Little Rock, Ark. – Saint Xavier University senior linebacker Zach Dolph (Crest Hill, Ill./Joliet Catholic) was named one of 49 finalists from NCAA Division II & III and NAIA football teams across the country for the inaugural Cliff Harris Award when the list was released Wednesday evening by The Little Rock Touchdown Club and Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP. The Cliff Harris Award will be presented annually to the top defensive football player in the country representing almost 500 NCAA Division II, III and NAIA colleges and universities. The overall winner will be announced on Dec. 24 and is selected from a prestigious selection committee made up of head coaches and college and pro football greats.
"What a tremendous honor it is for Zach to be named a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award," said SXU football coach Mike Feminis. "There are some great football players on this list and Zach is very deserving to be named one of the very best small college defensive players in the country. He has had a tremendous playing career at Saint Xavier and an award of this magnitude would be a wonderful exclamation point for it."
Dolph led the Cougars in total tackles for the second straight season with 112 stops (46 solos, 66 assists). He also tallied four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, three interceptions, five pass break-ups, 6.5 tackles for losses and three sacks in helping lead SXU to a 7-4 record and a No. 18 national ranking in the final NAIA Football Coaches' Top 25 Poll. Dolph was named the NAIA Football Defensive Player of the Week twice this season (Sept. 9, Oct. 28) and set a single game record at SXU with 23 tackles (five solo, 18 assists) in a victory over William Penn (Iowa) on Oct. 26. He was also named a first team selection on both the 2013 Capital One College Division Academic All-America® Football Team and the 2013 Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) All-Midwest League Team. Last season, Dolph set a new school record by posting 128 total tackles (64 solos, 64 assists) on the year.
The winner of this year's Cliff Harris Award will be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club's annual awards banquet in February. The banquet will feature Lou Holtz as a guest speaker. The winner also receives the $3,000 Cliff Harris Award Trophy. For the complete list of finalists and the story of Cliff Harris, please visit www.cliffharrisaward.com