AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s final season as an NAIA independent resulted in the program’s eighth NAIA playoff appearance since 1998, a No. 5 final national ranking, and recognition for 22 Cougar players in several postseason awards programs.
Senior QB John van den Raadt was named NAIA Independent Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, leading a contingent of 15 Azusa Pacific players in the All-Independent awards, and senior SS Shea Struiksma was named to CoSIDA’s Capital One Academic All-America College Division first team to headline the Cougar honorees.
Senior WR Matt Davis earned Capital One Academic All-America second-team honors, and he and Struiksma were joined by three other Cougars on the Capital One Academic All-District team for District 8’s College Division, which includes non-NCAA programs in the western region (including Alaska, California, Hawai’i, Oregon, Washington, and Canada). Struiksma was also one of five Azusa Pacific recipients of the Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete award.
“As a coach, it’s gratifying to see this happen for a group that was truly special both on and off the field,” Cougar head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “Our conviction is to win today without cutting corners that cost us tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier to see our players take that message to heart and put that philosophy into action.”
One of 10 Cougars on the All-Independent first team, van den Raadt finished the year ranking among the NAIA’s top-15 in total offense (6th; 3,075 yards), scoring (7th; 98 points), rushing (7th; 1,200 yards), and pass efficiency rating (15th; 140.7 rating). He set Azusa Pacific’s career records for total offense (9,216 yards), passing yards (6,536 yards), and passing completions (525), and he ranks second all-time at Azusa Pacific in career rushing TDs (35) and career passing TDs (48). In 2011, van den Raadt averaged 8.6 yards per carry, the highest per-rush average among all NAIA QBs and second nationally among all NAIA rushers with at least 50 carries behind his running back teammate, fellow NAIA All-Independent first team junior RB Johnell Murphy.
The All-Independent team, which is the only awards program that provides an opportunity for all head coaches of the 2011 NAIA independent football programs to nominate and vote on an all-conference team, also featured eight other Cougars as first-team selections. Those honorees were senior DE Jake Jones, sophomore LB Sean Barber, junior rover Spencer Danielson, senior FB Joshua Morgan, senior OL Joe Bolognesi, junior OL Luke Marquardt, senior WR Matt Davis, and senior kickoff returner Justin Jones.
Azusa Pacific’s representatives on the All-Independent second team were junior DL Jimmy Young, senior LB Kory Johnson, senior CB Paul Royster, junior C Graham Paterson, and senior TE Tyson Hetzer.
Struiksma and Davis, Azusa Pacific’s representatives on the Capital One Academic All-America College Division Football Team, were two of the five Cougars recognized with Capital One Academic All-District awards. The others were Danielson, senior WR Jeremiah Andujo, and sophomore LB Jacob Henderson.
Struiksma was also named a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete, which is awarded to nominated student-athletes who maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 or better and have achieved junior academic status. He was one of five Cougars honored, and Azusa Pacific was one of just six NAIA programs to make the playoffs while producing at least five Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes. Senior FS Jake Mittel, junior CB Brett Struiksma, junior WR Nathan Hinke, and junior WR Jake Steedman were the other Cougars honored.
Azusa Pacific has concluded its affiliation as an NAIA football program, as the Cougars will join the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as an associate member for football beginning in 2012. It will be the first conference affiliation for Azusa Pacific’s football program in the school’s history, and the rest of the Cougar Athletics program will compete in the Pacific West Conference as the school enters its second year of a three-year transition into NCAA Division II membership.
Click the links below for the 2011 awards lists which included Azusa Pacific student-athletes:
2011 NAIA All-Independent Team
2011 CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-America College Division Football Team
2011 CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District Football Team (Azusa Pacific is in District 8 College Division)
2011 Daktronics-NAIA Football Scholar-Athletes