Concordia’s Napier named GPAC Defensive Player of the Year
For the second time in program history, a Concordia University Football player has been named the GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. The honor has been bestowed upon All-American linebacker Lane Napier, one of the greatest players to ever don Bulldog colors. As announced on Wednesday (Nov. 17), Napier was one of seven players to represent Concordia on with 2021 all-conference accolades. Napier is joined on the first team by center Johnny Robinson III and tight end Garrett Schardt.
A pillar of consistent excellence, Napier returned to the program for a fifth year in 2021 and has been rewarded with a fifth-straight First Team All-GPAC award. The David City Aquinas High School alum shattered school and GPAC records for career tackles last season and ended his five-year run (45 career games) with 535 tackles. According to NCAA record books entering this season, only six players in NCAA football history have reached that lofty tackle total. Napier was named to at least one All-America list in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The American Football Coaches Association chose him as a second team All-American in 2020.
This past season, Napier totaled 134 tackles (No. 1 in the GPAC and No. 2 in the NAIA), three pass breakups, 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble. In addition to his 535 career tackles, Napier has notched career totals of 36.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions. He led all NAIA players in 2018 with 142 tackles and produced three seasons of at least 100 stops.
A four-year starter at center, Robinson III has served as an anchor along the offensive line. The native of Houston, Texas, moved up to First Team All-GPAC this season after being selected as a second team honoree in 2020. Throughout Robinson’s time as a Bulldog, the offense has improved steadily, helping pave the way for a 7-3 overall record in 2021. Robinson and the line helped pave the way for Jonah Weyand to collect First Team All-GPAC accolades in 2020.
A native of Davenport, Neb., Schardt has developed into not only the best tight end in the GPAC, but one of the best in the NAIA. Schardt is a first team choice for the second year in a row. While starting all 10 games this fall, Schardt produced 32 receptions for 504 yards (most on the team) and five touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in all but one game on his way to posting career highs across the board. Over four seasons, Schardt has accumulated career totals of 72 receptions for 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns.
Also a fifth-year member of the program, linebacker Caydren Cox rose to stardom this fall while earning Second Team All-GPAC honors. Cox led the team in both tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (8.5) while adding 55 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception. Cox returned a pick eight yards for a touchdown in the win over Mount Marty. Following his two-sack performance at Jamestown, Cox was voted the GPAC Defensive Player of the Week. He also recorded 2.5 tackles for loss in the win over Briar Cliff.
Safety Peyton Mitchell has landed on the All-GPAC second team for a third year in a row. The native of Waverly, Kan., played through injury this season and finished with 17 tackles, three interceptions, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. All three of his picks came in the victory over Midland. As a result, Mitchell was named the GPAC Defensive Player of the Week. Initially a receiver, Mitchell has amassed 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions in his career at Concordia.
Jorge Ochoa teamed up with Cox and Napier on an experienced and ultra-productive linebacker core. The native of Beaumont, Texas, was tabbed Honorable Mention All-GPAC after he put up 43 tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and two pass breakups this fall. A major highlight for Ochoa this season was his 23-yard pick-six that proved to be the game winner versus Doane. Ochoa garnered GPAC Defensive Player of the Week accolades following that victory.
Finally, Payton Stevens served as a stalwart up front and was also recognized as Honorable Mention All-GPAC. The Polk, Neb., native registered 35 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sack, 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles from his defensive end position this season. Stevens enjoyed a particularly impressive performance versus Doane when he piled up 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble.
Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad concluded the 2021 season on a six-game win streak. The 7-3 overall record marked the program’s top record since 2016. In addition, the Bulldogs defeated Doane, Hastings and Midland in the same season for the first time since 1970.
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