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Montana linebacker Dante Olson celebrates with Josh Sandry after intercepting a pass in the Grizzlies' win at UC Davis on Sept. 28, 2019. Olson was named the Big Sky Conference co-defensive MVP on Tuesday.

MISSOULA — Montana senior linebacker Dante Olson is the Big Sky Conference co-defensive MVP after being passed up last season despite finishing third in voting for the FCS defensive player of the year.

Olson, from Medford, Oregon, led the FCS with a 151 total tackles this year, while his 12.6 tackles per game rank second in the nation. He added 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup.

Olson is also the lone unanimous selection on the first-team defense.

Montana running back Marcus Knight is the Big Sky newcomer of the year, making it the second year in a row a Grizzly has won the award. Quarterback Dalton Sneed won the award last season.

Knight, a sophomore from San Juan Capistrano, California, is tied for third in the FCS with 21 total touchdowns after transferring from Citrus College in January. He has 930 rushing yards and could become the first Grizzly to eclipse 1,000 since 2014, when Jordan Canada had 1,207.

The Griz had 13 players land on the all-conference first team, second team, third team or honorable mention list.

Montana's first-team selections include wide receiver Samori Toure and punt returner Jerry Louie-McGee, and linebackers Dante Olson and Jace Lewis. The four first-team selections are the most by the Griz since 2015.

The Grizzlies' second-team selections are wide receiver Sammy Akem, offensive linemen Conlan Beaver and Cy Sirmon, defensive tackle Jesse Sims and defensive back Robby Hauck.

Montana's third-team selections are running back Marcus Knight, offensive lineman Angel Villanueva and defensive back Josh Sandry.

The Grizzlies' lone honorable mention is quarterback Dalton Sneed.

Sacramento State quarterback Kevin Thomson is the offensive MVP. UC Davis linebacker Nick Eaton is the freshman of the year.

Toure, a junior from Portland, Oregon, has 1,107 receiving yards, the 13th most in the FCS, and 10 touchdown catches. He's the first Griz since Jamaal Jones in 2015 to reach 1,000 receiving yards.

Louie-McGee, a senior from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, was a unanimous first-team selection as a punt returner after registering his third career punt return touchdown this season. His return average of 17.1 yards is tops in the Big Sky and fourth in the FCS.

Lewis, a junior from Townsend, Montana, amassed 116 tackles, fourth most in the league. He added 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks five quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Akem, a junior from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, had 848 receiving yards, still fourth most in the conference despite missing the final 11 quarters of the regular season because of an injury.

Beaver, a junior from Fredericksburg, Virginia, has started 22 consecutive games at left tackle. His play helped Montana average 290.6 passing yards per game.

Sirmon, a senior from Wenatchee, Washington, moved to center for the final season of a career in which he played a different position each year. He started all 12 games and helped Montana rush for 150.2 yards per game.

Sims, a senior from Stevensville, Montana, moved to the interior of the defensive line for his final season and has been a wreaking ball in the past several weeks. He has 46 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

Hauck, a sophomore from Missoula, Montana, showed his hard-hitting nature by recording 120 tackles, third most in the Big Sky. He also has four tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and one interception.

Villanueva, a senior from Duarte, California, was the inspirational story of the season, dropping 40 pounds in the offseason to regain his starting job at left tackle after his streak of 29 consecutive starts was snapped late last season. His play helped Montana average 435.9 yards of total offense per game.

Sandry, a senior from Bigfork, Montana, did a little bit of everything playing a hybrid safety/linebacker position. He has 47 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Sneed, a senior from Scottsdale, Arizona, had been playing at a potentially All-American level before he got injured on Oct. 19. He finished the regular season completing 66.1% of his passes for 272 yards per game with 19 touchdowns to nine interceptions while rushing for 18.4 yards per game and five touchdowns.

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Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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