Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who leads the nation in passing and led the Monarchs into postseason play, has been named the state's best Division I football player.
Heinicke was named the unanimous winner of the Dudley Award on Wednesday night at a banquet at the Richmond Hilton Hotel.
A panel of 16 Virginia sportswriters and broadcasters votes on the award, which is named for former University of Virginia star Bill Dudley. It honors the best player among the state's 10 Division I football schools.
Virginia and Virginia Tech have dominated the award - players there had won 11 of the past 12.
Heinicke didn't attend the banquet, as ODU is preparing for Saturday's playoff game against Georgia Southern, but said winning the award "is really humbling."
"It's unreal," Heinicke said Wednesday. "I grew up watching Virginia Tech. I've always admired both Virginia Tech and Virginia. To be considered the best player in the state with those schools also being considered is really something special."
The Dudley award is sponsored by the Touchdown Club of Richmond. U.Va. linebacker Steve Greer and James Madison linebacker Stephon Robertson were the other finalists.
A delegation of ODU officials, including Chris Crouch, the football director of operations, and Mark Benson, from the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, attended the banquet. A videotaped message from Heinicke was played to the crowd, including coaches and players from most state schools.
"I wish I could have been there," Heinicke said. "It would have been really cool to meet people from JMU, Virginia and the other schools and get to know them a little better.
"I hate being absent from something like that. It's kind of a bummer. But we've got something here bigger to worry about and that's Georgia Southern. I hope they understand that I wanted to be there."
Heinicke, a sophomore from Atlanta, leads the nation in four offensive categories and set several national records this season. He has thrown for 4,655 yards, the second most ever by an FCS quarterback, and set Division I single-game records with 730 passing yards and 791 yards of total offense in a 64-61 victory over New Hampshire.
ODU coach Bobby Wilder called the award a milestone for the school's four-year-old program.
"This is a very significant award when you're talking about competing with the players at Virginia and Virginia Tech," he said.
As the season began, Tech's Logan Thomas was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate and U.Va.'s Mike Rocco was far more well-known than Heinicke, he said.
"Those quarterbacks are known nationally," he said. "Virginia and Virginia Tech have players who are going to be NFL draft choices. And here's our sophomore quarterback who's being named the best player in Virginia.
"I think that speaks volumes about what we've been able to accomplish as a program."
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