SRU’s Martin named PSAC Defensive Player of the Year

Marcus Martin

Nov. 18, 2016

LOCK HAVEN, Pa. - Slippery Rock University redshirt junior defensive end Marcus Martin was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, highlighting a total of eight Rock football players that were named to the All-PSAC team.

Martin, a native of West Mifflin, has now earned three consecutive yearly honors in voting by the league's head coaches. He was named the PSAC West Freshman of the Year in 2014 before earning the Defensive Player of the Year title in each of the last two seasons. He becomes the second SRU player to ever earn at least three yearly honors and the first since quarterback Randy McKavish was named the Offensive Player of the Year in 2000.

McKavish earned three Player of the Year awards and was named Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year in his first season, but was not honored in his junior year. Martin is the first player at SRU to earn three consecutive yearly awards - and with one season still ahead of him - has a chance to become the only player in PSAC history to be named a Player of the Year in four consecutive years.

Martin shared the division's top honor with California wide receiver Garry Brown, who was named the Western Division Offensive Player of the Year. Edinboro wide receiver and return specialist Ta'Nauz Gregory was named the PSAC West Freshman of the Year and Edinboro head coach Justin Lustig was chosen as the PSAC West Coach of the Year.

In addition to earning the Player of the Year title, Martin was named to first team All-Conference honors for the third consecutive year to headline a total of eight SRU selections to the All-PSAC team.

Martin is joined on the first team defense by linebacker Bob Vernick, defensive tackle Joe Phillips and cornerback Titus Howard. Linebacker Anthony Zappone was named to second team honors to give The Rock five defensive players on the All-PSAC team.

The offense is represented by three players on the second team in wide receiver Marcus Johnson, running back Isiah Neely and lineman Steve Gaviglia.

A brief look at each of The Rock's eight All-PSAC players and their 2016 accomplishments:

  • Marcus Martin (R-Jr.) - Defensive Player of the Year, 1st Team Defense 
    Martin finished his junior season with 18.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks, breaking SRU and PSAC career records in each category during the season. He finished third on the team in total tackles with 64 and also recorded 12 additional QB hurries, one pass breakup and one blocked kick. After just three seasons he has extended his SRU and PSAC career records to 40.5 sacks and 66 tackles for loss. He will enter his senior season ranked sixth all-time among Division II players in sacks, just six off the NCAA record, and ranked ninth all-time among Division II players in tackles for loss, just 11 off the national record.
  • Bob Vernick (Sr.) - 1st Team Defense 
    Vernick, a native of Butler, is a repeat selection to the first team defense at linebacker after finishing the year second on the team in total tackles with 69, despite missing two full games with an injury. He tallied 3.5 tackles for loss and finished second on the team in interceptions with four. Vernick also broke up five additional passes. His highlight of the season came against Seton Hill when he recorded a career-high 18 total tackles and two interceptions.
  • Joe Phillips (Sr.) - 1st Team Defense 
    Phillips, a native of Washington, is also a repeat selection to the first team defense. The senior tackle finished the year with five sacks and nine tackles for loss to go along with 20 total tackles. He also forced one fumble and was credited with five additional QB hurries. Phillips clogged up the middle of the line and helped The Rock to what is currently the seventh best rush defense in the country in 2016, allowing opponents just 82.5 rushing yards per game.
  • Titus Howard (Jr.) - 1st Team Defense 
    Howard, a native of Clairton, earns his first All-PSAC honor following a junior season in which he was among the top corners in the league. Teams routinely threw to the opposite side of the field from Howard, who finished the year with 30 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one and a half sacks, one interception and seven pass breakups. He was also credited with two QB hurries and one of his sacks went for a safety.
  • Anthony Zappone (R-Sr.) - 2nd Team Defense 
    Zappone, a native of Westlake, Ohio that transferred in for his senior year from Eastern Michigan, was among the top linebackers in the conference this year and led SRU in tackles. He finished the year with 88 total stops, including 10.5 tackles for loss and five and a half sacks. He also picked off a team-high five passes and returned one for a touchdown in the last game of the year. Zappone was also credited with three additional pass breakups, seven QB hurries and one forced fumble on the year.
  • Marcus Johnson (Jr.) - 2nd Team Offense 
    Johnson, a native of Pittsburgh, earns his first All-PSAC honor after a breakout junior campaign. He finished the year as the leading receiver and point scorer on the team with 54 catches for 898 yards and 13 touchdowns. Johnson's best game of the year came just last week when he caught 10 passes for SRU records of 237 yards and four touchdowns in a win over East Stroudsburg. His 13 TD catches are the second most in a single-season in SRU history, while his 898 yards rank sixth most in program history for a single-season.
  • Isiah Neely (R-Jr.) - 2nd Team Offense 
    Neely, a native of Coraopolis, earns his first All-PSAC honor after stepping into the starting running back role midway through the season when career rushing record holder and three time All-PSAC performer Shamar Greene was injured and lost for the year. Neely went for more than 100 yards on two occasions and finished the year with 502 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 122 total carries and also caught 10 passes for an additional 103 yards.
  • Steve Gaviglia (R-So.) - 2nd Team Offense 
    Gaviglia, a native of Cranberry Township, earns his first All-PSAC honor in his first season of playing on the offensive side of the ball. After playing defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2015, he made the move to right tackle on the offensive line for 2016 after The Rock graduated four of their five starting offensive linemen. Gaviglia graded out as the top offensive lineman for The Rock in 2016 and helped the offense to put up 436 yards per game, including 294 passing yards and 142 rushing yards each week.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jon Holtz | 724.738.4925 | jonathan.holtz@sru.edu