Gruber named Cliff Harris Award finalist

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Standout inside linebacker Michael Gruber has been named a finalist for the second annual Cliff Harris Award, given to the nation’s top small college defensive player.

The selection committee, which includes notable names like Roger Staubach and Gene Stallings along with the award’s namesake, released a list of 70 finalists and will announce this year’s winner on December 24. Gruber is one of 38 Division II players named a finalist for the award, while 18 Division III and 14 NAIA student-athletes round out the list.

The winner will be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual banquet in February, with former NFL great Michael Irvin serving as the guest speaker. Last year’s winner, Lindenwood University cornerback Pierre Desir, was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns and has appeared in two games this season. Ten percent of last year’s finalists made NFL rosters this season.

Gruber recently completed a standout career in royal blue and white. The Walterboro, South Carolina native was a first team all-South Atlantic Conference selection, his third all-conference nod and second time on the first team, after accounting for a conference-leading 113 tackles this season.

On six occasions he surpassed 10 tackles, including three games with 15 or more stops. He tied a career high with 19 stops against then-No. 21 Carson-Newman on September 20, a game in which he also became Brevard’s all-time leading tackler and became the first Tornado to surpass 300 career tackles. He also added a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception to his 2014 exploits.

“I’m very proud of Michael and his accomplishments throughout his career at Brevard,” said head coach Paul Hamilton. “He continues to bring great credibility and exposure to our football program, Brevard College, and the entire community.”

Gruber made 392 tackles in his four years at Brevard, placing him 98 stops clear of his next-closest competitor in the Brevard record books. He ranks second among active Division II players and 10th across all NCAA  classifications in most tackles, and now owns three of the top four tackling seasons in school history.

Capping off his stellar season, Gruber participated in the FCS National Bowl alongside teammates Jordan Ollis and Kelvin Jeter, a collegiate all-star game in Miami, Florida typically reserved for NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision players. The Brevard trio practiced and competed in front of scouts from 11 NFL teams, five Canadian Football League franchises, and 11 teams from various arena leagues.

Featured image courtesy of Neil Hayes. Click here to view more photos by Neil.

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