In the end, Vernon Adams’ football season was judged by his body of work, not by the health of his body.
Despite missing four games to injury, the Eastern Washington quarterback still threw for 2,876 yards and 30 touchdowns – and earned the healthy respect of coaches around the Big Sky Conference.
On Tuesday, for the second straight year, they selected Adams as the Offensive Player of the Year – the first since Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer won the honor in 2004 and 2005.
“I was so shocked – I didn’t expect it at all,” said Adams, who led the fourth-ranked Eagles to a 10-2 overall record and their third straight Big Sky title. His honor marks the 11th time in school history an Eagle has won the award, including eight of the last 11 seasons.
Said coach Beau Baldwin, “It just goes to show how much respect they have for his impact on the field.”
Adams was one of six Eagles named to the first team, more than any other Big Sky team. They include wide receiver Cooper Kupp, offensive linemen Aaron Neary and Jake Rodgers, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and safety Tevin McDonald.
Kupp, a redshirt sophomore, followed up last year’s All-America season by catching 82 passes for 1,160 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the Eagles in all three categories. Last year’s Jerry Rice Award winner as the top freshman in FCS, Kupp ranks third nationally this season in touchdown receptions.
McDonald, in his second season with the Eagles after transferring from UCLA, had 68 tackles, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Hamlin had 86 total tackles. Earlier this season, he set a school record for career tackles by passing the 432 J.C. Sherritt had from 2007-10.
Rodgers and Neary anchored an offensive line that helped the Eagles average a national-best 44.6 points and 522.8 yards of offense per game. Rodgers, the offensive line’s top All-America candidate, has the highest game grade on the line at 93 percent and leads the team in knockdown blocks with 55.
“We definitely have an O-line that’s been able to get more of a push than before,” said Neary, a first-time starter at left guard.
Second-team picks from Eastern include running back Quincy Forte, defensive end Samson Ebukam and punter Jake Miller.
Three more Eagles were named to the third team: wide receiver Shaq Hill, defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra and Kupp in his role as punt returner.
Thirteen Eastern players were honorable mention selections.
Adams was joined on the first team by Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias, who threw for 4,076 yards 38 TDs while playing 12 games.
Five Montana State players and four from the Montana Grizzlies were selected to the first team. Grizzlies senior defensive end Zack Wagenmann earned Defensive Player of the Year honors and was named to the All-Conference first team for the third straight season.
The teams and individual award winners were selected by the 13 conference head coaches on Monday.
Southern Utah junior quarterback Ammon Olsen, a transfer from BYU, was named the Newcomer of the Year. Idaho State redshirt freshman linebacker Mario Jenkins was selected as the Freshman of the Year.
The Big Sky Coach of the Year award will be announced today.
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