Jones and three other finalists will be honored during a banquet on Wednesday, Dec. 17 in Salem, Va., where the winner will be named and given the trophy. The awards banquet kicks off the NCAA Division III Championship weekend, which concludes with the Stagg Bowl on Friday, Dec. 19.
In addition to Jones, the finalists are senior quarterback Michael Bates of Illinois College, senior quarterback Kevin Burke from University of Mount Union (Ohio) and junior quarterback Joe Callahan from Wesley College (Del.). Burke received the Gagliardi Trophy last season.
The Gagliardi Trophy as been awarded annually since 1993 and is sponsored by Jostens and the J-Club of St. John's University of Minnesota. The award is named after John Gagliardi, long-time head coach at St. John's, who achieved 489 career victories — the most in college football history. The trophy honors football excellence, as well as academics and community service.
"Dylan Jones epitomizes everything that is great in college athletics," Willamette Head Coach Glen Fowles says. "On the field, he's one of the best leaders, best competitors and best players we've ever had at Willamette. Off the field, he has great scholarship and leadership abilities. He's a leader on the field and in the classroom."
A total of 16 players were nominated for this year's trophy. The overall list included 10 quarterbacks, three running backs, two offensive linemen and one cornerback. The J-Club Board of Directors selected the 10 semifinalists.
The national-selection committee, which voted for the four finalists, includes 40 former small college football players, former Gagliardi Trophy recipients, business leaders, academicians and sports writers from throughout the country. In addition, on-line fan voting provided a 41st vote. Junior quarterback Logan Schrader from Wartburg College (Iowa) won the fan voting.
Jones rushed for a school record 1,599 yards on 237 carries this season. He led NCAA Division III with 177.7 rushing yards per game and fifth in scoring with 12.0 points per game. He scored 18 rushing touchdowns. He rushed for over 120 yards in all nine game, including five games with more than 160 yards.
He set a Willamette record with 350 rushing yards against Whitworth University on Oct. 11. He set another record with a 98-yard rushing touchdown against Linfield College on Nov. 1. He was named Northwest Conference Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week for his efforts against Whitworth, Linfield and University of Puget Sound (Nov. 15).
Jones was named NWC Offensive Player of the Year and earned First Team All-NWC recognition. He was named Second Team All-NWC in 2012 and was Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2013 despite missing three of nine games due to an injury.
During his Willamette career, Jones rushed 484 times for 2,857 yards, just two yards short of the school record. He scored 34 career rushing touchdowns plus two touchdowns on pass receptions for 36 touchdowns overall. He scored 216 career points for the Bearcats.
In addition to competing in football, Jones is an environmental science major and has received the Whipple Family Scholarship. This past summer, he completed an internship with the City of Salem that involved maintaining streams that run through the city.
His internship inspired his senior thesis about the difference in water quality between high-income and low-income areas. Jones has participated with the football team in the United Way Days of Caring the past four years. During two of his years at Willamette, he helped students move into their residence halls prior to the start of the fall semester.
Willamette achieved a 5-4 record in 2014, including 3-4 in the NWC. Jones helped the Bearcats average 258.9 rushing yards per game to rank 15th in NCAA Division III. Willamette gained 413.4 total yards per game and scored 31.9 points per contest.