Chattanooga, TN (Sports Network) -
Bethune-Cookman free safety Rashean Mathis was named the ninth winner of the Buck Buchanan Award Thursday at the FCS College Football Awards, on the eve of the national championship game. The Buchanan Award is presented annually to the top defensive player in FCS.
The senior recorded 14 interceptions during the 2002 regular season, shattering the previous FCS single-season mark of 12 picks, set by Princeton?s Dean Cain in 1987. With 445 interception return yards on the season, Mathis surpassed the previous record of 280, established by Murray State?s William Hampton in 1995. The Jacksonville, FL native led Bethune to an 11-1 record, helping the school to its first outright Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title since 1984 and first FCS playoff berth in school history.
"It?s a great honor to be considered as a finalist, even a greater honor to win," said Mathis. "Being the first defensive back to ever win this award is truly amazing. This year was a great year for the team as a whole. We accomplished things that no other team at B-CC has done before. This award is not only mine, it is also a credit to the great job the team and coaching staff has done this season."
Mathis is the seventh consecutive senior to win the award, and the first defensive back. Mathis is just the second player from the MEAC to win a major FCS Award, after North Carolina A&T?s Chris McNeil took home the Buchanan in 1997.
A three-interception day in a Sept. 7 win over Florida Atlantic helped set the tone for Mathis? amazing season. The safety would go on to register at least one pick in nine of the team?s final 10 games, including two- interception outings against Morgan State and Delaware State. The senior saw time as both a kick and punt returner in 2002, also emerging as a threat at wide receiver. Two of Mathis? three catches on the year went for long touchdowns, including a game-winner in a 13-12 triumph over North Carolina A&T on Nov. 2.
Mathis ended his collegiate career with 31 interceptions, bettering the previous FCS mark of 28 set by Holy Cross? Dave Murphy from 1986 to 1989. Mathis? 672 career interception yards shattered the previous I-AA mark of 488, a record formerly held by current Green Bay Packers standout Darren Sharper at William & Mary from 1993 to 1996.
Mathis received 33 first-place votes and 278 points from the panel of 109 FCS sports information directors and selected media. Following Mathis in the voting were McNeese State safety Hadley Prince, who earned 18 first-place votes and 210 total points, and Illinois State linebacker Boomer Grigsby, who registered 18 first-place votes and 162 total points.
The Buck Buchanan Award was established in 1995 by The Sports Network. The Award is named for All-Pro defensive end Junious "Buck" Buchanan, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs after beginning his career at Grambling State University. Former Buchanan winners include Dallas Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Dexter Coakley (Appalachian State, 1995, 1996) and Baltimore Ravens starting LB Ed Hartwell (Western Illinois, 2000).