LITTLE ROCK (December 20, 2017) - Both Brandon Payer (Jr., ILB, Pine, Colo.) and Darius Williams (Jr., CB, Gilbert, Ariz.) of Colorado State University-Pueblo football have been listed as a finalist for The Cliff Harris Award, which is presented to the top defensive player in the country representing Division II, III and NAIA colleges and universities.
Last week the nominiees were posted and Wedneday, the finalists were announced with the winner being released Dec. 23. A total of 82 student-athletes from the three levels were listed as finalists with 30 coming from NCAA Division II.
The award is named in honor of former Dallas Cowboy great Cliff Harris, an Arkansas native who was offered only one college scholarship to then-NAIA Ouachita Baptist University. Harris was passed over for the 1970 NFL draft. He signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys and then helped lead Dallas to five Super Bowl appearances during the next decade. The hard-hitting Harris played in six Pro Bowls and changed the way the position of free safety was played.
CSU-Pueblo football is no stranger to the award, as defensive lineman Darius Allen was the 2014 Cliff Harris Award winner.
AFCA All-America First Team ... D2CCA All-Region First Team ... All-RMAC First Team ... All-NFFCC First Team ... Started all 12 games at inside linebacker and finished the season with 110 tackles with 71 solo ... Was 2nd in the RMAC in both tackles and solo tackles ... Ranks 22nd nationally in solo tackles ... The 71 solo tackles is a new modern era program record ... Led the RMAC with 14.0 tackles for loss (-50 yards) and added 4.5 sacks to tie for 5th ... Forced three fumbles (T-3rd in RMAC, T-58th nationally) with one recovery ... Compiled six games with double-digit tackle totals with a season high 14 at West Texas A&M (Sept. 9) ... The ThunderWolves defense finished the regular season 10th nationally in both total defense (273.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (14.3 ppg) and 11th in turnovers gained (27) ... Academic All-District and Academic All-RMAC First Team.
D2CCA All-America First Team ... AFCA All-America Second Team ... D2CCA All-Region First Team ... All-RMAC First Team ... All-NFFCC First Team ... Williams finished the regular season T-2nd in NCAA Division II for interceptions with eight, which is also a CSU-Pueblo program record ... Returned those eight interceptions for 176 yards (5th in Division II) and three touchdowns (T-1st in Division II) ... Added nine pass break-ups to finish 2nd in the RMAC in passes defended (17), which also ranks T-23rd nationally ... Compiled 46 tackles (34 solo) with 4.5 tackles for loss (-13 yards) and a sack (-6 yards) ... Forced a fumble in the playoff game at Minnesota State (Nov. 18) ... Named RMAC Player of the Week once in 2017 ... CSU-Pueblo finished the regular season 4th nationally in both interceptions (21) and team passing efficiency defense (88.95) and were 10th in scoring defense (14.3 ppg) and total defense (273.5 ypg).
THE THUNDERWOLVES IN 2017
The Pack finished the season with a 9-3 overall record, while their 9-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference mark was good for a share of the league title. CSU-Pueblo advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs as a seven seed. The ThunderWolves fell 16-13 in overtime to No. 1 overall and No. 2 seed Minnesota State University, Mankato. The Pack were No. 20 nationally following the end of the regular season and moved up to No. 17 in the final poll.
The defense closed the regular season top 20 nationally in eight categories, red zone defense (3rd, 57.7%), interceptions (4th, 21), team passing efficiency defense (4th, 88.95), defensive touchdowns (7th, 5), scoring defense (10th, 14.3), total defense (10th, 273.5), turnovers gained (11th, 27) and passing yards allowed (18th, 164.6).
The Pack also finished the regular season top 25 in Division II in turnover margin (17th, 1,0), net punting (20th, 36.8), kick returns (23rd, 23.0), red zone offense (23rd, 88%) and scoring offense (24th, 37.6).
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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics.