(STATS) - It's only fitting that Karter Schult finally became the first Northern Iowa player to win the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award. The Tripoli, Iowa, native has made it very clear that playing for the Panthers was a dream come true.
Schult was given the highest individual honor for a defensive player in the FCS on Friday night at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Frisco, Texas. The race wasn't close with Sam Houston State junior defensive end P.J. Hall finishing second and Missouri State senior linebacker Dylan Cole coming in third.
A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries selected Schult from 25 finalists. He received 68 first-place votes and 473 points, while Hall had 15 first-place votes and 269 points and Cole collected 10 first-place votes and 168 points.
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During the 2016 regular season, Schult was the most dominant pass rusher in college football. The senior defensive end led all of Division I with 17 sacks and tied for second with a school-record 24 tackles for loss to earn Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. His 69 total tackles led all defensive linemen in the conference and he had four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, one interception, one blocked kick and one safety.
Schult, who grew up less than 30 miles away from the Panthers' Cedar Falls campus, was the sixth UNI player to be a finalist for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award, which is named after the legendary defensive lineman from Grambling State.
"Growing up so close to UNI, this university has always been a dream for me," Schult said. "Many people in Iowa growing up wanted to always talk about the other two universities, but for me it was all about UNI."
Schult completed a career at UNI that saw him rank first all-time with 56 tackles for loss and second with 36 1/2 sacks. He recorded a sack in 10 of 11 games as a senior and tied the school record with 5 1/2 tackles for loss against Montana on Sept. 10.
"Athletically, UNI has had a prestigious program with tradition that I really wanted to be a part of," he said. "Playing for UNI football was a dream of mine since I was small, so when I got the opportunity there was no hesitation."
Schult was also named the FCS Defensive Player of the Year by the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association on Thursday and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy Award, which recognizes the nation's top scholar-athlete for his academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.
"I pride myself not only being an athlete, but excelling in the classroom, which is really important to me," Schult said. "Also making an impact in the community is something really special to my heart because growing up in a really small community, I know it takes that togetherness of a community to build something great."
Hall was named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league during the regular season with 21 tackles for loss, tying for first with three forced fumbles and finishing tied for second with 9 1/2 sacks. He matched a school record with four sacks against McNeese on Nov. 5.
Cole led the FCS with 142 tackles and 12.9 tackles per game during the regular season in being named first-team All-MVFC. He finished his career with 457 tackles, including 40 1/2 for loss, in 46 games.
2016 STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award Voting=
1. Karter Schult, Northern Iowa: 68-24-10-3-1-473
2. P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State: 15-22-27-9-7-269
3. Dylan Cole, Missouri State: 10-10-11-13-19-168
4. Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State: 7-11-13-13-13-157
5. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova: 9-11-10-5-7-136
6. Alex Scearce, Coastal Carolina: 4-17-2-6-4-110
7. Brett Taylor, Western Illinois: 4-9-8-9-3-101
8. Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis: 1-9-7-8-10-88
9. Keionta Davis, Chattanooga: 3-7-5-7-6-78
10.(T) Darius Leonard, South Carolina State: 2-4-7-10-9-76
11.(T) Garrett Dolan, Houston Baptist: 4-3-1-14-13-76
12. Christian Kuntz, Duquesne: 5-3-6-5-6-71
13. Pat Afriyie, Colgate: 3-2-6-6-7-60
14.(T) Cole Reyes, North Dakota: 3-3-4-6-7-58
15.(T) Derek Rivers, Youngstown State: 1-4-3-12-4-58
16. Darien Anderson, Alcorn State: 2-3-9-2-4-57
17. Dee Delaney, The Citadel: 2-2-6-6-8-56
18. Donald Payne, Stetson: 1-3-6-3-8-49
19. Javancy Jones, Jackson State: 4-3-1-2-3-42
20. Winston Craig, Richmond: 3-2-3-3-2-40
21. Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern: 1-3-2-3-3-32
22. Chad Geter, Gardner-Webb: 2-1-3-2-1-28
23. Folarin Orimolade, Dartmouth: 1-0-3-5-3-27
23. Mike Basile, Monmouth: 1-0-2-3-6-23
25. Christopher Beaschler, Dayton: 0-0-1-0-2-5
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.