Three individuals associated with Morningside College’s football program are among the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) nominees for top NAIA national awards for the 2017-18 academic year.

Ryan Katzer Solsma

Three individuals associated with Morningside College’s football program are among the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) nominees for top NAIA national awards for the 2017-18 academic year.

Morningside head football coach Steve Ryan is the GPAC nominee for the NAIA Coach of Character Award, which recognizes a head coach who embraces the core values of the NAIA Champions of Character initiative and deliberately teaches character through sport.

Junior linebacker Joel Katzer from Wellsville, Kan., is the male nominee for the A.O. Duer Scholarship Award. Named in honor of the NAIA’s former executive secretary who served the association for 26 years, the Duer award recognizes a junior male and female student-athlete in any sport who has excelled in scholarship, character and citizenship.

Quarterback Trent Solsma, a senior from Dakota Dunes, S.D., is nominated for the Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award. The award is presented each year to a student-athlete who embodies the NAIA Champions of Character initiative and the core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.

Ryan has guided the Mustangs to a 155-40 record for a .795 winning percentage in 16 seasons for the most football coaching victories and the highest victory rate in Morningside history. Ryan has led the Mustangs to 14 consecutive post-season appearances in the NAIA National Championship Series, where the team has advanced to at least the semifinals five times in the last six years, including an appearance in the 2012 Russell Athletics-NAIA Football National Championship Game.

Ryan gives his athletes opportunities every year to serve and grow through organized community events and volunteer activities. This past spring, he took a group of players to Houston, Texas, to help with rebuilding homes damaged from floods. Other service trips have taken team members to Tanzania, Haiti, Chicago, Minneapolis and many other locations. Every summer Ryan climbs a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado with upcoming seniors on the team. As part of the experience, he works with the student-athletes to establish a team vision and character goals and leads conversations about integrity and responsibility. Climbing the mountain also brings into play the team qualities of servant leadership and sacrifice.

Katzer is a biology and chemistry major with a 4.0 grade point average. In addition to excelling in the classroom, Katzer helped organize a football team community service spring break trip in March of 2018 to Houston to perform work for Hurricane Harvey relief. He also was part of a group of football players who traveled to Tanzania to help with water projects and maintenance at orphanages. Katzer also was one of the leaders who helped organize the Morningside Mentors in Science Program, a student organization that works with Sioux City’s Boys and Girls Club to expose members to science concepts by conducting interactive   demonstrations and experiments.

Katzer is the Mustangs’ second leading tackler with 38 solos and 17 assists for 55 tackles, seven tackles for losses of 32 yards, two quarterback sacks, two interceptions, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

Solsma, a history education major, is active in his family’s nonprofit organization Project Rehema, which provides housing for nearly 80 orphans in Tanzania. He spearheaded a group of football teammates who traveled to Tanzania in May 2018 to construct a new building to house eight to 10 new orphans. Solsma also played a key role in organizing a football team service project to help rebuild homes damaged by flooding in Houston.

During the 2017 season, Solsma broke three school records and tied a NAIA national record with 55 touchdown passes. Solsma completed 309 of 454 pass attempts (68.1 percent) for 4,406 yards and 55 touchdowns with only six interceptions to lead the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 186.9. Solsma’s 4,406 yards passing was the second highest single-season total in Morningside history. He ranked sixth nationally with averages of 314.7 yards passing and 323.9 yards total offense per game.

The national winners will be announced duirng the NAIA National Awards Day on Sept. 15.