Caden McDonald was a finalist for the fifth annual Cliff Harris Award.

Caden McDonald, a 5-11, 210 lb. senior linebacker from Logan, Iowa, was a finalist for the fifth annual Cliff Harris Award as announced by the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Wright Lindsey Jennings.

The award is presented to the nation’s top small college defensive player representing more than 5000 defensive players from almost 500 NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.

McDonald is an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) NAIA and Associated Press (AP) first-team All-American and the 2017 Hauff Mid-America Sports/Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Defensive Player of the Year.

He topped the Mustangs’ defense with 57 solos and 45 assists for 102 total tackles, including a team-high 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 54 yards. He also led the Mustangs with five interceptions and two blocked kicks, finished second on the team with eight quarterback hurries, and had 4.5 quarterback sacks, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. McDonald returned his five interceptions for 196 yards for an average of 39.2 yards per return and had touchdown returns of 50 yards against Tabor College and 24 yards against NCAA Division II Truman State University. McDonald had five double figure tackle performances, including a season’s high 14 tackles when the Mustangs opened the season with a 41-24 victory against St. Francis University.

McDonald was named the GPAC Defensive Player of the Week four times and was the NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week after he had 11 tackles, two quarterback sacks, an interception and a blocked field goal attempt in the Mustangs’ 48-20 victory against nationally ranked Northwestern College to hand the Red Raiders their only loss of the regular season.

McDonald collected 120 solos and 103 assists for 223 tackles during his Morningside career. His career totals also include 41 tackles for losses of 176 yards, 10.5 quarterback sacks, six interceptions and five pass breakups.

He helped lead Morningside to one of its greatest seasons in school history in 2017. The Mustangs posted a 13-1 record, won a seventh consecutive Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) championship with a perfect 8-0 league slate and made a 14th consecutive post-season appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series, where they lost 43-36 against eventual NAIA National Champion University of Saint Francis in the semifinals.

McDonald was one of 23 players from NAIA institutions among the Cliff Harris Award finalists.

Michael Joseph of the University of Dubuque was the 2017 winner of the Cliff Harris Award, named after Harris, who received one scholarship offer out of high school to then-NAIA Ouachita Baptist University and win to play in five Super Bowls and six Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.