July 15, 2015

Ferris State's Vander Laan & Ashland Bridenthal Selected GLIAC Scholar-Athletes of the Year

BAY CITY, Mich. -- Ashland senior thrower Jessica Bridenthal and Ferris State junior quarterback Jason Vander Laan have been selected recipients of the 2014-15 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. The winners were chosen from the 18 male and female GLIAC Commissioner's Award honorees from the 2014-15 academic year showcasing the top student-athletes both on the field and in the classroom.

Jessica Bridenthal - Track & Field - Ashland University

Bridenthal finished her Eagle career with two All-American efforts at the Division II national outdoor track and field meet, placing second in the shot put (51-feet-7/15.72 meters) and fifth in the hammer throw (183-feet-3/55.86 meters). She earned the 2015 GLIAC Outdoor Women's Field Athlete of the Year honor, and placed third in the shot put (47-feet-11/14.60 meters) and hammer throw (183-feet-8/55.98 meters) at the conference outdoor meet.

During the 2014-15 indoor season, Bridenthal finished fifth at nationals in the weight throw (62-feet-2¼/18.95 meters) and seventh in the shot put (47-feet-7/14.50 meters), and third at the GLIAC meet in both the weight throw (63-feet-7/19.38 meters) and shot put (48-feet-0/14.63 meters).

Bridenthal, a 12-time All-American and a 2014 national champion in the indoor weight throw, was in Ashland's MBA program, and finished with a cumulative GPA of 3.63.

This is the third GLIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor bestowed upon an Ashland University athlete. Garrett Grey (track and field) and Kari Daugherty (women's basketball) swept the awards in 2012-13.

Jason Vander Laan - Football - Ferris State University

Ferris State University's Jason Vander Laan became the first FSU player ever and only the third in GLIAC history to receive the coveted Harlon Hill Trophy as NCAA Division II's top football player last fall. In 2014, he quarterbacked the Bulldogs to their first 11-0 regular-season in the 106-year history of Ferris State football. 

The 6-2, 241-pounder from Frankfort, Ill., rushed for 1,466 yards with 20 touchdowns while completing 183-of-275 passes for 2,381 yards and 30 more scores as a junior. He ranked as the nation's top rushing quarterback at all levels and was tops in the country in passing efficiency (177.8) along with points responsible for this past year (300) entering the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The three-year starter achieved All-America recognition from numerous sources, including being voted the Daktronics, Football Gazette and Beyond Sports Network National Offensive Player of the Year in addition to the GLIAC Player of the Year. He also earned regional Offensive Player of the Year recognition from multiple sources and was also the only quarterback on the 2014 Associated Press Little All-America First Team, the 2014 American Football Coaches Association All-America First Team and the 2014 Daktronics All-America First Team. 

Behind Vander Laan's play as the signal caller, Ferris State led the nation in the regular-season in total offense and was second in scoring offense along with fourth in rushing. The Bulldogs compiled 700 yards or more in three games and set a school single-season scoring record with 559 total points last season. FSU also established new school marks for total offense and rushing in 2014.

The veteran signal caller, who also became the school's all-time leader in total offense and career rushing yards last fall, is the only active quarterback in college football at any level with both 50+ passing and rushing TD's in his career. He needs less than 800 yards to become the all-time leading rushing quarterback in Division II history and already owns the NCAA-II single-season record along with the GLIAC records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game, season and career.

Vander Laan led the Bulldogs to the school's first GLIAC Championship in 15 years, first outright league crown in 18 years and first NCAA Division II Playoff appearance since 1996. FSU's 11-1 overall record under 2014 GLIAC and AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Tony Annese was the school's best in 19 seasons.

In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Vander Laan was also chosen as a GLIAC Commissioner's Award recipient for the second time last fall and named to the Capital One Academic All-District IV First Team. He's a two-time nominee for the AFCA Good Works Team and a three-time GLIAC All-Academic Excellence Team selection. The two-time team captain is active in FSU's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and highly involved in a number of community service projects. He is majoring in applied math/actuarial science at FSU where he has maintained an impressive 3.77 cumulative GPA.

Click to view previous GLIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients