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Protheroe, Jenkins, Frasch, Vega Earn Top Cal Poly Football Awards

Protheroe, Jenkins, Frasch, Vega Earn Top Cal Poly Football Awards
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Fullback Joe Protheroe, quarterback Khaleel Jenkins, cornerback Dominic Frasch and kicker Alex Vega, all seniors, were the top award winners at the team banquet honoring the 2018 Cal Poly football team Sunday at Madonna Inn.
Protheroe, who rewrote the school record book in most rushing categories, was named the team's most valuable player. Jenkins earned offensive MVP honors, Frasch defensive MVP and Vega was honored as the team's most valuable special teams player.
Protheroe shattered school marks for single-season (1,810) and career (4,271) yards rushing, surpassing the 100-yard mark in the final nine games of the campaign and 23 times in his Mustang career. He scored 35 career touchdowns on the ground, three shy of the mark.
"No one can match Joe's passion and love for the game. He truly loves the game of football," 10th-year Mustang head coach Tim Walsh said after the Clayton Valley Charter High School graduate earned first-team All-Big Sky honors for the third time. "He plays with that love and passion every game and he is as tough as they come — big, strong and faster than people think."  
Protheroe, whose 861 career carries is another record, rushed for over 200 yards four times this season and five for his career, both school records. His 1,810 yards this season are No. 5 in the Big Sky record book while his 4,271 career yards are No. 8. 
The Walter Payton Award finalist finished No. 1 in the Big Sky and Football Championship Subdivision with his 1,810 yards and is No. 2 among active rushers in the FCS with his 4,271 career yards. Protheroe averaged 35.5 carries and 183.1 yards over eight conference games and is one of six Mustangs with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons.
"Five years went by fast but he definitely has left his footprints on Cal Poly football," said Walsh. "Joe is one of the best players I've coached in 40 plus years!"
At the banquet Sunday, Walsh added, "He is as humble as it gets and the future is still in his hands. I hope we get to see him play on Sundays next year.
"He is a three-time All-American, three-time first-team All-Big Sky, rushed for over 1,800 yards, is married, has three kids and will graduate in four years plus two quarters. I don't know how he does it."
Mustang first-year fullbacks/tight ends coach Kenny McMillan said Protheroe "is a really special running back and one of the hardest-working guys on and off the field. He would stay up late at night to watch film because he wanted to be the best he can be.
"Joe is a silent leader, but when he talked, people listened," McMillan added. "He is a selfless guy and would hold himself accountable for the team."
Jenkins overcame a meniscus tear as a junior and a partially torn ACL early in his senior season to emerge as the No. 1 quarterback in the Big Sky in passing efficiency. He completed 46 of 89 passes (52 percent) for 777 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 664 yards and nine more scores. Jenkins was not intercepted this fall and threw just two interceptions in his career.
"Khaleel always found a positive light in adverse situations, always finding something to fight for," said Mustang quarterbacks coach Dano Graves. "He played with a lot of heart, determination and passion."
Added Walsh, "I have so much respect for Khaleel, not only as a quarterback, but his leadership and the kind of young man he is."
Frasch led the Big Sky and the nation in passes defended with 1.9 per game this fall, despite missing one game and playing the final four contests with a torn pectoral muscle. He notched four pass breakups against both Brown and Idaho State and three others versus Southern Utah, and led the Mustangs with three interceptions, one in the final seconds to clinch the win at Northern Arizona.
"Dominic is an extremely intense player," Walsh said of Frasch, who notched 52 tackles, four for lost yardage, and forced a pair of fumbles. "He tore his pec and still led the nation in passes defended. He had a phenomenal year and phenomenal career for us."
Vega was perfect on his 39 PAT kicks, made 11 of 12 field goals and averaged 60.2 yards per kickoff with 26 touchbacks.
Named most valuable offensive lineman was senior center Harry Whitson while sophomore linebacker Matt Shotwell earned most valuable defensive lineman/linebacker honors. Junior wide receiver J.J. Koski was named offensive skill player of the year while senior safety Jerek Rosales collected the defensive skill player of the year award.
Sophomore wide receiver Quentin Harrison was named most improved player of the year while senior slot back Malcolm Davis earned most inspirational player of the year honors. 
Memorial awards were presented to senior linebacker Anders Turner (Mel Kaufman Award), senior offensive lineman Zach Shallcross (Legion Award) and junior defensive back Freddie Gaines (Dale Barthel Award).
The Kaufman Award is presented annually to the Cal Poly player who most exemplifies the virtues Kaufman became known for on and off the field. A linebacker on the Mustangs' 1980 NCAA Division II national championship team who died in February 2009 after one year as Cal Poly's linebackers coach, Kaufman earned four Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins, three as a player and one as a scout.
The Legion (Snelling) Award goes to a team leader who plays hard during practice as well as in games and exemplifies being good on a daily basis while the Barthel Award is presented in honor of Dale Barthel, a defensive back and outside linebacker at Cal Poly from 1979-83, who played on the Mustangs' 1980 NCAA Division II national championship football team as a redshirt freshman. Barthel passed away in January 2015 after a long battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."
Team captain awards were presented to Protheroe, Turner, Jenkins, Whitson and junior safety Kitu Humphrey.
Sophomore slot back Jacob Naschke was named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year while freshman linebacker Timothy Miller was presented with the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year Award. Special Teams Scout Team Player of the Year honors went to sophomore tight end Nick White.
The 2018 squad finished 5-6 overall, an improvement of four wins over last year, and tied for sixth place with Montana in the Big Sky at 4-4. Cal Poly played the 14th-toughest schedule in the Football Championship Subdivision, facing eight teams ranked at one time or another in the Top 25, including the Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 squads. In addition, Sacramento State earned votes in a preseason poll and Southern Utah was a Big Sky co-champion in 2017.
"This group deserves a lot of credit for how we finished," said Walsh. "If we had taken better care of the football, we could have won three more games and earn a playoff bid.
"The offense did some great things," Walsh added. "Of the 44 quarters this season, we played good football for 36 or 37 of them. And from most of the second half of the Montana State game to the end of the season against Southern Utah, we played our best football."
In addition, the Mustangs finished first in the FCS in time of possession (34:48), fourth in team rushing (330.8), sixth in third-down conversion percentage (50.3), seventh in red zone offense (.902), eighth in passing yards per completion (16.11) and were one of the least-penalized teams in the country. Cal Poly won four of its last six games after a 1-4 start.
Most team awards were chosen by the players.
Photo of Joe Protheroe courtesy of Rob Ruben |