Wayne State's Joe Long Wins the 2011 Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award

MANHEIM, Pa. – Wayne State (Mich.) University left offensive tackle Joe Long has been selected as the 2011 recipient of the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year presented by the Manheim Touchdown Club, project coordinator Don Harris.

The Upshaw Award is presented annually to the top NCAA Division II junior or senior lineman in the nation. Sports Information Directors at the 154 football-playing D-II institutions comprise the voters.

As a recipient of the Upshaw Award, Long will receive a trophy in the likeness of Gene Upshaw and an automatic invitation to participate in the East/West Shrine Game (Jan. 21) in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Long, a 6-ft -6”, 308-pound is a fifth-year senior from Lapeer, Mich. (East H.S.), is the eighth recipient of the award named in honor of former Texas A&I (now Texas A&M Kingsville) University and NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Gene Upshaw. Mr. Upshaw, a 1987 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, also served 25 years as the executive director of the NFL Players Association until his death in 2008.

Long, who helped lead Wayne State to four road playoff wins and a berth the 2011 national championship game, nipped Midwestern State (Texas) University senior offensive tackle Amini Silatolo to win the 2011 Upshaw Award.

Darrell Leopold, a senior offensive center for Delta State (Miss.) University, Abilene Christian (Texas) University senior defensive end Aston Whiteside and Concordia (Minn.) University senior offensive tackle Tyler Hendrickson finished third through fifth, respectively, in the field of nine national finalists.

Rounding out the list of finalists were Gannon (Pa.) University senior defensive tackle Randy Colling, Cheyney (Pa.) University senior defensive end Tim Hume, Lenoir-Rhyne College senior offensive lineman Chandler Reardon and University of New Haven (Conn.) senior offensive guard David Stedman.

“There is no more deserving a recipient for this award than Joe Long,” said Wayne State offensive line coach Terry Heffernan. “He has devoted himself over the last five years to becoming the best teammate, leader and offensive lineman that he can be.

“Joe has been a mainstay for us at left tackle for the last four years and his efforts have been key to our offensive production and the success of our skilled position players,” Heffernan said. “The fact that Joe received this award shows that hard work does pay off.”

A four-time All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference performer (first team in 2010 and 2011), Long blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher all four seasons. Joique Bell rushed for 1152 yards in 2008 and 2084 yards in 2009, Josh Renel rushed for 1249 yards in 2010 and 1353 yards in 2011 and Toney Davis ran for 1557 yards in 2011.

Bell was the recipient of the 2009 Harlon Hill Award given to the top Division II player in the nation.

“Joe brings a dominant presence and attitude to the field that was similar to what Gene Upshaw did in his time,” Wayne State head coach Paul Winters said. “We are extremely proud of him and the effort he put forth for us, and we are happy he has been recognized as the top lineman in the nation.”

At the conclusion of the 2011 regular season, Long was voted to the Daktronics All-America First Team as well as the Associated Press Little All-America First Team.  The 2011 GLIAC Offensive Lineman of the Year was also a two-year team captain and received the team’s the Ultimate Warrior award in 2010 for outstanding work in the weight room.

Long set the school record for consecutive and career starts with 49 and helped pave the way for the Warriors to rush for 1,038 yards and 15 touchdowns in the 2011 NCAA playoffs. All told, WSU rushed for 9,808 yards in his 49 games and compiled a 35-14 record.

A four-time GLIAC All-Academic team selection, Long majored in secondary education at WSU and was named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in the winter of 2009 and the Coach’s Honor Roll three times.

“49 consecutive starts at the Division II level is incredible. When you can combine size, strength, speed and leadership it’s easy to see why Joe Long was our award winner this year. He’s a talent and his accomplishments over the last four years are to be commended. We wish him the best at the next level,” said Don Harris of the Manheim Touchdown Club

Long is the younger brother of Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Jake Long was named to the 2009 and 2010 AFC Pro Bowl. The elder Long was also a two-time Big Ten Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year and a four-year letter winner at the University of Michigan.

Long is the fourth player from a Michigan school to win the Upshaw Award. Grand Valley State student athletes won the honor three consecutive years (defensive end Michael McFadden in both 2005 and 2006 and offensive center Brandon Barnes in 2007).

Previous winners of the Upshaw Award also included Slippery Rock (Pa.) University offensive center Brandon Fusco (2010), West Liberty (W. Va.) University offensive tackle Ben Staggs (2009), Abilene Christian center Sam Collins (2008) and Pittsburg State (Kans.) offensive lineman Nathan Baker (2004).

CONTACT
Don Harris, Manheim Touchdown Club (Suite310@aol.com – 717-940-1786)
Bob McComas, Upshaw Award national coordinator (robert.mccomas@sru.edu  - 724.738.2777)

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