On USF's Max Mickey:
Max Mickey has a winning personality and one that includes a little quick wit and fun.
A junior business administration major from Holden, Mo., Mickey made a few fans, media and even coaches and teammates take notice when he wore a Christmas sweater given to him by his mother during pre-game warm ups in #4 University of Sioux Falls Football Team's first round playoff win over Azusa Pacific (34-21) on Saturday (Nov. 19) at Bob Young Field in Sioux Falls.
"I love Christmas and it felt great having it on. Plus I was having a little fun," said Mickey, one of the best running backs in NCAA DII, who is a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy as one of DII's top players.
On Monday, Mickey was one of 42 players nominated for the Hill award as announced by the national Harlon Hill Award Committee. Players are nominated and voted on by the sports information directors at the 171 NCAA DII football playing schools. The 42 initial candidates were placed on regional ballots with the top two players from each of the four NCAA regions advancing to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on Nov. 28. Of the nominees, he is one of seven from the NSIC in Super Region 3, which has the largest number of candidates at 14. The winner of the 2016 award will be announced on Dec. 16 via webcast with recipient honored at a luncheon on the University of North Alabama campus on Jan. 6, 2017.
While Mickey didn't wear the Christmas sweater during the first round playoff game, the idea of wearing pre-game took a little courage and certain amount of levity built into his friendly and open personality.
"Max is a classy guy," said USF head coach Jed Stugart. "This year, he has dedicated himself to becoming a better player and has led by example all season. He is revered by his teammates and coaching staff and our fans love him. He exemplifies what we try to do here and that is keep your focus but have fun with this game of football," said Stugart, whose team won the NSIC championship for the first time and reached 10 wins in a season for the 16th time in school history.
After putting the Christmas sweater back in his locker, Mickey put on his normal game tights and gear and proceeded to have a special game, rushing for 164 yards on 22 carries with three TDs as USF won its first-ever DII playoff game. Yet, the performance was just one of many in 2016 by Mickey, who has 12 career 100-yard rushing games, which is tied with Papilion for fourth all-time at USF.
This season alone, he has nine games over 100 yards, including games of 178, 185, 207, 140, 156, 128, 165, 132 and 164 yards. And, he has two or more TDs seven times as the Cougars have won 12 straight games for the first time in the D2 era.
Ranked in the DII top-10 in seven categories, Mickey leads DII in yards per carry at 8.93 and has been above nine yards per carry for most of the year. He also ranks second in rushing yards with 1,714 and just 12 yards from tying the USF school mark of 1,726 yards by USF Hall of Fame running back David Ruter in 1996.
"Whether it is practice or game time, Max is always ready to go," said Stugart. "Plus, he is so selfless. He always thanks his offensive lineman, backs and receivers for their efforts in making our DII third-ranked rushing game go," noted Stugart.
Indeed. In the post-game press conference after the playoff win, a smiling Mickey turned serious when discussing USF's offensive line. "They deserve the credit not me," said Mickey, who almost always requires two defenders to bring him down. "They work so hard that I just have to run to the gaps. Plus all of them are great friends and brothers," he said.
Trailing national leader Bubba Jenkins of Southwest Baptist (1,739 yards) by just 25 yards, Mickey will be back in action on Saturday, Nov. 26 against #5 Harding at USF's Bob Young Field in Sioux Falls with the chance to overtake Jenkins, who team lost to Colorado Mines, 63-35.
With Mickey, along with three-time all-league quarterback Luke Papilion and senior honorable mention All-NSIC running back Justin Fulks, the Cougars not only average 322.8 yards rushing per game as a team, they rank third nationally in total offense with 528.4 yards per game. While Mickey leads DII in yards per tote, Papilion is second at 7.8 yards per carry and just 36 yards away from being a second USF player with 1,000 yards rushing this year (124-964-16 TDs). Fulks, who averages 6.7 yards per carry, has 119 carries for 797 yards, a career-best.
The son of Bob and Linda Mickey averages 142.8 yards per game, a total which is the best per game average in school history. He also ranks fourth in DII with 19 TDs and has 22 TDs overall, which places him fourth in DII in total points scored with 132 and ninth in scoring at 11.0 ppg.
A scrapper when hit, Mickey simply does not go down, noted USF offensive line coach Josh Breske. "Max, Luke and Justin are all the same way, on first contact they do not just shrug off would be tacklers. They keep driving and pushing forward. They never quit which really makes our offensive line want to work hard for them. This is a team that is resilient and focused," he said.
Mickey, who has 2,733 career rushing yards and 32 TDs, is part of a rushing attack that has set a school record with 3,873 yards which broke the 2009 mark of 3,842. Plus this unit did it in 12 games while the 2009 squad played 15 in route to an NAIA championship. As a unit, the Cougars have averaged 7.1 yards per carry and have 42 rushing TDs. Remarkable is that Mickey and his teammates rarely lose yardage. On 549 carries, the Cougars have just 211 yards in losses. And, Mickey, well he has lost just 41 yards all season and Fulks only 14.
"That really shows something about their focus," said Stugart, who has seen his junior break off four runs of 70 yards or better and nine carries of at least 35 yards. "Every play they are committed to making something happen."
But numbers mean little to the junior from USF. Like his teammates, he is all about winning and sharing a special experience as a student-athlete at USF.
When he was hurt in week four of the 2015 season, Mickey didn't have his burst and it turned out a little frustrating. Mostly because his felt limited and not fully capable of helping his brothers at USF in a drive for a championship. It is why he dedicated himself to healing and getting strong. Plus, a value system instilled by his parents and his coaches at USF provided him with the inner strength to do what it took.
"I know that Max and his teammates are dedicated to doing something special this season," said Stugart. "They love each other, believe in each other and have fun at this game. It is what has gotten us to this point."
On Augie's Trey Heid:
Augustana University senior quarterback Trey Heid is one of 42 nominees for the 2016 Harlon Hill Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top player in NCAA Division II. The National Harlon Award committee announced the list of candidates Monday morning.|
The list includes seven nominees from Super Region 1, 10 from Super Region 2, 14 from Super Region 3 and 11 from Super Region 4. The group of 42 candidates includes 20 quarterbacks, eight running backs, five receivers, three defensive linemen, two linebackers, one offensive lineman, one defensive back, one tight end and one kicker. The list also includes 23 seniors and 19 underclassmen.
The winner of the 2016 award will be announced on Friday, Dec. 16 via a webcast and the winner will be honored at a luncheon on the University of North Alabama campus on Jan. 6, 2017.
Players are nominated and voted on by the sports information directors at the 171 NCAA Division II football-playing institutions. The 42 initial candidates will be placed on regional ballots and the top two players from each of the four NCAA regions will advance to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on Nov. 28.
Heid, a 6-foot-2, 199-pound quarterback from Lakeville, Minnesota, was recently named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Offensive Player of the year for the second straight season. He is the first player to earn NSIC Offensive Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons since Minnesota Duluth's Isaac Odim was awarded following the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Heid led the NSIC and set an Augustana single season record with 3,582 passing yards in 2016 while throwing for a league-high and single season record 41 touchdowns.
He accounted for 51 total touchdowns no the season as he led the Vikings with 721 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Heid led the NSIC and the entire country averaging 391.2 yards of total offense per game in 2016. He passed for 250-plus yards in all 11 games in 2016, while throwing two or more touchdown passes in all 11 contests. Heid threw for over 300 yards in six games and tossed four or more touchdowns in 7 of 11 games. He finishes his career as the NSIC's all-time leader in total offense with 13,019 yards in 43 career conference games.
Heid finished second all-time in NSIC history with 104 touchdown passes and third with 11,300 passing yards in NSIC play. Heid is Augutana's all-time leader in passing yards (11,476) passing touchdowns (105) and total offense yards (13,235). He is a two-time All-NSIC First Team selection. He was named All-NSIC Second Team in 2014.