Hamlin, Tonani Honored With National and Big Sky Awards
Both have interceptions in victory over second-ranked Montana State, and join Paul Ena and Jimmy Pavel in being recognized nationally for efforts
Eastern Washington University junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin was selected Monday (Oct. 15) by the Big Sky Conference as Root Sports Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. He had a team-leading 15 tackles – the second-best performance in his 17-game Eastern career -- and a key interception in sixth-ranked Eastern’s 27-24 victory at Montana State two days earlier.
In addition, Hamlin received national FCS recognition as one of four College Sporting News National All Stars (www.collegesportingnews.com). He was one of four Eagles honored after last Saturday's triumph over the second-ranked Bobcats. Redshirt freshman safety Jordan Tonani, who scored on an interception return for a touchdown in the pivotal fourth quarter, was selected as the College Sports Madness National FCS Defensive Player of the Week, as well as the same honor for the Big Sky Conference.
In addition, Hamlin, senior defensive end Paul Ena and senior kicker Jimmy Pavel received honorable mention FCS player of the week accolades from College Football Performance Awards. Pavel, who is a perfect 7-of-7 kicking field goals this season, had boots of 39 and 40 yards. Ena finished with three tackles, a sack and a 40-yard return on a fumble recovery, which tied him for the EWU career record of eight.
Hamlin's diving interception in the third quarter was the first of his career and led to a field goal that cut Montana State’s lead to 10-6. After Eastern took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, he had six tackles after that, including one for a loss of one yard. In fact, three of his tackles in the quarter – all solos – were for a collective net of one yard. He also had a tackle for loss of six yards in the third quarter.
The Eagles held MSU to 375 yards of offense, including just 70 rushing. Earlier this season, Hamlin was honored by the Big Sky after finishing with eight tackles and a pass broken up in a season-opening 20-3 victory over Idaho.
Hamlin has started 14 games in his career and has 146 tackles, including a team-leading 61 this season and a team-leading 85 as a sophomore. After redshirting the 2009 season, he was unable to play during Eastern’s national championship season in 2010 because of a knee injury. He is from Lacey, Wash., and is a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School.
Tonani has made his mark in two starts as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly, who suffered a broken collarbone against Montana on Sept. 29. With EWU clinging to a 20-17 lead over Montana State on Oct. 13, Tonani stepped in front of a MSU receiver on an out route for an interception he returned 21 yards for a touchdown with 11:15 to play, becoming the winning points in the win. He also had eight tackles.
One game earlier in his first collegiate start, Tonani had 11 tackles as the Eagles held North Dakota scoreless in the second half of a 55-17 win. Entering the game, UND had 37 plays of 20 or more yards on offense this season, and EWU’s goal was to hold North Dakota to three or less. The Eagles did better than that, holding UND to just one – a 24-yard pass play in the third quarter after EWU had already opened a 34-17 lead.
Interestingly, Tonani and Minnerly are from the same high school in Spokane, Wash. Tonani graduated from Ferris in 2011; Minnerly graduated in 2008, along with EWU backup safety McKenzie Murphy. Murphy broke his thumb against North Dakota, and is doubtful this week after undergoing surgery. Minnerly, who is also out indefinitely, was also Eastern’s leading tackler in his first career start, finishing with eight tackles in a 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2, 2010.