ACU quarterback Mitchell Gale has been named a regional finalist for the 2010 Harlon Hill Award, given to the nation’s best Division II football player.
The Harlon Hill Award was first given in 1986 to recognize the best player in Div. II that season.
The award is named for former University of North Alabama star tight-end Harlon Hill, who played from 1950-1953. He was then drafted from then Florence State College to the Chicago Bears in the 15th round of the 1953 NFL Draft.
“Harlon Hill was a kind of a no name from our community,” said committee chairman Jeff Hodges. “He was given a chance in the NFL and won rookie of the year awards, one of the first small college guys to make it big.”
During the award’s 24-year history, only one ACU Wildcat has done what it takes to win the nation’s most prestigious Div. II award – Bernard Scott. Scott played just two seasons with ACU after transferring from Blinn Junior College in Bryan. Scott was nominated for the award both seasons he played at ACU. His first year he took home second place, finishing behind NFL running back Danny Woodhead. The following year Scott ran away with the competition, securing 66 of the 100 first place votes.
Should Gale be nominated as a national finalist, it would be the fourth time in ACU history a player has made it to the national voting stage. Bernard Scott did it twice in 2007 and 2008, and former ACU quarterback Rex Lamberti did it in 1993.
“It’s an honor, but I couldn’t have done anything without the other guys on the offense, special teams, and defense,” Gale said. “This is more about the team than me.”
The voting process for the award is already well under way with the completion of regional voting. Just 24 players remain in the competition, and just eight will remain after Nov. 19 when two regional finalists will be chosen to move on to the national voting process.
Other nominees in Super Region Four who are in competition with Gale are fellow quarterbacks Blake Bolles of Northwest Missouri State University; Eric Czerniewski of the University of Central Missouri; Stephen Gachette of Southwest Baptist University; and Taylor Harris of West Texas A&M University.
Joining the list of star-studded quarterbacks in Super Region Four is running back Josh Birmingham from Central Oklahoma University.
Gale is the only sophomore in the region and one of three sophomores nationally.
Even so, many believe Gale to be a front-runner to make it out of the regional voting and to be one of the top three finalists.
Gale is statistically one of the top quarterbacks in the country. He ranks third in the nation in passer efficiency with a rating of 167.33. His two interceptions on the season are the nation’s lowest for a quarterback, with at least 200 pass attempts, and he ranks in the top-10 in most other major statistical passing categories.
Once the final eight finalists are chosen, a committee of 100 members will vote on the national finalists.
The top three will receive an invitation to the Harlon Hill dinner on Dec. 15 on the North Alabama campus in Florence, Ala. – Harlon Hill’s alma mater. The nominees will not know the position they finished in, and the winner will be announced at the dinner.
“It would be really great to get to be there,” Gale said. “I just hope I’m there with all my teammates.”