Montana Grizzlies: Dante Olson named MVP of 2018 football season

Record-breaking linebacker Dante Olson was named the 2018 Montana football Steve Carlson Most Valuable Player, and 14 other Grizzlies were honored at the team awards banquet Sunday.

Head coach Bobby Hauck and his staff presented the awards at the DoubleTree Hotel in Missoula, held annually on the Sunday following the UM/MSU game.

With 18 tackles against Montana State, Olson reclaimed his place as the No. 1 tackler in the nation this week with 151 total this season, completing an unbelievable year that saw him tear through nine games with 10 tackles or more.

Olson, who is also a candidate for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award, took home two honors on the day after being named the team’s Defensive MVP as well, as voted by the coaching staff.

Dual-threat quarterback Dalton Sneed was named the team’s Offensive MVP after leading the Grizzlies in both rushing and passing yards this season, and finishing the year No. 2 in the Big Sky and No. 9 in the nation in total offense, averaging 308.9 yards per game.

Sneed’s No. 1 target this season was receiver Samuel Akem, who finished the season with 13 touchdown catches – the most in the Big Sky and the sixth-most in the nation – and a total of 879 yards off 59 grabs. For his efforts, Akem was presented the Terry Dillon Award, honoring the team’s outstanding back or receiver.

Also going to a standout on the offensive side of the ball is the Paul Weskamp Award, honoring the team’s outstanding offensive lineman. This year’s Weskamp Award winner was sophomore tackle Conlan Beaver, who battled through a bout with mono over the summer before returning to full health to lead a young O-line.

On the defensive line, senior tackle David Shaw and junior end Jesse Sims were each presented the Larry Miller Award, given to the team’s top D-lineman. Sims was the Grizzlies’ top tackler on the defensive line this season with 42 tackles, and Shaw was a formidable presence at tackle and had the second-most quarterback hurries on the squad.

Two-time defensive MVP Josh Buss added to his career award haul as a Grizzly, earning the Pat Norwood Award for the team’s most inspirational player.

Buss, a preseason All-American and the Big Sky’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year battled through injuries in the offseason to record UM’s third-most tackles and the sixth-most sacks in the Big Sky.

Montana led the Big Sky in kickoff coverage in 2018, and was second in the league in kick returns thanks in part to the efforts of the Hauck Family Special Teams Players of the Year, split this season between Michael McGinnis and dynamic returner Malik Flowers.

For the second time in his career, Reggie Tilleman, a team captain in 2018, earned the Tony Barbour Award for the player who best exemplifies Griz football. Joining Tilleman as a Barbour Award winner was senior Kyle Davis, the former walk-on tackle who earned a scholarship at fall camp.

Shining light on the future stars of Griz football were the Scout Team Player of the Year Awards. Taking defensive scout team honors was linebacker Patrick O’Connell who transferred to UM from the University of Mary and won a state championship at Glacier High in Kalispell. The offense scout team award went to quarterback Garrett Graves, who saw playing time in two games this season thanks to new NCAA redshirt rules, rushing for 18 yards.

2018 Grizzly Football Awards

Offensive MVP: Dalton Sneed

Defensive MVP: Dante Olson

Hauck Family Special Teams Players of the Year Award: Malik Flowers, Michael McGinnis

Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Patrick O’Connell

Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Garrett Graves

Terry Dillon Award: “Honoring the outstanding back or receiver. The award was established in 1964 following the accidental death of former Grizzly Terry Dillon.” – Winner: Samuel Akem

Tony Barbour Award: “Given in memory of a loyal Grizzly Fan. It is presented annually to a UM player “who best exemplifies outstanding practice habits and makes an unselfish contribution to the betterment of the Grizzly Football Team.” – Winners: Kyle Davis and Reggie Tilleman

Paul Weskamp Award: “Established in memory of Paul Weskamp, a tackle on Ed Chinske’s 1954 Grizzly Team.  The award honors UM’s outstanding offensive lineman and was established by citizens of Ronan.” – Winner: Conlan Beaver

Larry Miller Award: “In memory of the great Grizzly defensive lineman and wrestler who was an All-American for UM in 1969 and 1970.  Miller died in an automobile accident in 1974.” – Winners: David Shaw and Jesse Sims

Golden Helmet Award: “Honors the hardest hitter on the team.  It was set up on a nationwide basis by Coca-Cola in 1967.” – Winners: Gavin Robertson and Robby Hauck

Pat Norwood Award: “Pat Norwood was a four-year starter at offensive tackle for the Grizzlies (1979-82) from Billings who died of cancer in 1983. This award is given to the most inspirational player, who oftentimes had to overcome an injury.” – Winner: Josh Buss

Steve Carlson Award MVP: “Given to the team’s most valuable player in memory of former Grizzly football player who died in 1977.” – Winner: Dante Olson