Valpo Football Announces 2023 Team Awards
The Valparaiso University football program has announced its team awards for the 2023 season, as revealed at the team’s annual postseason awards banquet on Sunday. The team awards were peer-selected as they were voted upon by players.

Redshirt sophomore running back Ryan Mann (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Vernon Hills [Northern Illinois]) was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year, redshirt junior defensive lineman Sam Hafner (Green Bay, Wis. / De Pere) was tabbed the team’s Defensive Player of the Year and sixth-year senior punter Evan Matthes (Reston, Va. / South Lakes [West Virginia]) earned Special Teams Player of the Year accolades.

In addition, redshirt freshman quarterback Rowan Keefe (Park Ridge, Ill. / Maine South) was named the team’s Most-Improved Player, senior offensive lineman Carter Woody (Fort Mill, S.C. / Charlotte Catholic) earned the Sever Award presented annually to the team’s top offensive lineman and freshman Max Samuel (Edina, Minn. / Edina) garnered the squad’s Newcomer of the Year nod.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Justin Jurmu (Marquette, Mich. / Marquette) received Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year recognition, freshman quarterback Caron Tyler (Temecula, Calif. / Chaparral) achieved Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year status and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Alex Goworowski (Chicago, Ill. / Saint Patrick) was tabbed Scout Team Special Teams Player of the Year.

The team also presented its Scholar-Athlete Award to senior defensive lineman Kurt Kessen (Shelby Township, Mich. / Utica), the Koenig Award for outstanding sportsmanship and character to redshirt junior wide receiver Tytus Ragle (New Castle, Ind. / New Castle), the Outstanding Four-Year Man Award to redshirt senior linebacker Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson), the Outstanding Hitter Award to redshirt senior defensive back Tyler Geiman (Zion, Ill. / Zion-Benton Township [Dubuque]) and the Most Inspirational Player to junior defensive back Max Franco (La Habra, Calif. / La Habra).

Mann was named to the Academic All-Pioneer Football League Second Team and All-PFL Honorable Mention last week. He led the team in rushing and ranked 10th in the PFL at 48.7 yards per game. The Valpo running back had 487 rushing yards on 106 carries, scored three rushing touchdowns and added 85 receiving yards on nine catches including one receiving TD this fall. Mann had a breakout season in his first year seeing action at running back and won Valpo’s starting job in a competitive backfield. He enjoyed his first 100-yard rushing performance on Oct. 14 with 102 yards vs. Morehead State, a game in which he scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Mann achieved a season-high 121 rushing yards in the Nov. 11 win over Stetson.

Hafner, named to the All-PFL First Team and Academic All-PFL First Team last week, led the PFL and finished among the national leaders in tackles by a defensive lineman with 63 (5.73 per game). Hafner ranked fifth in the PFL in sacks with five and was one of 10 players in the league with multiple fumble recoveries with two. He notched a team-high 10.0 tackles for loss totaling 43 yards. Last season, he earned Academic All-PFL First Team, All-PFL Second Team and College Sports Communicators Academic All-District.

Matthes, named to the All-PFL First Team and Academic All-PFL First Team last week, led the PFL and ranked 16th nationally in punting average at 43.2. He went 2-for-2 passing this season, twice successfully converting first downs on fake punts. The standout punter pinned 20 of his 50 boots inside the 20 with a long of 70. He had 10 punts that covered 50+ yards. Matthes was named PFL Special Teams Player of the Week on Nov. 5 after playing a crucial role in the field-position battle in the Nov. 4 win over Dayton. He was a member of the 2023 Preseason FCS Punter of the Year Watch List, earned a spot on the 2022 All-PFL Second Team and was named the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year last season.

Keefe went 55-of-91 passing for 702 yards and six touchdowns while seeing his first collegiate action over five late-season games. He burst onto the scene on Oct. 21 at Davidson, entering the game at halftime and going 9-of-12 through the air for 187 yards and three scores. Woody was named All-PFL Honorable Mention as the leader of Valpo’s offensive line. Samuel blocked two punts in the team’s Nov. 11 win over Stetson and had three blocked kicks this season, tied for the fifth most in program history for blocked kicks in a single season. He was among the national leaders in that category.

Kessen boasts a 3.99 cumulative grade point average in mechanical engineering, earning the Scholar-Athlete Award for the second straight season. Ragle was named to the Academic All-PFL First Team. Annis became the first Valpo player ever to win the PFL Scholar-Athlete of the Year while also earning All-PFL Second Team in his return to the gridiron after missing the previous season with an injury. Geiman was among the national leaders in pass breakups with 17. Franco finished the season with 30 tackles including three tackles for loss and two sacks.

Team parent group leaders Brian and Melissa Chilton were also recognized during the banquet, and received a standing ovation as part of an emotional moment.

The Valpo football program has won 14 league games over the last four seasons, the program’s most league wins in a four-year period since 1961-1964.