Justin Dvorak ’16 Became the Second Player in Mines History to be Named National Player of the Year
Colorado School of Mines quarterback Justin Dvorak ’16 received the 2016 Harlon Hill Trophy on January 6, 2017, recognizing him as the NCAA Division II football national player of the year.
Dvorak was presented with the trophy during a banquet at the University of North Alabama, the alma mater of Harlon Hill. He is the second Oredigger to receive the honor, joining 2004 winner Chad Friehauf ’05. Dvorak was announced as the winner on December 16, 2016.
An emotional Dvorak dedicated the award to his teammates and family.
“I want to thank the guys who made me look so good over the last four years, my teammates,” Dvorak said. “I couldn’t ask for better teammates, and I would give anything to play one more snap with them.”
The Hill Trophy is named for the late Harlon Hill, who was a standout with the University of North Alabama from 1950 to 1953 before going on to fame in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. The award is sponsored by the City of Florence, Herff Jones, the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa and the University of North Alabama.
UNA hosted Dvorak and his family for a morning of activities that included a visit to the D-II Football Hall of Fame, a visit to the original Harlon Hill Trophy, housed at the Shoals Visitor Center, and a chance to meet UNA’s lion mascots Leo and Una. Dvorak received his own copy of the 63-pound oak-and-brass trophy.
“It’s been a pleasure, and I’ve really enjoyed my experience in Florence. It’s too bad I don’t have another year to try to come back and do it again,” Dvorak said.
In 2016, Dvorak earned virtually every honor a player could, including D2CCA National Offensive Player of the Year, AP FirstTeam Little All-America, NFFCC Colorado Offensive Player of the Year and RMAC Offensive Player of the Year. He led NCAA Division II with 4,584 passing yards and 53 touchdowns, and rushed for eight more. His 380.2 total offense yards per game ranked second in D-II, and his 172.4 rating was sixth. Dvorak also led the nation with 366 points responsible for. In his decorated career, he accounted for 161 total touchdowns (134 passing, 25 rushing, 2 receiving) while throwing for 13,466 yards and producing 14,608 yards of total offense—both Mines and RMAC records.
“He’s a two-year captain, and I think that’s a special thing,” said head coach Gregg Brandon. “The quarterback position exemplifies leadership and you want that out of that position, and he certainly did that.”
Dvorak is the third RMAC player to win the honor along with Friehauf and two-time winner Danny Woodhead of Chadron State. Austin Ekeler of Western State was also a 2016 finalist, finishing eighth in the voting. Dvorak beat out Northwest Missouri State’s Kyle Zimmerman for the top spot in this year’s voting, which is conducted by D-II’s sports information directors.
Dvorak said, “It means a lot to me; it’s a testament to the very hard work I’ve been putting in for a very long time.”