LEWISBURG, Pa. – Mark Pyles captured the Bison Gridiron Club Award as Team MVP, and 21 of his teammates were recognized with awards, at the 56th annual Bison Gridiron Club Awards Banquet on Sunday evening in the Terrace Room inside the Langone Center.
Pyles, who also shared the Captains Award with fellow seniors Abdullah Anderson, Joey DeFloria, and Ben Richard, was previously honored as a William V. Campbell Trophy® semifinalist and was voted to the All-Patriot League First Team, Academic All-Patriot League Team and CoSIDA Academic All-District 2 Team.
Pyles was one of six Bison who took home two awards at the Bison Gridiron Club Awards Banquet, joining Anderson, John Burdick, DeFloria, Colin Jonov and Richard. The banquet was attended by more than 200 members of the Bucknell football team and supporters of the program.
Pyles, one of only nine Bison to serve as captain for more than one season, totaled 73 tackles (40 solo), eight tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and one interception during the 2017 campaign. He finished his career with 231 tackles (131 solo), 19 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and 11 defended passes in 42 games; Pyles, who started 31 of those games, made at least 50 tackles and garnered All-Patriot League accolades each of his three seasons as a starter.
Richard shared the Tom Gadd Coaches' Award with Jack Horan and Trey Johnson. A three-time All-Patriot League selection, Richard led the Bison with 77 (38 solo) tackles and also recorded six tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2017. Richard, who started 34 of his 38 career games, wrapped up his time as a Bison with 255 tackles (131 solo), 26.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He made at least 70 tackles in each of his three seasons as a starter.
Horan, a two-time member of the Academic All-Patriot League and CoSIDA Academic All-District 2 Teams, led Bucknell in receiving yards (377) despite missing the final three games of the 2017 campaign due to injury. A converted quarterback and former walk-on, he twice caught a pass of at least 70 yards, and three of his four career touchdown receptions were longer than 35 yards.
Johnson was the only senior who played in all 44 games during his time in Lewisburg. A key member of special teams who took on an expanded role at cornerback in 2016 and 2017, he totaled 36 career tackles (27 solo). He started six games at cornerback, making a career-best six tackles in his first start at Charleston Southern in 2016.
DeFloria received the Bucknell Football Leadership Award. He was added as a team captain ahead of the Bison's game against Sacred Heart and was a key leader on the offensive side of the ball over the course of the season. During the 2017 campaign, he posted 476 rushing yards and two touchdowns despite missing three games due to injury. DeFloria wrapped up his career with 1,653 rushing yards in 25 career games; in Bucknell's history, he ranks sixth in single-season rushing attempts (230, 2016), eighth in single-season rushing yards (1,070, 2016) and ninth in 100-yard rushing games (6).
Jonov earned the C. Dale Wolfe Recognition Award as the most inspirational player and the George L. McGaughey Memorial Award as the most outstanding player in the Lafayette game. After missing 2016 due to injury, he returned to make an impact in Bucknell's secondary in 2017, posting 33 tackles (26 solo) and returning two interceptions a combined 159 yards for touchdowns. At Lafayette, he was at the center of one of this season's most dramatic NCAA FCS plays, returning an interception a school-record 95 yards for a touchdown to lift Bucknell to a 13-7 overtime victory.
Simeon Page and Brandon Benson shared the Stuart M. Smith Memorial Award as the most outstanding newcomer. Both were key cogs in a Bucknell defense that led the Patriot League in total defense for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. Page led the Bison in sacks (9) and tackles for a loss (13) while Benson finished third on the team in tackles (68), posting all but one of them in Bucknell's final seven games.
Chase Watkins was recognized with the John Campana Award as the most outstanding offensive lineman. One of only six Bison who started all 11 games, he shifted to left tackle from right tackle to fill Davenport's spot on the line. Over the course of 2017, he served as a mentor to the younger players on the line, a group which included nine underclassmen.
Chad Freshnock captured the Big Blue Award as the most outstanding back or receiver after leading the Bison in rushing yards (525), all-purpose yards (583) and touchdowns (6). Freshnock's finest performance came against Lehigh; he ran for a career-high 174 yards and three touchdowns, including an 85-yard score that stands as the fifth longest from the line of scrimmage in school history.
Anderson, the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, took home the George Rieu Award as most outstanding defensive lineman for the second-straight season. He is only the third Bison to garner four All-Patriot League citations in his career, joining Rich Lemon (1993-96) and Julién Davenport (2013-16). In 2017, he totaled 42 tackles (20 solo), nine tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked extra point. During his stalwart career, he started 43 games, recording 171 tackles (96 solo), 33.5 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks and four blocked kicks.
Joe Lauro received the Clarke Hinkle Award as the most outstanding defensive back or linebacker. Despite missing three games due to injury, he finished fourth on the team in tackles (58) and also posted five pass breakups, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick. He made at least five tackles in all eight of his starts, topping out at 10 against Sacred Heart.
Alex Pechin and John Burdick were tabbed as co-Special Teams MVPs. Pechin, the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year, broke his own school record with a 45.1 punting average while Burdick matched Bucknell's record by booting 14 field goals, including a game winner as time expired against Sacred Heart. Burdick also received the Keating-Rieu Memorial Award as the most outstanding player in the Colgate game.
Andrew Podbielski took home the Moxie Award for special contributions to the Bucknell football program. He enjoyed his most productive offensive campaign as a senior, posting a career-high 240 receiving yards despite missing two games due to injury. One of only four Bison seniors who started at least 30 games, he wrapped up his career with 537 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Cinjun Erskine was honored for his commitment, dedication and unqualified friendship with the Bobby Pangburn Memorial Award. A junior who has played quarterback, running back and fullback for the Bison, he lost his playing career to injury ahead of the 2017 campaign. Erskine became a student coach and has been a strong presence on the Bucknell sidelines in practice and on game days.
In total, 63 Bison were awarded letters in 2017, including 25 first timers. Six seniors—Anderson, Connor Golden, Johnson, Podbielski, Pyles and Richard—will leave Bucknell as four-time letterwinners while nine juniors will enter the 2018 campaign with the chance to become the same.
Bucknell also recognized its 2017 All-Patriot League award winners: Anderson (1st), Pechin (1st, Academic), Pyles (1st, Academic), Richard (1st), Burdick (2nd), Jonov (2nd), Page (2nd), Watkins (2nd), Horan (Academic) and Podbielski (Academic).
Bison Gridiron Club Award (Team MVP): Mark Pyles
Tom Gadd Coaches’ Award (Offense): Jack Horan
Tom Gadd Coaches’ Award (Defense): Ben Richard and Trey Johnson
Bucknell Football Leadership Award: Joey DeFloria
Captains Award: Abdullah Anderson, Joey DeFloria, Mark Pyles and Ben Richard
C. Dale Wolfe Recognition Award: Colin Jonov
- Most inspirational player
Moxie Award: Andrew Podbielski
- For special contribution to the Bucknell football program
Bobby Pangburn Memorial Award: Cinjun Erskine
- For commitment, dedication and unqualified friendship
Stuart M. Smith Memorial Award: Simeon Page and Brandon Benson
- Outstanding newcomer
John Campana Award: Chase Watkins
- Outstanding offensive lineman
Big Blue Award: Chad Freshnock
- Outstanding back or receiver
George Rieu Award: Abdullah Anderson
- Outstanding defensive lineman
Clarke Hinkle Award: Joe Lauro
- Outstanding defensive back or linebacker
Special Teams Award: Alex Pechin and John Burdick
George L. McGaughey Memorial Award: Colin Jonov
- Outstanding player in the Lafayette game
Keating-Rieu Memorial Award: John Burdick
- Outstanding player in the Colgate game
Sledge Hammer Award: Bryan Marine and Jared Morse
Scout Team Player of the Year (Offense): Logan Bitikofer
Scout Team Player of the Year (Defense): Rick Mottram and Joe Schiano
Scout Team Player of the Year (Special Teams): John McGuire
2017 Bucknell Football Letterwinners
Senior LS Tom Adams (1)
Junior TE Marcus Ademilola (3)
Senior DL Abdullah Anderson (4)
Sophomore WR Mike Balzofiore (1)
Freshman OL P.J. Barr (1)
Freshman S Brandon Benson (1)
Freshman DE Simon Behr (1)
Sophomore WR Justin Bethea (2)
Sophomore S Aaron Brown (2)
Senior K John Burdick (3)
Senior QB John Burkly (1)
Junior WR Alan Butler (3)
Freshman RB Marquis Carter (1)
Sophomore CB Mike Caruso (1)
Senior DE Craig Cassidy (2)
Sophomore QB John Chiarolanzio (2)
Sophomore LB Sam Chitty (2)
Senior RB Joey DeFloria (3)
Junior FB Cinjun Erskine (1)
Sophomore OL Justin Falcone (1)
Senior DE Trevor Fennimore (2)
Junior OL Pat Finn (2)
Sophomore DE Blake Fletcher (2)
Sophomore S/LS Jon Fox (2)
Sophomore RB Chad Freshnock (2)
Junior RB Omar Garcia (2)
Senior S Connor Golden (4)
Senior WR Jack Horan (2)
Sophomore DL John Hunt (2)
Senior CB Trey Johnson (4)
Senior CB Colin Jonov (3)
Junior DL Alex Jordan (3)
Senior WR Kyle Kinner (2)
Junior S Joe Lauro (3)
Sophomore OL Erik Lukner (1)
Junior CB Bryan Marine (3)
Freshman DE Roger Mellado (1)
Sophomore RB Stefone Moore-Green (1)
Junior TE Jared Morse (2)
Freshman LB Rick Mottram (1)
Senior QB Matt Muh (2)
Sophomore DE Sean Naiman (1)
Junior S Drew Newcomb (2)
Junior CB Fisayo Oluleye (3)
Junior TE/FB Andrew Owers (3)
Freshman LB/DE Simeon Page (1)
Junior P Alex Pechin (3)
Senior LB Mike Pirolli (1)
Senior TE Andrew Podbielski (4)
Senior LB Mark Pyles (4)
Senior LB Ben Richard (4)
Junior S Chanse Riley (2)
Junior LB Matt Robinson (3)
Sophomore OL Chuck Sanders (1)
Sophomore OL Noah Stephenson (1)
Junior S Brice Sydnor (2)
Freshman K Ethan Torres (1)
Freshman TE Alex Twiford (1)
Freshman S Gerrit Van Itallie (1)
Sophomore WR Steven Walier (1)
Senior OL Chase Watkins (2)
Sophomore OL Josh Yoder (1)
Junior DL Nick Zarkoski (1)
Note: Total number of letters won listed in parentheses