HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i football team held its annual Na Koa Awards Banquet, Sunday, for the fourth year at the UH grass practice field in a lu’au-themed event.
Offensive lineman and four-year starter Ben Clarke was the recipient of the Alec Waterhouse Most Valuable Player Award. Clarke did not miss a start during his illustrious career having played in all 50 games at either center or left tackle. The senior from Littleton, Colo., received the team’s offensive player of the year award in 2012 and ’14. This season, he played nearly the entire year with a fractured foot and allowed only four sacks while leading the team with a season grade of 89 percent.
Running back Paul Harris benefitted from Clarke and the rest of the offensive line’s success this season by rushing for 1,132 yards and earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Year Award. The junior from Columbus, Ohio became just the ninth UH rusher to eclipse 1,000-yards in a season and first to do so since Alex Green in 2010. Harris finished the year with four-straight 100-yard games – tying a school record last accomplished in 1979 – and posted seven-century mark games overall. Earlier this season, he set a new UH record with a 95-yard touchdown run against UC Davis. Harris finished sixth in the Mountain West and 43rd nationally in rushing, averaging 94.3 yards per game.
Linebacker Julian Gener was the heart and soul of the Rainbow Warrior defense and earned Defensive Player of the Year Award. The senior from West Covina, Calif., led the team with 95 total tackles (62 solo, 33 assisted) and ranked second with 13.5 tackles for loss. The inside linebacker also posted one of the team’s three interceptions and forced two fumbles. Gener had three double-digit tackle games including a career-best 19 tackles – second highest in the MW in 2015 – against San Diego State. He finished sixth in the MW in tackles, averaging 8.6 per game, and eighth in tackles-for-loss at 1.18 per game.
Junior punter/placekicker Rigoberto Sanchez was named the Special Teams Player of the Year. The Hamilton City, Calif., native was one of five players nationally to handle all four kicking duties and is UH’s nominee for Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. Sanchez ranked second in the MW with a 45.1 punting average including conference highs with 25 punts over 50 yards and 28 punts downed inside the 20. He was also 8-of-11 in field goal attempts with a long of 50 yards against Nevada. Five of his eight successful kicks were 46-yards or more. He also took over kickoff duties midway through the season and posted 14 touchbacks in 22 attempts.
In its second year, the Iron Warrior Award is given to the player who worked the hardest and gave the most effort in the weight room. This year’s recipient is senior linebacker Lance Williams, a four-year letterman, who started all 13 games at outside backer. The Honolulu native finished the season with a career-best 59 tackles, including 7.0 for loss and one sack. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one.
The Heart of a Warrior Award (Most Inspirational) recipient is defensive lineman Kory Rasmussen. The ‘Ewa Beach, O’ahu native started nine of 13 games at either nose tackle or defensive end and recorded 43 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, and two sacks. He also had one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery.
The recipients of the Scout Team Award both sport jersey No. 45 – receiver John Ursua and linebacker Tevarua Eldridge. Ursua will redshirt in 2015 after returning from a two-year church mission while Eldridge spent most of the year on the service team after redshirting in 2014.
2015 Award Winners
Alec Waterhouse Most Valuable Player Award: Ben Clarke
Offensive Player of the Year: Paul Harris
Defensive Player of the Year: Julian Gener
Special Teams Player of the Year: Rigoberto Sanchez
Heart of a Warrior: Kory Rasmussen
Iron Warrior: Lance Williams
Scout Team Awards: Tevarua Eldridge, John Ursua