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Manheim Touchdown Club DII Football Award

Since 2004, the Manheim Touchdown Club has recognized the top lineman in NCAA Division II football with the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award. The award is named in the honor of former Texas A&I (now Texas A&M Kingsville) offensive line standout, Oakland Raider and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, Gene Upshaw.

upshaw3Upshaw, who also served as the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association for 25 years before his passing in 2008, earned numerous honors at A&I and was picked by the Raiders in the first round of the 1967 draft. He was the first player to play in Super Bowls in three different decades and was named to six Pro Bowls and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Upshaw was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized for your contributions to the game of football by having an award created in your name”, said Upshaw upon the creation of the award. “I hope all young men who earn this award have the same passion for the game that I had while playing college football.”

Offensive and defensive linemen from any of the football playing members of the NCAA Division II are eligible. The following criteria have been established for candidates:

a) Must be a junior or senior in athletic eligibility and competed in at least 70 percent of the team’s regular season games.
b) Must play at one of the following positions: Offensive Linemen: tackles, guards, centers (tight ends are ineligible); Defensive Linemen-ends,tackles, nose guards/tackles.
c) Must be of good academic standing (eligible to compete). Ineligible players will be disqualified.
d) Must be a All-America or all-region caliber candidate (1st or 2nd team).
e) Only one nominee per institution (regardless of position).

“As we looked at the awards that are given out on a national basis we noticed that there was no award given to a Division II lineman,” said Don Harris of the Manheim Touchdown Club. “We felt that this would be a great opportunity for the Manheim Touchdown Club to step out on to a much larger stage and create a national award that would recognize these individuals who do so much for the game. We realized that the Division III awards (Gagliardi Trophy & Melberger Award) were created by organizations such as ourselves.”

“In conversation with several sports information directors we felt that the award needed to be named after a Division II lineman who not only excelled in football but also in his life’s work,” said Harris. “As we looked around at all of the potential candidates, Gene Upshaw was by far and away the clear leader. Gene was an All American at Texas A&I, and he was a perennial All-Pro in his 16 year career in the NFL. He is in both the Division II College Hall of Fame as well as the NFL Hall of Fame.”

The award is voted upon by sports information directors at each of the football playing members of NCAA Division II. Each school has one vote and has limited to one nomination. From there, the nominations are voted upon by region and the top two vote recipients in each of the four NCAA Division II football super regions reach the national ballot.

Because efforts of the Manheim Touchdown Club and the relationship between Mr. Upshaw and the NFLPA, the NFL is a strong supporter and endorser of the award. The annual winner has a standing invitation to the East/West Shrine Game and the NFLPA All-Star Game, which gives the winner a opportunity to play in front NFL coaches and scouts prior to the NFL Draft.

For more information about the Gene Upshaw Award, contact national chairman Ethan Hulsey, Millersville University Director of Athletic Communications at ehulsey@millersville.eduncaa

The Gene Upshaw Award is recognized by the NCAA.