Graziano finalist for Division II award.
Graziano was one of three finalists invited to Friday night's Harlon Hill Presentation Banquet at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center. In addition to announcing the 2009 Hill Trophy winner, former Savannah State and long-time NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe was inducted into the Division II Football Hall of Fame.
"I can't be more proud of Nick for this accomplishment," Tech Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Steve Mullins said. "This was a tremendous night for Arkansas Tech University and our football program."
Wayne State [MI] University senior running back Joique Bell took home the 2009 trophy as he totaled 138 points and finished 38 points in front of runner-up, West Liberty State junior quarterback Zach Amedro, who received 96 points.
Bell, who became the fourth straight running back to receive the Hill Trophy, earned this year's award after finishing the Division II regular season leading all four NCAA divisions in rushing yards per game (189.5 yards/game), scoring (17.5 points/game) and all-purpose yards (217.5 yards/game). In addition, he was named the GLIAC Player of the Year, the Ron Lenz Daktronics Division II Offensive Player of the Year, was a four-time All-GLIAC player and finished his career with 6,728 rushing yards, sixth best in Division II history and eighth best in NCAA history for all divisions.
Graziano, who was the first-ever Division II player from the state of Arkansas to finish in the top three of the Hill Trophy balloting, received seven first place, 17 second place and eight third place votes. He finished two points in front of Minnesota-Duluth junior running Isaac Odim and Grand Valley State senior quarterback Brad Iciek.
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 were invited to the Shoals area for the presentation banquet.
Prior to Graziano 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 third place finish in this year's Hill Trophy voting after being named both the Gulf South Conference and Daktronics Super Region Two Offensive Player of the Year and also has earned First-Team All-America honors from Daktronics and the AFCA. 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.
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