NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Senior wide receiver/special teams standout Dakota Nelson highlighted 13 Manchester University student-athletes in the 2017 all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors, released Wednesday, Nov. 17.
The Fairland, Ind., native was tabbed Special Teams Player of the Year for the second time in his illustrious collegiate career. The program's all-time leader in career touchdowns (34) and single-season receiving yardage (1,116 – 2014), he established himself not only in the conference but also in NCAA Division III in the realm of punt and kickoff returns this season. He's among the national top 10 in all-purpose yards (190.1 pg – No. 7); combined kick return yardage (1,025 – No. 3); kick off return touchdowns (two – No. 2); and kickoff return yardage (28.6 ypr – No. 7).
Coach Nate Jensen's team, which closed out a memorable slate with four successive victories and regaining the coveted Bronze Ball trophy as part of a 6-4 record, also had senior tight end Jared Bourff (Elwood, Ind.) and senior offensive lineman Eric Beard (Findlay, Ohio) join Nelson on the top team. Bourff registered 20 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns, while Beard anchored an offensive line unit that plowed the way for better than 350 yards and almost 25 points a contest.
Two Black and Gold offensive and defensive players each wound up on the second team. Sophomore running back Donovan Henderson, Jr., (Hollywood, Fla.), among the conference's top rushers and ranked among the nation's top 50 in rushing touchdowns, and senior center Robby Davis (Cayuga, Ind.) who joined Beard to form that rock-solid front line was the offense's honorees. Senior linebacker Jack Kay (Williamsport, Ind.), who spent most of his season ranked highly on the conference's tackle per game charts due to a total of 76, and junior defensive back Dillon Nelson (Fairland, Ind.), who plagued opposing quarterbacks to the tune of four pass break-ups, an interception and 50 tackles, represented the MU defense.
Manchester University's honorable mention list included sophomore wide receiver Austin Roberts (Indianapolis, Ind.); junior defensive lineman Jacob Cooper (Fairland, Ind.); sophomore defensive lineman Nolan Sipe (Fort Wayne, Ind.); senior defensive back Wayne Smith (Columbia City, Ind.) and senior linebacker Mitchell Oskam (St. John, Ind.). Senior wide receiver Bailey Partington (Lapel, Ind.) wrapped it up by being named to the Sportsmanship team.
Dakota Nelson, who finished as a three-time all-league awardee, wasn't the only one to add to an impressive honors' total. Kay's second team award was his second; Dillon Nelson's second team accolade marked his third overall selection; Beard's first team recognition was the second time he's been noted, and Oskam was a two-time honorable mention pick.