MISSOULA — Montana linebacker Dante Olson finished third in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in the FCS.
Southeast Missouri junior linebacker Zach Hall won the award, which was presented at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, the day before the FCS national championship game. Olson garnered 225 points, 129 fewer than Hall (354), and his 21 first-place votes were fewer than fourth-place finisher Jabril Cox of North Dakota State (22).
Earlier in the day, Olson was named the FCS Defensive Player of the Year by Phil Steele's College Football Magazine and landed on its FCS All-America First Team. That gave him six All-America honors along with first-team recognition from the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, STATS, HERO Sports and the American Football Coaches Association.
Olson attended the banquet with four family members, Griz head coach Bobby Hauck and Montana athletic director Kent Haslam. He'll stay in Texas to attend the FCS championship game and the NFL playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks.
Olson, an All-Big Sky first-team selection, broke Montana's single-season tackles record with 151 and averaged 13.7 tackles per game, the top mark in the country in the regular season. The Medford, Oregon, native added 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups and two interceptions in 11 games.
"Reflecting back on it, it reminds me how blessed I am to be where I'm at," Olson said in a news release. "It's humbling to think about the season and to think the hard work I put in has led me here. But I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the coaching staff and the players that push each other every day to get better."
The two other finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award were Hall and Sam Houston State senior defensive end Derick Roberson.
Hall, the Ohio Valley Conference defensive player of the year, set the program’s single-season tackles record with 168 and added 12 tackles for loss, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, two pass breakups, one blocked kick, one defensive touchdown and one safety in 13 games.
Roberson, an All-Southland Conference first-team honoree, tied the school’s single sacks record with 15, and his average of 1.36 per game ranks second in the country. He forced five fumbles, tied for the second most in the country, and added 68 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, one blocked kick and one safety in 11 games.
Montana has had two players win the Buck Buchanan Award: defensive end Kroy Biermann in 2007 and defensive end Tyrone Holmes in 2015, the latter when the award was called the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year award. Holmes is also the most recent Big Sky Conference player to get the award.
Seven players from the Big Sky Conference have won the Buck Buchanan Award. The five non-UM players are Idaho State defensive end Jared Allen (2003), Eastern Washington defensive end Greg Peach (2008), Eastern Washington linebacker J.C. Sherritt (2010), Montana State defensive end Caleb Schreibeis (2012) and Montana State defensive end Brad Daly (2013).
Seven other players earned eight honors from Phil Steele's College Football Magazine on Thursday.
Redshirt freshman safety Robby Hauck made the Freshman All-American first-team defense. Fellow redshirt freshman Malik Flowers landed on the Freshman All-America second-team special teams.
Senior linebacker Josh Buss was named to the All-Big Sky first-team defense. Junior Jerry Louie-McGee made the second-team special teams. Sophomore Sammy Akem landed on the third-team offense, Flowers was third-team special teams, sophomore long snapper Matthew O'Donoghue was third-team special teams and senior defensive tackle David Shaw was third-team defense.