One vote was a nail-biter, one was unanimous. Both award winners were quarterbacks who lifted their teams this season.
Liberty’s Malik Willis was presented the Dudley Award on Saturday night as the commonwealth’s best college football player.
The Lanier Award, given to the best small-college player, went to Randolph-Macon’s Presley Egbers, a sophomore who led the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated season and the ODAC title.
Egbers received all 10 first-place votes from the selection panel.
Willis received six, with Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert receiving four.
Willis, a dual-threat quarterback who rewrote the Flames’ record book, led Liberty to a 10-1 season with upset victories over Syracuse and Virginia Tech. The Flames—ranked 17th in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll—capped their season with a 37-34 victory over then-No. 9 Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
“I’m thankful and very humbled,” Willis said in accepting the award. “I’m just so thankful to my family and friends, coaches and teammates, and God most of all.
“I just really appreciate this honor, and I’m glad to join the ranks of great athletes that came before me.”
He follows on the heels of another dual-threat quarterback, UVA’s Bryce Perkins, who won the Dudley in back-to-back years. If Willis returns to Liberty in the fall, he’ll have the opportunity to become the fourth two-time recipient of the award.
With the announcement, Liberty became the seventh school to produce a Dudley winner.
Virginia, Virginia Tech and James Madison have historically dominated the award, with Old Dominion, Richmond and Emory & Henry also fielding past winners.
Because of the pandemic, the awards ceremony was moved from December to allow schools that opted to play in the spring the opportunity to finish their seasons.
Instead of an in-person banquet, the ceremony was televised on WTVR 6.
Egbers, the Randolph-Macon sophomore quarterback, is the second Yellow Jackets player to win the Lanier Award, following in the footsteps of running back Will McGhee in 2013.
“I want to thank our coaching staff,” Egbers said. “They put in a lot of hard work, a lot of late nights and early mornings, and without them, I don’t know where our program would be.
“I also want to thank my teammates. A motto our team follows is, ‘The team, the team, the team,’ and I feel like that’s why we were so successful this spring is because we all came together as a team.”
The ceremony also included the presentation of the annual Touchdown Club of Richmond postseason awards.
VMI’s Scott Wachenheim was named the Division I coach of the year, and Randolph-Macon’s Pedro Arruza won the award at the small-college level.
The Wells Fargo Advisors Humanitarian of the year was Terrell Jana, a wide receiver at UVA.
The winners of the Division I players of the year were: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty; Jakob Herres, WR, VMI; Christian Darrisaw, LT, Virginia Tech; Mike Greene, DE, James Madison; Charles Snowden, LB, UVA; Divine Deablo, FS, Virginia Tech; and Demario Douglas, PR, Liberty.
For the small schools, the winners were: Presley Egbers, QB, Randolph-Macon; Jaquan Ebron, WR, Bluefield; Will Jackson, OL, Randolph-Macon; Tyler DeBerry, DE, Randolph-Macon; DaMarcus Wimbush, LB, Bluefield; Jaylyn Kreimes, DB, Emory & Henry; and Chris Vidal, PK, Randolph-Macon.
Both Willis and Egbers thanked the colleges for working to put on a football season during the pandemic.
“We just had to battle through and stick together,” Willis said of the challenges. “Now we’re just looking forward to a great 2021 season.”