NEWBERRY, S.C. - Newberry College offensive lineman Heath Benedict has been named a national finalist for the 2007 Gene Upshaw Award, which is awarded annualy to the top lineman in NCAA Division II. This is the second consecutive year Benedict has been named a finalist for the award.
Benedict, a native of Greer, S.C., has accumulated a myriad of awards since transferring to Newberry from the University of Tennessee, including being named to six preseason All-American teams prior to the 2007 seasons. He was named to the D2Football.com, Lindy's College Football Preview, Street and Smith's College Yearbook, Consensus Draft Services and Don Hansen's Football Gazette preseason All-American teams. He was also the first Division II player to be named to the USA Today Sports Weekly preseason team since the team's inception in 1989.
He has been named a first team all-South Atlantic Conference selection for the past three seasons, and has been a first team all-Southeast Region for the past two seasons. He was the leading vote-getter amongst offensive lineman in the recently released Daktronics all-Southeast Region team. He is also a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top offensive lineman in the South Atlantic Conference.
The Indians had a record of 30-14 in Benedict's four seasons at Newberry, including the 11-2 South Atlantic Conference championship year in 2006. The team went 20-4 in Benedict's final two years.
In 2007, the Indians averaged 239 yards rushing and 174 yards passing and allowed less than one sack per game in the eight games Benedict participated in.
Benedict is also highly touted by NFL scouts and became only the fourth South Altantic Conference player to ever be invited to the Senior Bowl. He will participate in the 2008 Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 26, 2008.
The Upshaw Award is sponsored by the Manheim Touchdown Club of Lancaster, Pa., and named in honor of former NFL All-Pro lineman Gene Upshaw, now the executive director of the NFL Players Association.
The winner of this year's Upshaw Award will be announced as part of the Cactus Bowl festivities in January and will earn a berth in the East-West Shrine Bowl all-star game.
The other seven national finalists for the award are Grand Valley State University's Brandon Barnes, Slippery Rock University's Mike Butterworth, the University of Nebraska-Omaha's Ben Hochstein, Mesa State College's Kurt Kissner, Henderson State University's Kurt Kutscher, California (Pa.) University's Tim McCutcheon and Abilene Christian University's Nathan Young.