(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA -- As a junior, he was a top-three finalist for the award in 2018, and flew to Dallas for the STATS FCS Awards Ceremony on the eve of the National Championship Game.
Now as he prepares to enter his senior season, Montana linebacker Dante Olson is once again in the running for the most prestigious defensive award in the FCS, being named to the 2019 Buck Buchanan Award Watch List, STATS announced Thursday.
Olson is the only player from the Big Sky Conference to earn a place on the 25-man list.
2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Buchanan Award, which was first presented in 1995.
In that time Montana has been well represented each year, with 12 finalists and two winners. Kroy Bierman became the Grizzlies first winner of the award in 2007 before going on to an NFL career with the Falcons. Most recently, Tyrone Holmes took home the FCS Defensive Player of the Year award in 2015, and is currently in training camp with the Miami Dolphins.
Other Grizzly legends to be a finalist for the Buchanan Award include new Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame selectee Vince Huntsberger (2001), and two-time finalist Trumaine Johnson, who is currently one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL with the New York Jets.
This is the seventh preseason accolade for the record-breaking senior heading into the 2019 season. Earlier this week STATS named him a preseason All-American in addition to earning a place on the Buchanan Award Watch List.
Olson has also been named Big Sky Preseason Defensive MVP and the only FCS player to earn a place on the Butkus Award Watch List. He was named to the Athlon Sports and HERO Sports Preseason All-America teams, and the College Football America Yearbook FCS Preseason Starting Lineup as well.
The 6-3, 237-pound native of Medford, Ore., set a new Montana school record in 2018 with a Big Sky best 151 total tackles. His 13.7 tackle per-game average was also the highest in all of FCS and FBS football. He also ranked sixth in the Big Sky in sacks (6), ninth in TFLs (11), and second in forced fumbles (3).
Olson received seven different All-America accolades in addition to first-team All-Big Sky honors following his record-breaking 2018 season. He was named the FCS and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year by Phil Steele Magazine, won Montana's Steve Carlson Team MVP and Defensive MVP awards, and was named ROOT Sports Big Sky Player of the Week three separate times.
He is a three-time Academic All-Big Sky selection, was named to the FCS Athletic Director's Association Academic All-Star Team in 2018, currently carries a 3.9 GPA, and will graduate in the Fall of 2019 with a Business Administration degree in Management. He also mentors and serves as a pen-pal with a class of underprivileged kids in Northern California, encouraging them to pursue a college education.
More players can join the watch list during the 2019 season. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the winner following the regular season.
Also this season, STATS will present the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Buck Buchanan Award Watch List
Bryson Armstrong, Kennesaw State, LB, R-Jr., 5-11, 212
Earned All-Big South first-team honors in each of first two seasons, totaling 131 solo tackles (176 overall) in that time; was the first defensive player to win STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award in 2016
Marlon Bridges, Jacksonville State, S, R-Sr., 6-0, 2000
Named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference first team in three straight seasons, earning 2016 newcomer of the year; hard-hitting tackler with nine career interceptions
Jabril Cox, North Dakota State, LB, R-Jr., 6-3, 233
Was named 2018 Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive player of the year as a sophomore; became the first Bison with interception returns for touchdowns in back-to-back games in 51 years
Abu Daramy-Swaray, Colgate, CB, Sr., 5-10, 190
Quarterbacks stray away from the two-time Patriot League first-teamer's side of the field. All five of his career interceptions have come in the last two seasons; also a standout returner
Cam Gill, Wagner, LB, Sr., 6-2, 230
Racked up 24 tackles for loss and 13½ sacks as the 2018 Northeast Conference defensive player of the year; had 5½ tackles for loss in season-ending win over Robert Morris
Darin Greenfield, South Dakota, DE, R-Sr., 6-3, 240
Top pass rusher in the Missouri Valley Conference with 41 tackles for loss, 19 sacks and 33 quarterback hurries in his career; two-time first-team all-conference pick
Jonas Griffith, Indiana State, LB, R-Sr., 6-4, 230
Led the Missouri Valley Conference in total tackles (132) and the FCS in solo tackles (81); had 18 tackles in back-to-back games
Zach Hall, Southeast Missouri, LB, Sr., 6-0, 230
Seeking to become the second two-time winner of the Buck Buchanan Award (Appalachian State linebacker Dexter Coakley in 1995-96); led the FCS in total tackles (168)
Adrian Hope, Furman, LB, R-So., 6-1, 210
Tied for the FCS high in sacks (15) and led in sacks per game (1.5) as a freshman; his five forced fumbles were one off the national high
Sully Laiche, Nicholls, DE, Sr., 6-2, 270
Two-time All-Southland Conference first-team selection; has totaled 39½ tackles for loss and 25½ sacks in his career
Da'Jon Lee, Saint Francis, LB, Sr., 6-2, 235
Ranked No. 1 in the FCS with six forced fumbles as a junior; All-Northeast Conference standout has 37 tackles for loss and 16 sacks through three seasons
Franklin "Mac" McCain III, North Carolina A&T, CB, R-Jr., 5-11, 173
Athletic cover corner has been named to the All-MEAC first team in each of his first two seasons; has eight interceptions, including four pick-sixes, with an incredible 374 return yards
Solomon Muhammad, Alcorn State, LB, Sr., 6-1, 235
Contributed nine tackles for loss and four sacks to SWAC champion Alcorn State's FCS-leading totals in both categories; All-SWAC first-teamer was second on team in tackles (64) and first in QB hits (nine)
Dante Olson, Montana, LB, R-Sr., 6-3, 237
Finished third in voting for 2018 Buck Buchanan Award; set the school record with 151 tackles and led the FCS with 13.7 stops per game
Aaron Patrick, Eastern Kentucky, DE, R-Sr., 6-4, 245
Made the All-Ohio Valley Conference first team in 2016 and '18; dominated with 53 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 7½ sacks, 15 quarterback hurries and one pass breakup as a junior
Manny Patterson, Maine, CB, Sr., 5-10, 180
Was an All-CAA first-teamer in helping Maine to its deepest FCS playoff run in 2018 (semifinals); has 52 career passes defended, reaching double figures in all three seasons
Nasir Player, ETSU, DE, R-Sr., 6-5, 271
All-Southern Conference pass rusher helped ETSU to a share of the conference title and its first playoff bid since a return to football in 2015; had 11 tackles for loss, six sacks and 11 QB hurries
Rashad Robinson, James Madison, CB, R-Sr., 5-11, 185
Missed 2018 season with an injury after being named the CAA preseason defensive player of the year; tied for third nationally in 2017 with seven interceptions
Tyree Robinson, ETSU, S, Jr., 5-11, 184
Led the Southern Conference in interceptions (six) and had 71 tackles and 15 passes defended; helped Buccaneers to a share of SoCon title after being picked for eighth place
Christian Rozeboom, South Dakota State, LB, Sr., 6-2, 225
Ranks No. 1 among all active FCS players with 364 career tackles, leading SDSU in each of his three seasons; already a three-time first-team selection in the Missouri Valley Conference
Isiah Swann, Dartmouth, CB, Sr., 6-0, 190
FCS leader with nine interceptions in only 10 games as a junior; captured the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League defensive player of the year
Chris Terrell, Central Arkansas, DE, R-Sr., 6-3, 270
Two-time All-Southland Conference first-team selection; nearly 36 percent of career tackles are for losses (46½ out of 130), including 21 sacks
Dorian Walker, Kennesaw State, FS, R-Sr., 6-0, 181
Momentum-changer had four takeaways (three interceptions, one fumble recovery) for Big South's top defense last season; Georgia Tech transfer played cornerback in first season with the Owls in 2017
Will Warner, Drake, S, R-Jr., 6-3, 201
All-Pioneer Football League pick had eight interceptions for 223 return yards in 2018; 41 of 50 tackles were unassisted
Nick Wheeler, Colgate, DE, Sr., 6-2, 255
Anchored defensive line as Colgate led the FCS in defense, posting five shutouts; had 51 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks in second straight appearance on the Patriot League first team