Montana's Holmes: STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year
It's their word for each other. Zack Wagenmann had it last season. Derek Crittenden, among others, has fought for it. And Tyrone Holmes was the leading "dude" this season, having not just led Montana but the entire FCS in sacks.
Friday night, Holmes added a pretty special award to show off to his fellow dudes - STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year, which the senior end received at the national awards banquet following an incredibly close vote in which Portland State free safety Patrick Onwuasor finished second and Southern Utah defensive end James Cowser third.
A national panel of 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries selected Holmes from 25 finalists. He received 20 first-place votes and 260 points, while Onwuasor had 21 first-place votes and 258 points and Cowser collected 21 first-place votes and 249 points.
Holmes, a fast, instinctive pass rusher who's never satisfied with his work, had 18 sacks - 14 in the regular season - and 87 tackles, including 21 1/2 that totaled 100 yards in losses. He also had nine quarterback hurries and forced three fumbles as his Grizzlies went 8-5, bowing out in the second round of the playoffs.
"He doesn't say a whole lot, he just comes out and practices and plays the exact same way every single day - a hundred miles an hour," Montana coach Bob Stitt said. "It made our lives on offense through spring practices and fall camp miserable, having to try to block him and deal with him. So I know what opposing offenses are dealing with it with Tyrone. People feed off his play."
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Holmes, from Eagle Point, Oregon, was accomplished in his first three seasons - he had four sacks in a game as a freshman and started as a sophomore and a junior - but he became the biggest and baddest "dude" in his All-American senior season. He had another four-sack game - against Northern Arizona's Case Cookus, the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year - and went on to finish his career second on Montana's all-time charts with 34 1/2 sacks and 49 1/2 tackles for loss.
He is the second national defensive player of the year from Montana's storied program, following 2007 winner Kroy Biermann, who has been an NFL defensive end ever since. Former Griz defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak finds Holmes most comparable to Biermann.
"I have some really good coaches that have allowed me to hone my skills over my time being here," Holmes said. "It's my senior season, I realize that this is my last go at it, and I really wanted to make the most out of it."
Like Holmes, Onwuasor also was a national leader, tying for the high with nine interceptions as Portland State went 9-3, improving by six wins from 2014 and reaching the playoffs for the second time. He totaled 157 return yards with his interceptions and had 85 tackles.
Cowser was named the conference's defensive player of the year as Southern Utah went 8-4 and claimed its first Big Sky title. He had 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks to take over the FCS lead at 80 and 43 1/2 and totaled 68 tackles, three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.
2015 STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Voting=
1. Tyrone Holmes, Montana: 20-18-18-13-8-260
2. Patrick Onwuasor, Portland State: 21-14-18-17-9-258
3. James Cowser, Southern Utah: 21-19-13-8-13-249
25. Harlan Miller, SE Louisiana: 0-0-1-1-4-9
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.