Pleasant Grove graduate TJ Cole has been selected as one of nine finalists for the 2022 Harlon Hill Trophy that will be awarded to the national player of the year for NCAA Division II.
The Ouachita Baptist University senior recently finished his final year at Ouachita, turning in a record-breaking season and leading the Tigers to an undefeated regular season, the program's sixth GAC championship in the 11-year history of the league, and the school's fifth appearance in the D2 playoffs.
The Harlon Hill Award finalists were announced Thursday by the Little Rock Touchdown Club in conjunction with the Great American Conference following regional voting. The nine finalists will now be placed on the national ballot to determine the 36th winner of the most prestigious athletic award for D2 football. The winner will be announced on December 16.
Individually, Cole finished the season with new Ouachita single-season records in rushing yards (1,672) and rushing touchdowns (26). He also had a pair of passing touchdowns this season. He had 10 games with at least 100 rushing yards, four games with at least 150 yards, and two games with at least 200 yards. His best performance this season came in a 63-31 win over Southern Arkansas in the Murphy USA Classic, when he totaled 230 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns to outscore Ouachita's opponent all by himself.
The Texarkana, Texas, native currently ranks third in D2 in total rushing yards, fifth in rushing yards per game (139.3), second in scoring (13 points per game), and second in rushing touchdowns.
Overall for his career, Cole ends his time as a Tiger with the school's all-time record in rushing touchdowns (49) and ranks second in career rushing yards (3,986).
Cole is Ouachita's third all-time candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, to go along with Drew Harris' campaign in 2017 and Montoya Brown in 2003.
The Harlon Hill Trophy is named for the late Harlon Hill, the former University of North Alabama standout who excelled with the Lions from 1950-53 before going on to fame in the National Football League with the Chicago Bears.
The other finalists for this year's award include the 2021 winner, quarterback Tyson Bagent from Shepherd University, along with Concord University receiver Jarod Bowie, Newberry College running back Mario Anderson, Virginia Union University running back Jada Byers, University of Nebraska-Kearney quarterback TJ Davis, Ferris State University defensive end Caleb Murphy, Bemidji State University quarterback Brandon Alt, and Colorado School of Mines quarterback John Matocha.