Greenville, S.C. – Quarterback Chris Forcier and women's soccer standout Rachel Shelnutt were named Furman Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively, Monday evening at the school's ESPY style all-sports awards banquet held at Timmons Arena.
Forcier overcame a season ending shoulder injury against South Carolina in the second game of his junior season, returning to action this past fall to pass for 2,265 yards and a Furman season record 23 touchdowns en route to becoming the first Paladin quarterback to land first team All-SoCon honors since 1996. He completed 64.1 percent of his passes and set a school season passing efficiency standard of 172.36, which topped all Division I quarterbacks, including those in FBS.
In a 62-21 rout of Presbyterian in September, Forcier broke eight Furman and SoCon single game records by throwing for 226 yards and seven touchdowns and accounting for eight touchdown responsibilities. Later he passed for 224 yards and two scores and rushed for 64 yards in Furman's 20-10 victory over third-ranked Appalachian State. He also completed a Furman record 20 consecutive passes over a three-game span. Named SoCon Player of the Week three times and Sports Network National Player of the Week once, the San Diego, Calif., native took home Furman MVP honors this past season.
Shelnutt netted 12 goals, including four match-winning scores, and added three assists this season to guide Furman to a 12-8-2 record and earn Southern Conference Player-of-the-Year honors. The first team All-SoCon pick and National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-South Region selection scored match-winning goals versus UNC Wilmington and Georgia Southern while also setting up two goals in a 3-2 double overtime triumph over Clemson en route to earning SoCon Player of the Month honors for September. In October, she scored twice, including heading in an overtime winner to beat Chattanooga 4-3, before netting goals against Samford, College of Charleston, The Citadel and Wofford.
Men's soccer coach Doug Allison was named the 2012 J. Lyles Alley Coach of the Year recipient after leading his Paladins to a 14-4-4 regular season mark, NCAA Division I Top 25 national ranking and an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Despite having just one senior in his squad's starting 11, his team produced the Southern Conference Player of the Year, SoCon Freshman of the Year, an NSCAA Scholar All-American and NSCAA Freshman All-American. This year's J. Lyles Alley Award marked the fourth for Allison in his 17-year career at Furman.
Senior Lee Gilmer was the recipient of Furman's Student-Athlete Achievement Award. The Mobile, Ala., native holds individual Paladin records in both the indoor 800m and the outdoor mile and is a member of the current record-holding outdoor 4x800m and 4x1500m relay teams. An All-Southern Conference selection in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track, Gilmer was honored as a member of the CoSIDA Academic All-District team as a sophomore and junior and was named to the Division I All-Academic Track and Field Team his sophomore year.
Off the track, Gilmer has been active in the community and in many campus organizations while at Furman. He has offered his time as a volunteer at the Triune Mercy Center and Greenville Literacy Association and has served as Vice President of Amnesty International and as an executive member of the Global Issues Forum. A member of the Furman Quaternion Society and the ODK Honor Society, he was this year's recipient of the senior Class Reid Award, which is given annually to the outstanding male in each class.
Women's soccer goalkeeper Jessica Smith received the Elizabeth Blackwell Academic Achievement Award. Smith, a 2011 second team All-Southern Conference selection and 2011 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team choice, posted a 41-25-7 mark in four years as Furman's goalkeeper while setting a school record and ranking sixth in SoCon history with a 0.98 goals against average. She finished her career tied for second in school history with 23 shutouts and notched a victory over SEC foe Alabama and three wins over ACC foe Clemson during her Paladin career. Smith, a native of Franklin, Tenn., is a three-time Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll selection, 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Second Team pick and was recently awarded the SoCon's William V. Moore Postgraduate Scholarship. The senior sports a 3.95 GPA and will graduate with a degree in chemistry.
The Dr. John M. Block Academic Achievement Award went to senior tennis player Watson George, a Memphis, Tenn., native and holder of a 3.95 GPA in biology.
Athletics Department Awards
Student-Athlete Achievement Award: Lee Gilmer
Male Athlete-of-the-Year: Chris Forcier
Edna Hartness Female Athlete-of-the-Year: Rachel Shelnutt
Elizabeth Blackwell Academic Achievement Award: Jessica Smith
John M. Block Academic Achievement Award: Watson George
J. Lyles Alley Coach of the Year: Doug Allison
Men's Basketball: Brandon Sebirumbi
Men's Tennis: Alex Christ
Men's Golf: Austin Reeves
Men's Soccer: Alec Kann
Men's Cross Country: Lee Gilmer and Chris Caldwell
Men's Indoor Track and Field: Lee Gilmer
Men's Outdoor Track and Field: Lee Gilmer
Football: Chris Forcier
Women's Basketball: Raegan Thompson and Brittany Hodges
Women's Tennis: Margaret Boyette
Women's Golf: Alexa Rancourt
Women's Soccer: Rachel Shelnutt
Women's Cross Country: Erin Barker
Women's Indoor Track and Field: Erin Barker
Women's Outdoor Track and Field: Brooke Mosteller and Sinead Haughey
Softball: Jessie Homesley
Furman ESPY Awards (voted on by student-athletes)
Unsung Hero: Brigid Morrissey, Women's Basketball
Comeback Player: Erin Barker, Women's Cross Country and Track
Play of the Year: Jerry Williams, Football - 77yd TD run vs. Florida
Male Rookie of the Year: Walker Zimmerman, Men's Soccer
Female Rookie of the Year: Brittany Hodges, Women's Basketball
Underdog Victory: Andrew Mellow vs. #3 ranked Will Spencer (Georgia)
Record Breaking Performance: Chris Forcier, Football
Best Game: Football defeats #4 Wofford 26-21
Best Team: Men's Soccer