Pittsburg State offensive lineman Nathan Baker was named as the recipient of the first annual Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award, sponsored by the Manheim Touchdown Club, it was announced Thursday night at the Cactus Bowl banquet. Baker, a 6’4”, 313 pound, senior from Parsons, Kansas, was the runaway winner of the award. Baker received 75 percent of the first place votes, as voted on by Division II Sports Information Director. Baker has already appeared on numerous All-American teams and was invited to play in the Cactus Bowl in Kingsville, Texas, which takes place on Friday night at 6:35 p.m. at Javelina Stadium.
Baker was a unanimous first team All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association selection. He was named first team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, D2Football.com, Daktronics and the Associated Press Little All-America. He helped lead Pittsburg State to the national championship game and a 14-1 overall record. PSU led the nation in scoring (59.5 ppg), rushing (374.3 ypg) and total offense (648.1 ypg). The PSU offense had highest total offensive average of any school in NCAA history (1984, Mississippi Valley State, 640.1 ypg). More importantly to Baker, his line only allowed five quarterback sacks i 15 games.
“Our staff has been fortunate to coach 10 All-America offensive linemen in the past 11 seasons and Nathan is as good a player as any who have competed for the Gorillas in my tenure,” PSU Coach and Athletic Director Chuck Broyles said. Finishing in second place in the voting, and as the top defensive lineman in the voting, was Texas A&M University-Kingsville defensive tackle Wilbert Martin. Martin, a junior from Houston, Texas, received the second most first place votes and the most second place votes, appearing on nearly two-thirds of the ballots. Martin was the only junior in the top five in the voting. Martin has been named All-LSC South Division twice and was named LSC South Division Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2004. In two years he has played in 23 games, making a total of 116 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, six sacks, an interception and seven passes defended. After Baker, on the offensive side of the ball was South Dakota’s Brian Alderson, Bloomsburg’s Jahri Evans and Shaw’s Robert Rhodes. On the defensive side Ryan Hoffmanof Shippensburg followed Martin, then was Winona State’s James Stanekand Presbyterian’s William “Teddy” Canty.
“In the seven year’s that Manheim Touchdown Club has been in existence we have always tried to recognize excellence,” Don Harris, President of the Manheim Touchdown Club said. “We recognize excellence in athletics as well as excellence in the class room. We are very happy with the selection of Nathan Baker as the winner of the first Gene Upshaw Lineman of the Year Award. Nathan has proven that through hard work and dedication you can achieve excellence on the football field. We at the Manheim Touchdown Club look forward to watching Nathan play at the next level on Sundays.”