I've had the pleasure of meeting his mom, who comes from Minnesota to watch her son play ball.

When in town, she attends our live pregame broadcasts at the Grizzly Scholarship Association tailgate site, and she is just a sweetheart. Last Saturday, she came over with a maroon and white ball cap, with the words, "End Zone Eli" stitched in. I had a feeling she knew what the rest of us fans suspected.

Well, Dawn Gillman, while it can't compare with a mother's love and pride, Griz Nation shares in your joy at today's (Wednesday's) announcement that University of Montana freshman running back Eli Gillman is the 2023 recipient of the Jerry Rice Award, which honors the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national freshman player of the year, presented by FedEx Ground.

UM Sports Information Director Eric Taber tells us that Eli was a runaway winner of the 13th annual award, named after legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice. A national, 56-member panel voted on the award. Our guy's 203-point vote total among the 22 finalists was nearly 100 points more than the runner-up.

Eli will be honored at the Stats Perform FCS National Awards Banquet on January 6 in Frisco, Texas – the night before the FCS championship game. Gee, wouldn't it be nice if he had about 80 teammates in Frisco with him!

Dassel, Minnesota's Gillman ran 899 yards on 165 attempts and currently has as the 18th-best single-season rushing performances in Griz program history, and the most of any freshman in team history. He had already entered Montana's record books this season, breaking free for the longest touchdown run in program history (85 yards) at UC Davis, in the 31-23 win over the Aggies on October 7. At the conclusion of the regular season he was named the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year, and was also honored by his peers as the winner of the 2023 Terry Dillon Award for the team's outstanding back or receiver at the Grizzly Awards Banquet.

Congratulations to Eli, and all he has contributed to what has been a magical Griz football season so far.

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