Sam Collins a senior center from Abilene Christian University, has been selected as the 2008 winner of the Gene Upshaw Division 2 Lineman of the Year Award, which is sponsored by the Manheim Touchdown Club.

The Upshaw Award winner is selected by the Sports Information Directors of the 150 football-playing NCAA Division 2 institutions, and is named in honor of the late Gene Upshaw, the former Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association.

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 in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, his first year of eligibility, and he served as the NFLPA Executive Director from 1983 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.

“After speaking with Abilene Christian head coach Chris Thomsen, it’s easy to see why Collins was this year’s award winner,” Manheim Touchdown Club member and past president Don Harris said in a release.

“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 2 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.”

“Sam Collins is what I call a ‘triple crown’ type of individual,” Thomsen said in a release. “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’s offense, which finished No. 1 in Division 2 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 (just 0.67).

The balloting for this year’s award winner was very close, Harris said, with Jeremy Davis, an offensive right guard for Northwest Missouri State University, and Jake Visser, a 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 (Pa.) defensive end Willie Walker.

Collins, a 6-foot, 275-pounder, also earned these awards this past season:
First-Team Daktronics All-American, Second-Team Associated Press Little All-American, First-Team Daktronics All-Super Region 4, First-Team ESPN the Magazine All-Academic District 4, First-Team Academic Lone Star Conference South Division, First-Team Pre-season All-American by and First-Team Pre-season All-American by Consensus Draft Services.

Collins will be honored at the Manheim Touchdown Club’s annual banquet in the spring.


Published: JANUARY 6TH, 2009 2:38 PM
by Jeffery Reinhart
New Era Sports Writer

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