NIU's Spann earns MAC's top honor

Northern Illinois senior running back Chad Spann earned the MAC’s top honor on Wednesday when he was named the Vern Smith Leadership Award winner.

The Vern Smith Leadership Award is given to the MAC’s top player and is voted on by the conference’s coaches.

Spann, a former walk-on, leads the country with 20 rushing touchdowns and has rushed for a conference-best 1,239 yards on 226 carries while helping Northern Illinois to a 10-2 record and into the national rankings. The Huskies will play in the MAC championship on Friday.

“It’s definitely another tremendous honor,” Spann said. “When you look at the history of the award, you have Garrett Wolfe, Larry English, Dan LeFevour and going all the way back to Byron Leftwich, all those guys had great careers and are now playing in the NFL. It’s just a great honor to be included in this group of MAC football players.

“It was one of my goals coming into the season. Seeing it materialize, it feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Spann was also the MAC Offensive Player of the Year and an all-conference first-team selection.

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish, offensive linemen Scott Wedige and Trevor Olson, defensive lineman Sean Progar and defensive back Chris Smith were also named to the conference’s first team.