Azusa Pacific University’s very own 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman, Cody Clay, has been nominated for the Gene Upshaw Lineman of the Year Award.
Clay gave up one sack in the season opener and has not allowed one since. He is also a versatile featured blocker at right tackle for the offense, which ranks 10th in Division II in team rushing (268.8 ypg) and features the national-leading rusher (across all divisions), Harlon Hill Trophy nominee Terrell Watson. Clay also has two blocked kicks this season.
In Clay’s two seasons with the APU program, he has helped the team to back-to-back GNAC titles and a 16-1 conference record.
“Cody doesn’t concern himself with how people feel about him when he’s competing, and that makes him special. He is going to try to dominate his opponent, and he doesn’t care who they are,” coach Jackie Slater said. “From the moment he’s gotten here [APU], he’s been a hard worker who has grown and improved and he has a very high football IQ, which is why he is able to accomplish so much with his physical gifts.”
Since 2004, the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award has been given to the top lineman in NCAA Division II football, as recognized by the Manheim Touchdown Club.
“He represents exactly what the award is about,” said head coach Victor Santa Cruz. “He is a hard-nosed, blue-collar worker in the trenches. He’s extremely gifted, he is the epitome of what an offensive lineman is and he’s coached by one of the greats, Jackie Slater.”
According to manheimtouchdownclub.com, this award is named in honor of Upshaw, a former Texas A&I; (now Texas A&M; Kingsville) offensive line standout, Oakland Raider and Pro Football Hall of Fame member.
Upshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 after serving as the executive director of the National Football League Players Association for 25 years. He was also picked in the first round of the 1967 draft by the Raiders, and was the first football player to be a part of Super bowls that were in three separate decades. He also was in six Pro bowls as well as the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Any offensive and defensive lineman from a NCAA Division II team is eligible to win this award as long as the following criteria have been met:
a) Junior or senior eligible to be on an athletic team and competed in at least 70 percent of regular-season games.
b) Offensive lineman: tackles, guards, centers (tight ends are not eligible); defensive linemen: ends, tackles, nose guards/tackles.
c) Good academic standing (eligible to compete).
d) All-American/All-region caliber candidate (first or second team).
e) Each institution is eligible for one nominee only (regardless of position).
The NFL is a strong supporter of this award due to efforts of the Manheim Touchdown Club and the relationship between the NFLPA and Upshaw. Every winner is invited to the East/West Shrine Game as well as the NFLPA All-Star Game, which gives the winner an opportunity to play in front of NFL coaches and scouts before the draft.