LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock Touchdown Club and Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP announced the finalists for the fifth annual Cliff Harris Award on Wednesday. Fort Hays State University senior defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd is a finalist for the award.
The award is presented to the nation's top small college defensive player representing approximately 500 colleges and universities from NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA. A prestigious selection committee made up of former college and pro football greats will select the winner. In addition to the Cliff Harris Award overall winner, the top vote-getter from each division will be announced. The Cliff Harris Award winner will be announced Saturday and honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet Jan. 11, featuring guest speaker Marcus Allen. The winner will receive the Cliff Harris Award trophy presented by Harris. The inaugural winner of the award in 2013 was Lindenwood University cornerback Pierre Desir. The 2014 winner was Darius Allen of Colorado State University-Pueblo, and the 2015 winner was Marqui Christian of Midwestern State University. Last year, Lindenwood's Connor Harris received the award.
Shepherd was the 2017 MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, making it two straight years a player from FHSU earned the distinction. He already received All-America honors from the AFCA (first team) and Associated Press (second team) for the 2017 season. He helped FHSU to its first-ever MIAA Championship as the Tigers posted a perfect 11-0 record in regular season play. Shepherd finished the year with 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks, but constantly disrupted offenses by drawing double and triple teams on the line.
In his three years at Fort Hays State, Shepherd amassed 168 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks. He is an All-America selection for the second straight year after earning an honorable mention nod from the Don Hansen Football Committee last year. He is a three-time All-MIAA selection, earning first team this year, second team in 2016, and third team in 2015.
Shepherd will compete in two all-star games in January. He will participate in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 20. That game will air nationally on Fox Sports 1. A week later, on Jan. 27, he will participate in the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. That game will air on the NFL Network.