NEW YORK — An exciting season of Ivy League football culminated in extraordinary fashion with Yale senior tailback Tyler Varga taking home top honors as Offensive Player of the Year and Harvard senior defensive lineman Zack Hodges and Princeton senior linebacker Mike Zeuli sharing the stage as Co-Defensive Players of the Year.
All three were unveiled as 2014 Asa S. Bushnell Cup recipients in front of a capacity crowd at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and before a live audience on The Ivy League Digital Network (ILDN) at a special press conference and reception co-hosted by the National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame (NFF) and presented by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.
Varga brings Yale its ninth Bushnell Cup recognition and is the eighth different Bulldog to receive this accolade, following Dick Jauron (1972), John Pagliaro (1976, 1977), Tim Tumpane (1979), Kevin Czinger (1980), Rich Diana (1981), Kelly Ryan (1987) and Mike McLeod (2007). He is the 19th running back in Ivy League history to receive the award and the fifth Yale offensive back to do so, joining Jauron, Pagliaro. Diana and McLeod.
Hodges becomes the first player to be twice-named Defensive Player of the Year and just the fourth player in League history to earn the Bushnell Cup twice in his career, joining Pagliaro, Cornell’s Ed Marinaro (1970, 1971) and Harvard’s Carl Morris (2001, 2002). He is the eighth different Harvard player to be honored as a Bushnell Cup recipient, following Morris, Jim Stoeckel (1973), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2004), Chris Pizzotti (2008), Gino Gordon (2010), Josue Ortiz (2011) and Colton Chapple (2012). This marks the ninth time in 14 years that a Crimson player has been selected as a Bushnell Cup recipient, but just the third time for a Harvard player from the defensive side of the ball. Ortiz was voted the inaugural Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Zeuli is the ninth Princeton player to be bestowed with the Bushnell Cup, following Walt Snickenberger (1974), Jason Garrett (1988), Judd Garrett (1989), Keith Elias (1993), Dave Patterson (1995), Jeff Terrell (2006), Mike Catapano (2012) and Quinn Epperly (2013). He is just the fifth linebacker in Ivy League history to receive the award and just the second Tiger playing that position to do so, joining Patterson.
Varga (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) was a 2014 first-team All-Ivy selection after scoring a school-record 26 total touchdowns and averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 142 yards per game. He finished the regular season leading the Football Championship Subdivision in touchdowns and scoring average while helping the Bulldogs post an 8-2 overall record.
Varga’s 2014 season included a pair of five-touchdown games. His most notable performance came in an overtime win over Army on Sept. 27 when he rambled for 185 yards and found the end zone five times. His last score was the game-winner and got him almost every national and regional award for player of the week. That performance also got him mentioned on ESPN’s College Football Final and NFL Primetime.
Despite playing just 24 games over the last three seasons, the three-time All-Ivy pick is third on the school’s career rushing touchdowns list with 31, fourth in career rushing yards with 2,985 and fifth with 529 rushing attempts. He went over the 100-yard mark 17 times in his 24 career games.
Varga, who has a 3.56 GPA in ecology & evolutionary biology, has an impressive list of awards off the field. He was named a National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete as well as a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, awarded for the nation’s top football scholar-athlete. Varga is the Gridiron Club of Boston’s FCS winner of the Swede Nelson Award for New England’s top scholar-athlete while the New York Athletic Club tabbed him as its first-ever scholar-athlete recipient.
Hodges (Atlanta) earned his third selection to the All-Ivy first team in 2014. Last year’s Bushnell recipient as the League’s Defensive Player of the Year, Hodges is a two-time finalist for the award. He is also this year’s winner of the George “Bulger” Lowe Award, presented to the top defensive player in New England. Hodges played in all 10 games this fall and recorded a League-best 8.5 sacks.
He finished the year with 26 tackles and 10.0 stops for a loss, including 2.0 sacks in the win over Yale in 131st playing of The Game. He also recorded six tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss against Cornell. Hodges will graduate as the school’s all-time sack leader with 27.0.
Zeuli (Marlton, N.J.) led the Ivy League with 16.5 tackles for loss, ranked second with 8.7 tackles per game and tied for fifth in sacks with four. He had 16 tackles in his final collegiate game, which moved him over the 200-tackle mark for his career. He anchored a Tiger defensive unit that finished the regular season second in the conference and eighth nationally in rushing defense.
One of only four defensive players to earn unanimous first-team All-Ivy distinction this season, Zeuli ranked 12th nationally with an average of 1.8 tackles for loss per game this season. He had double-digit tackles in four of Princeton’s last seven games averaged 13 tackles per game against the top three teams in the standings.
The senior co-captain earned immediate playing time as a freshman and played four different positions during his career.
The three were selected as Bushnell Cup finalists, along with Dartmouth junior quarterback Dalyn Williams, by a vote of the Ivy League’s eight head coaches.
Williams (Corinth, Texas) guided the Dartmouth offense to 31.3 points per game and the Big Green’s best record in 17 years. He led the Ivy League in completion percentage (.675) and passing efficiency (157.57) while throwing for 2,119 yards and 21 touchdowns with just three interceptions, the best ratio in school history. Williams also led the Ancient Eight quarterbacks with 444 yards rushing plus ran for six scores. The three-time Offensive Player of the Week set a school record with 443 total yards in a 42-7 triumph at Cornell and currently ranks third in both career passing yards (4,866) and total yards (6,135) in the Dartmouth annals.