Penn football’s epic late-season surge ultimately couldn’t secure its third straight season of Ivy League title glory, but the Red and Blue had no such shortcomings with individual hardware.
The Ivy League released its 2017 All-Ivy selections on Tuesday afternoon, and the Quakers were thoroughly represented on all sides of the ball after finishing 4-3 in conference play. Overall, 14 Penn players were named All-Ivy in some capacity — third most in the league, behind Ivy champion Yale’s 20 and Dartmouth’s 16 — and five Penn players were named first team All-Ivy, led by unanimous selection and senior wide receiver Justin Watson.
Watson — who also made headlines this week for being named as one of 25 finalists for the 2017 Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), joining Princeton senior quarterback Chad Kanoff as the only Ivy League players to do so — was one of nine Ivy players on any side of the ball to be unanimously voted to the first team, and it certainly wasn’t without reason.
Though a comprehensive list of his statistical records could go on for pages, some of Watson’s most impressive achievements include his status as the only Ivy League player ever with three separate 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the only Ivy League player to have at least one catch in all 40 career games, the only Ivy League player to catch at least one touchdown in every game in a season (which he did in 2017), and the second-ranked Ivy League player in career receiving yards behind only 1990s Brown star and future NFL Pro Bowler Sean Morey.
As one might expect, Watson might not be done picking up career accolades quite yet — the finalists for the Bushnell Cup (Ivy League’s top offensive player) will be announced on November 28, with the winner being revealed on December 4.
After finishing in second place in both his sophomore and junior seasons, Watson figures to have a good chance at going out on top, although fellow unanimous first team selections Kanoff (who set his own Ivy single-season record with 3,474 passing yards), Princeton junior wide receiver Jesper Horsted, and Yale freshman running back Zane Dudek also will be in the mix.
Joining Watson on the first team were senior defensive end Louis Vecchio, junior kicker Jack Soslow, senior center Nathan Kirchmier and junior linebacker Nick Miller, putting Penn’s five first team selections behind only Yale’s eight. If Vecchio, a back-to-back first-teamer who missed most of the 2015 season with an ACL injury, chooses to return for his final season of eligibility as is expected, the Quakers’ three returning first team selections will be the most in the league.
The second team and honorable mention groups saw a combined nine selections from Penn, notably including a pair of sophomores in offensive tackle Greg Begnoche and running back Karekin Brooks. With the exceptions of quarterback and cornerback, every one of Penn’s positional groups saw at least one All-Ivy selection, led by the offensive line’s three in Kirchmier, Begnoche and second team All-Ivy junior offensive tackle Tommy Dennis.
In addition to Vecchio, senior linebacker and honorable mention selection Colton Moskal also is expected to return for another season, having redshirted during his freshman year at Syracuse in 2014 and thus having only used three years of eligibility. If Moskal and Vecchio both return, Penn’s nine returning All-Ivy selections will be the most in the league for the second straight year, surpassing Yale and Princeton at eight apiece.
Around the rest of the league, Dudek unanimously earned Rookie of the Year honors after leading the Ancient Eight in both rushing yards and offensive touchdowns scored. Former Penn coach Al Bagnoli, in his third year at Columbia, won Coach of the Year honors for the first time since leaving Penn after the Lions surged from 3-7 a year ago to 8-2 this year.
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