FLORENCE, Alabama – Arkansas Tech senior quarterback Nick Graziano has been invited to attend the 24th Annual Harlon Hill Trophy Presentation Banquet as one of the top three finishers for the 2009 NCAA Division II Football Player of the Year Award.
The voting for this year’s Harlon Hill Trophy has concluded and Graziano, Wayne State [MI] University senior running back Joique Bell and West Liberty [WV] State University junior quarterback Zach Amedro have all received invitations to attend this year’s Harlon Hill Presentation Banquet.
This year’s winner of the 2009 Hill Trophy will be announced on Dec. 11 in Florence, Ala., during the Harlon Hill Trophy and Division II Football Hall of Fame Banquet, which is held one day prior to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game at Florence’s Braly Municipal Stadium. The banquet will also include the induction of former Savannah State standout Shannon Sharpe into the Division II Football Hall of Fame.
The Hill Trophy is sponsored by the City of Florence, Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, Opti-Net, the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa and Herff Jones.
Tickets for the Harlon Hill Banquet are $50 each or $400 for a table of eight and can be purchased by calling Judy Keenum at the Shoals Chamber of Commerce at (256) 764-4661.
Candidates for the 2009 Hill Trophy were nominated by the sports information directors at their respective schools and those nominations were then reviewed by the Hill Regional Advisory Committees, which trimmed the list of candidates. National voting concluded on Nov. 28 and the top three finishers in the national voting are invited to the Shoals area for the presentation banquet.
“I can’t be more proud of this honor for Nick, our school and our football program,” Tech Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Steve Mullins said. “He is very deserving of this prestigious award. He will leave Tech as one of the best quarterbacks to not only play here, but also in the state of Arkansas.”
Other finalists for this year’s award were North Alabama senior quarterback Harrison Beck, Northwest Missouri senior running back LaRon Council, Midwestern State junior quarterback Zack Eskridge, Edinboro senior quarterback Trevor Harris, Grand Valley State senior quarterback Brad Iciek and Minnesota-Duluth junior running back Isaac Odim.
With his invitation to the Hill Banquet this season, Graziano, who is a native of Moraga, Calif., and a transfer from the University of Nevada, becomes the first-ever Arkansas player to finish in the Top 3 of the Hill Trophy voting. Prior to this season, the highest finisher among Arkansas players for the Hill Trophy was Central Arkansas quarterback Zak Clark, who finished fifth in 2002. Other Arkansas players named as finalists for the award since the award’s inception: Harding quarterback David Knighton, who finished seventh in 2007, Arkansas-Monticello quarterback Cory Allred, who finished sixth in 2004 and Arkansas-Monticello receiver Anthony Giovingo, who finished eighth in 1998.
Graziano, who is the third Wonder Boy to ever be selected as a candidate for the Hill Trophy, became the first Tech player to be placed on the national ballot as Todd Cooley and Cole Barthel were both candidates for the Hill Trophy in 1997 and 2008 respectively.
Graziano earned his invitation to this year’s Hill Trophy Banquet after being named both the Gulf South Conference and Daktronics Super Region Two Offensive Player of the Year. On the season, Graziano, who rewrote both the school’s single-season passing and total offensive mark records, passed for a school and GSC-record 4,313 yards and accounted for a school and GSC record 4,768 yards of total offense. Graziano finished the season 333-for-538 passing and completed nearly 62 percent of his passes and is ranked second nationally in total offense (397.3 yards/game) and third nationally in both passing (359.4 yards/game) and points responsible for (22.5 points/game). He threw a school and Arkansas record 38 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions in 12 games. Graziano had a hand in 45 of Tech’s school record 66 touchdowns as he scored seven times on the ground, including an 82-yard touchdown run in Tech’s 35-23 win over Delta State. Along with his passing, Graziano also gained 455 yards rushing on 76 carries, including rushing for a team-best 196 yards in that game against Delta State.
He was named a four-time GSC Offensive Player of the Week and was a three-time National co-Offensive Player of the Week by D2Football.com. Graziano became the first GSC player since Valdosta State’s Lance Funderburk in 1996 to be named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week four times in the same season. He has had Tech’s only 400-yard passing games in school history, a feat he has accomplished six times on the year, including throwing for a single-game school record 465 yards in Tech’s 41-13 home playoff win over UNC Pembroke. He has accounted for six of the Top 7 single-game total offensive marks in school history, including gaining a school record 546 total yards against Delta State, which is the sixth-best single-game mark in GSC history. Along with that, he has had 58 plays of 20 yards or more this season, four of the Top 25 single-game total offensive yard performances in Division II this season and four of the Top 20 single-game passing yard performances this season in Division II.