The team awards handed out after Illinois State’s spring practice were a direct reflection on outside linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh and foreshadowed his 2022 season.

Amid the list of award winners who were mostly a newcomer to the program and younger players seeking to earn more playing time was Vandenburgh, a redshirt senior who by that point was a two-and-a-half-year starter. He was named Defensive MVP … for practice.

Vandenburgh saved his best for last in so many ways, and his dominating play led to him receiving the 2022 Stats Perform Buck Buchanan Award, which honors the national defensive player of the year in FCS college football.

William & Mary redshirt sophomore outside linebacker John Pius finished second in the voting and Central Arkansas sophomore defensive end David Walker third after a 54-member panel selected the 28th annual award – named for legendary defensive lineman Junious “Buck” Buchanan, who starred at Grambling State as part of his Hall of Fame career. The announcement was made Saturday night at the FCS National Awards banquet in Frisco, Texas.

Vandenburgh, 23, from Freeport, Illinois, was the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s defensive player of the year. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound All-American missed one game with a leg injury yet still racked up 100 tackles (51 solos), 21 tackles for loss (120 yards) and an FCS-leading 14 sacks with one interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and four QB hurries. He helped coach Brock Spack’s team finish with a winning record by posting a career-high 17 tackles against Western Illinois in his final college game.

Like Vandenburgh, Pius and Walker disrupted opposing offenses all season. Pius, from Arlington, Virginia, earned CAA Football defensive player of the year, totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Walker, from Stuttgart, Arkansas, tied for the FCS high with 22 tackles for loss and had 12 sacks while being named the ASUN’s defensive player of the year.

The Buck Buchanan Award, first presented in 1995, has a distinguished history of recipients, including Dexter Coakley, Rashean Mathis, Jared Allen and Arthur Moats. Coakley, the only two-time recipient, presented the award to Vandenburgh.

2022 Buck Buchanan Award Voting Results

Following is a breakdown of the voting results. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point. The final number is the combined point total.

1. Zeke Vandenburgh, LB, Illinois State: 30-7-3-0-0-187

2. John Pius, LB, William & Mary: 5-9-11-9-1-113

3. David Walker, DL, Central Arkansas: 2-13-5-3-7-90

4. Marcus Hillman, DB, Elon: 1-5-7-5-3-59

5. Marte Mapu, DB, Sacramento State: 4-2-4-1-1-43

6. Ty French, DL, Gardner-Webb: 1-1-4-2-8-33

7. Joe Andreessen, LB, Bryant: 0-2-3-5-3-30

8.(tie) Aubrey Miller Jr., LB, Jackson State: 2-2-2-1-1-27

8.(tie) Caleb Sanders, DL, South Dakota State: 2-1-2-2-3-27

8. (tie) Jay Person, DL, Chattanooga: 1-3-1-3-1-27

11. Johnny Buchanan, LB, Delaware: 0-1-4-3-2-24

12. Alijah Huzzie, DB, ETSU: 0-1-3-1-5-20

13. Spencer Waege, DL, North Dakota State: 0-2-2-2-1-19

14. BJ Davis, LB, South Carolina State: 2-1-0-1-2-18

15. Robby Hauck, DB, Montana: 1-0-0-3-3-14

16. Rodney Dansby, LB, Houston Christian: 0-2-0-1-3-13

17. Malik Hamm, DL, Lafayette: 2-0-0-1-0-12

18. Winston Reid, LB, Weber State: 0-0-1-3-1-10

19. Tristan Wheeler, LB, Richmond: 0-1-0-2-1-9

20. John H. Ford II, LB, UT Martin: 0-0-1-1-3-8

21. Bryce Norman, LB, Southeast Missouri: 0-1-0-1-1-7

22. Antoine Williams, LB, Austin Peay: 0-0-1-1-1-6

23. Kelechi Anyalebechi, LB, UIW: 1-0-0-0-0-5

24.(tie) Khalil Baker, DB, North Carolina Central: 0-0-0-1-2-4

24.(tie) Ryan Greenhagen, LB, Fordham: 0-0-0-2-0-4

26. Kavian Gaither, LB, Sam Houston: 0-0-0-0-1-1

27.(tie) Luke Glenna, DB, St. Thomas: 0-0-0-0-0-0

27.(tie) Jake Heimlicher, DL, Penn: 0-0-0-0-0-0

27.(tie) Stone Snyder, LB, VMI: 0-0-0-0-0-0

27.(tie) Chizi Umunakwe, LB, Central Connecticut State: 0-0-0-0-0-0