Two Ferris State University senior student-athletes have been named the recipients of the Dean Davenport "Bulldog of the Year" Award. Standout Bulldog football player Jake Visser (Coopersville) and All-American Mikinzie Stuart (Saginaw/Nouvel) of the FSU women's cross country/track and field squad were honored as FSU's 2008-09 recipients.
Visser was chosen as a recipient of the "Bulldog of the Year" Award for the second consecutive year.
The Dean Davenport "Bulldog of the Year" Award, which was reinstated in the 2002-03 season following a seven-year absence, is presented annually to the most outstanding Ferris State male and female student-athlete. Award criteria consists of strong athletic achievements (must be a letterwinner and achieve outstanding athletic accomplishment), strong individual character and academic achievement.
The award was renamed in honor of former Ferris State Athletics Director Dean Davenport, who served in the position from 1979-93. During his tenure at Ferris, Davenport was instrumental in the planning of the FSU Sports Complex, the growth of women's intercollegiate athletics, the emergence of Ferris' NCAA Division I men's ice hockey program and the development of the athletics scholarship program. He also led the athletics department to 14 consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) President's Cup Championships. Davenport founded the "Bulldog of the Year", "Pete Peterson Pride" and "Jimmy Swears Courage" Awards at Ferris State.
A 2009 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Postgraduate Scholarship winner, Visser recently inked a free agent deal with the National Football League's (NFL) Houston Texans. The two-time (2007 & 2008) ESPN The Magazine College Division Academic All-America First Team selection capped off an outstanding career by being named among the 24 candidates for the 2008 Harlon Hill Award, which is annually presented to the top collegiate player at the Division II level. He was the only offensive or defensive lineman from across the nation to make the list. Visser attained all-conference accolades for the fourth-straight year which included first-team recognition for the third year in a row and was voted the GLIAC's Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2008 for the second consecutive campaign.
Visser, who was honored as an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and Daktronics All-America First Team pick, competed in the annual NCAA Division II All-Star Game, the 2009 Valero Cactus Bowl, in January in Kingsville, Texas. The 2008 GLIAC Jack McAvoy Award winner for character and leadership on and off the field, Visser claimed AFCA All-America First Team honors as a senior for the second consecutive year. He was also recognized as a GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Academic and Athletics Excellence honoree for the second time.
Visser added to his impressive list of postseason accolades by being tabbed as a first-team All-American by D2football.com and Don Hansen's Football Gazette. He was also named to the Associated Press Little All-America First Team, making him a consensus first team All-America choice by every source covering Division II football. As a senior last fall, Visser was also chosen as the 2008 Daktronics Super Region Three Defensive Player of the Year and among the national finalists for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award after being chosen as Super Region Three's Co-Winner of that honor. He received the most first-place votes nationally for the Upshaw Award and finished third overall in the final voting process. He also received Daktronics Super Region Three First Team laurels, making him a three-time Daktronics First Team All-Region pick.
In 2008, Visser led the Bulldogs with 105 total tackles (56 solo), 16.0 tackles for loss (-71 yards) in addition to 7.5 sacks (-54 yards), two fumble recoveries, four blocked kicks and a forced fumble in 11 contests. He also notched his first career touchdown with a 34-yard interception return at Hillsdale (Nov. 1). The returning All-America pick and two-time (2007-08) team Most Valuable Player Award recipient finished the year ranked third among the GLIAC leaders in tackles for loss (1.45 pg.), third in sacks (.68 pg.) along with seventh in total tackles (9.5 tpg.). Visser concluded his Ferris career ranked sixth on the school's career tackles chart with 395 total stops. He also placed fourth on the FSU all-time sack leaders list with 27.5 sacks and tied for first place with seven career fumble recoveries.
Stuart wrapped up her most successful season and impressive career by claiming All-America status with a fourth-place finish in the 1,500 meters during the 2009 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships held recently (May 21-23) at the LeGrand Sports Complex in San Angelo, Texas. Stuart clocked 4:31.67 in the 1,500-meter finals during her initial appearance at the national outdoor track and field championships. She also competed at this year's NCAA-II Indoor Track and Field Championships (March 13-14) in Houston, Texas, where she earned All-America honors by placing seventh for the Bulldogs in the women's one mile run (4:58.59). Stuart also earned indoor All-America accolades in 2006 as a member of FSU's record-setting distance medley relay team.
Earlier this season, Start received runner-up honors in the 1,500 meters (4:34.89) at the GLIAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships (April 30-May 1) in Hillsdale, Mich. Stuart won the mile run (4:57.94) at the conference indoor meet (Feb. 27-28) and ran on FSU's distance medley relay team that placed second (12:10.01) overall.
Last fall, Stuart was named to the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division II All-Midwest Region Team following her performance at the 2008 NCAA-II Midwest Regional Cross Country Championships (Nov. 8) at FSU's Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Mich. She placed 12th overall (22:41.6) in the field of 132 runners as FSU narrowly edged Southern Indiana by two points for the final national team qualifying berth. Last fall's third place regional effort was the program's best showing since an identical third-place finish at the 1990 NCAA-II Great Lakes Regional Championships and the 2008 campaign represented only the third time in history the Bulldog women's cross country team qualified as a team for the national championships, where they finished 17th at the NCAA-II National Championships (Nov. 22) in Slippery Rock, Pa. Stuart also was named to the All-GLIAC Cross Country Second Team last fall after an eighth-place individual performance at the league cross country championships.
Visser's selection marks the 11th time a Bulldog football player
has been honored as a winner of the "Bulldog of the Year" Award
while Stuart is only the fifth women's track and field/cross
country participant to claim the honor. Additionally, Visser is
only the fifth student-athlete in school history to receive the
award multiple times.
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