Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award
Presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club
January 6, 2009

(Manheim, Pa.) Sam Collins, a senior offensive center from Abilene Christian University, has been selected as the 2008 winner of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award, sponsored by the Manheim Touchdown Club.

The Upshaw Award winner is selected by the Sports Information Directors of the 150 Football Playing NCAA Division II institutions and is named in honor of the late Gene Upshaw, former Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association. Gene Upshaw passed away August 20, 2008.

Upshaw was a standout lineman at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) before achieving All-Pro status six times during his 16 year career with the NFL Oakland Raiders. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, his first year of eligibility and served as the NFLPA Executive Director from 19983 until his death in 2008. Upshaw is the only player in NFL history to play in three Super Bowls in three different decades – in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He was voted into the College Hall of Fame in 1987.

Don Harris, past President of the Manheim Touchdown Club, which sponsors the Award, said:

“After speaking with Abilene Christian’s Head Coach Chris Thomsen, it’s easy to see why Collins was this year’s award winner. Sam Collins started every game in his college career, and set a record for starts at Abilene Christian with 46 consecutive starts. Anyone who can start on a Division II football team as a freshman and not miss a game is someone special. I know that Gene would be pleased with this year’s award winner.”

Abilene Christian head coach Chris Thomsen added, “Sam Collins is what I call a Triple Crown type of individual. He’s a great student, a great player and an even better person. When you build a football team, we have always tried to build up the middle. Sam Collins has anchored that middle for us for the last four years. Sam is a leader, he’s smart, and he’s a competitor. We finished 11-1 this year. It’s easy to be a good coach when you have a player like Sam Collins.”

Collins helped lead ACU offense, which finished No. 1 in Division II football in total offense (558.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (52.3 points per game), while finishing second in the nation in sacks allowed per game (0.67).

The balloting for this year’s award winner was very close said Harris, with Jeremy Davis, offensive right guard for Northwest Missouri State University and Jake Visser, defensive tackle for Ferris State University finishing second and third respectively.

The other finalists for the award included Carson-Newman offensive guard Thomas Battle, Delta State offensive tackle Mark Ellis,  Bloomsburg University defensive lineman Jon Ochs, Grand Valley State University defensive tackle Daniel Skuta, and the only junior of the group, California of PA’s defensive end Willie Walker.


Sam Collins as a 6-0, 275 pound native of Denton, Texas (Denton Ryan High School) set a school record of 46 consecutive starts for Abilene Christian University who finished the 2008 season 11-1 and ranked 4thnationally according to, and ranked 5thnationally by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). As a senior Collins earned numerous awards during the 2008 season while holding down the middle of the Wildcats offensive line.

  • 1st team Daktronics all-America
  • 2nd team Associated Press Little all-America
  • 1st team Daktronics all-Super Region 4
  • 1st team ESPN The Magazine academic all-District VI
  • 1st team academic all-Lone Star Conference
  • 1st team all-Lone Star Conference South Division
  • 1st team pre-season all-America by
  • 1st team pre-season all-America by Consensus Draft Services
  • In 2008, blocked for Harlon Hill Award winner in Bernard Scott
  • In 2007-08, blocked for Scott, who rushed for 4,321 yards and scored 73 total touchdowns.