field honors in college football. The award recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes participating in the sport. The Allstate Insurance Company and the AFCA announced a record-breaking 182 nominees from across the country who represent the sport's finest in the areas of volunteerism and leadership among their peers.
Since its establishment in 1992, the award has existed to pay tribute to the "good" in college football that extends beyond the wins and the losses. While balancing academics and athletics, this select group of student-athletes nominated by their respective colleges and universities has committed their limited free time to having a lasting impact on their communities.
Vander Laan, who has been FSU's starting quarterback the last two seasons and tabbed as a USA Football Preseason All-America selection this year, is one of only three individuals from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and among only seven from the entire state of Michigan to be chosen as a nominee for the honor.
"Year after year, the 'good works' associated with this impressive group of student-athletes continue to inspire and raise the bar for future nominees," said Jim Haskins, president of Allstate's West Territory and a member of the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® voting panel. "Allstate is proud to be a part of an award that recognizes the importance of giving back to the communities where we live, work and cheer on game day."
While heroes emerge on the gridiron each Saturday, this year's nominees' heroics extend beyond touchdowns and tackles. From establishing an epilepsy awareness campaign that has touched the lives of more than 100,000 families to founding a book club program to provide at-risk youth with safe and structured after-school activities, the impressive service resumes of these remarkable student-athletes has earned them recognition on a national level.
"It's great to see all the 'good works' these student-athletes are doing at their universities and in their communities," Grant Teaff, AFCA executive director said. "The AFCA is proud to work with Allstate in highlighting the record number of nominees sent in for the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®."
Comprised of 11 players from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and 11 players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III and the NAIA, the final roster of 22 award recipients will be unveiled in September. From the nominees submitted by sports information directors across the nation on behalf of their schools, a special voting panel consisting of former Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® members and prominent college football media members will select the 2014 Good Works Team.®
The 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® voting panel includes: former Good Works Team® members Zaid Abdul-Aleem (Duke, 1994 team), Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia, 1997, 1998 teams), Brian Brenberg (St. Thomas, 2001 team), Mike Proman (Amherst, 2002 team); media members Lou Holtz (ESPN), Kirk Herbstreit (ESPN), Bruce Feldman (Fox Sports), Blair Kerkhoff (Kansas City Star); current AFCA President and Ithaca College head coach Mike Welch; 1987 AFCA President and former head coach at Brigham Young University LaVell Edwards; and Jim Haskins, president of Allstate's West Territory.
Once the final team members are announced in September, fans are encouraged to visit the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® website on ESPN.com, featuring profiles and images of the players, for the opportunity to vote for the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® Captain.
In order to meet the criteria set forth by Allstate and the AFCA, each player must be actively involved and committed to working with a charitable organization or service group while maintaining a strong academic standing.
A Beyond Sports Network Division II All-American last fall and Harlon Hill Trophy regional finalist, Vander Laan officially broke an NCAA Division II all-time single season record in the Bulldogs' season-ending 35-22 win over Northern Michigan last season (Nov. 16) at Top Taggart Field and also claimed All-GLIAC Second Team laurels on the gridiron for FSU. The Bulldog sophomore signal caller closed the season with 1,607 yards on the ground, which far surpassed the previous national record established by Wofford's Shawn Graves in 1989.
His totals helped the Bulldogs top the previous school record for most team rushing yards in a single-season. Last year marked the second consecutive year in which FSU broke the record under head coach Tony Annese as Ferris State finished the 2013 season with a program-best 3,491 yards on the ground.
Vander Laan's play in 2013 helped the Bulldogs finish with an 8-3 overall record along with a second-place 8-2 finish in the GLIAC North Division standings. FSU, which finished the year riding a four-game winning streak, narrowly missed receiving the school's first playoff bid in 17 years.
The Bulldogs' eight-win campaign was the school's first since 2006 and only the second in the program's last 16 seasons. In addition, FSU's eight league victories were its most since 1996 and the four-game winning streak to close the season was the longest to end a campaign since 2001.
Last season, Vander Laan ranked as the nation's top running quarterback with more rushing yards on the ground than any other signal caller in the country, regardless of level. His 1,607 total yards rushing finished tops among all quarterbacks in the regular-season at the NCAA Division I, II or III level, including both the FBS and FCS levels of competition.
Off the field, vander Laan also has impressive credentials. He was a recipient of the GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Excellence last fall based on his accomplishments on and off the field. In addition, the two-time team captain has also received GLIAC All-Academic laurels each of the last two years for his work in the classroom. A FSU Dean's Academic Award recipient, Vander Laan has also been active in the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapter and participated in numerous team community service award initiatives. This past spring, he spent his spring break on a mission trip to Florida as part of the "Hammers & Hearts" program in which he joined other campus student-athletes and individuals to help rebuild four homes destroyed by tropical storms and flooding.
"Jason is an outstanding person on and off the field and a highly-regarded competitor whose been a tremendous leader for our football team," said FSU head coach Tony Annese. "He's a tremendous and highly-regarded individual who excels at everything he does and is humble while doing it. You won't find a better or more deserving person either on or off the field."
Besides his season totals a year ago, Vander Laan's 279 total yards rushing versus Lake Erie last year ranked as NCAA Division II's sixth-highest single game performance of the regular-season. His 279 total yards on the ground versus Lake Erie were the most by a Bulldog rusher since Andrew Terry established a NCAA record with 410 yards rushing on 38 carries against Findlay in 2004 (10/2/04) at Top Taggart Field.
The Bulldog signal caller concluded his second season listed fifth all-time on the Bulldogs' career rushing list with 2,975 total yards. His performance against Northern Michigan in the season finale marked his fourth 200+ yard rushing performance of the season. Last year, he also surpassed C.J. Van Wieren (2004-07) to become the school's all-time career leader in rushing yardage by a quarterback. Vander Laan also ranks ninth in school history in passing yards with 3,234 total yards and currently ranks seventh in school history with 6,179 career yards of total offense.
Overall, Vander Laan ranked fourth nationally in rushing touchdowns (21) along with seventh nationally in rushing yards (1,607) in 2013. Vander Laan was also eighth in the country in scoring (11.5 ppg.) and second in the GLIAC in points responsible for (216).
Behind Vander Laan's play at quarterback, the Bulldogs led the GLIAC and ranked sixth nationally in rushing offense with a school-record 317.4 yards per game. FSU was also the league leader and 12th nationally in total offense with an average of 492.5 yards per contest. Ferris State finished second in the country in third down conversion percentage (.497). The Bulldogs also ranked as the GLIAC's second-highest scoring offense (38.8 ppg.) and were among the top 30 in the nation.
The Bulldogs will begin their 106th season of varsity competition this coming fall with their sights set on competing for a potential GLIAC Championship and a NCAA Division II Playoff berth after posting only the program's second eight-win season in the last 16 years during the 2013 campaign. FSU opens the 2014 campaign with a non-league contest at McKendree (Ill.) on Thursday, Sept. 4, before visiting Northwood for their GLIAC opener on Sept. 13 in Midland.
FSU's 2014 home opener at Top Taggart Field will be on Sept. 20 as the Bulldogs entertain archrival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic with kickoff set for 7 p.m. (ET).
Both season and individual game tickets for all 2014 home contests are now on sale and can be purchased thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office by calling (231) 591-2888 or online at StarTickets.com. For more information, please visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com.