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story.lead_photo.caption Corey Ballentine (left), a defensive back for Division II Washburn (Kan.) University, was named the recipient of the Cliff Harris Award for the nation’s top small college defensive player at the Little Rock Touchdown Club banquet Thursday. Presenting the award is its namesake, a former Dallas Cowboys and Ouachita Baptist defensive back. More photos at arkansasonline.com/galleries - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

Cliff Harris was impressed with the film on Corey Ballentine.

"He reminded me of me," said Harris, a Ouachita Baptist University graduate who played safety for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s. "But he's a lot faster."

Washburn University senior defensive back Corey Ballentine was honored Thursday night as the 2018 Cliff Harris Award winner at the Little Rock Touchdown Club's season-ending banquet at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock.

Gallery: Little Rock Touchdown Club Awards Banquet

The award is given to the nation's top small college defensive player of the year representing Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.

Ballentine agreed with Harris with his comparison.

"We have multiple things in common," Ballentine said. "We're both track guys. We both love the game. We love to hit hard. When we get to the ball, there's no playing games, period."

Ballentine, 6-0, 195 pounds, is a native of Topeka, Kan., and was an American Football Coaches Association All-American cornerback in 2018. The first-team All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association selection finished with 50 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 blocked kicks.

Ballentine credited his coaches, led by head coach Craig Shurig, for his success with the Ichabods.

"They saw something in me that most people didn't see," Ballentine said. "I thought I knew how to work hard. They showed me what real work was."

The NCAA Division II standout finished his college career with 186 tackles, including 113 unassisted, and 10 tackles for a loss along with 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 5 interceptions.

Before Ballentine spoke to the Touchdown Club crowd, a video of his 2018 season was played on the projection screens.

"Corey, you had some nice hits in that video," said ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard, who was the Touchdown Club banquet's guest speaker.

Ballentine joins five others as winners of the Cliff Harris Award: Dubuque's Michael Joseph (2017), Lindenwood's Connor Harris (2016), Midwestern State's Marquis Christian (2015), Colorado State-Pueblo's Darius Allen (2014) and Lindenwood's Pierre Desir (2013).

"We wanted to bring recognition to the small schools, D-II, D-III, NAIA," Harris said. "We're really happy to see this happening."

"Very few of them even have a chance to try out for the pros. We want to give them a better opportunity to break into pro football."

Two of the six Cliff Harris Award winners are currently in the NFL playoffs -- Desir with the Indianapolis Colts and Christian with the Los Angeles Rams.

Ballentine will participate in the Senior Bowl later this month. He's the first Washburn player to do so.

"We really think he's got a great opportunity," Harris said. "The scouts like him. The Cowboys like him."

Also, the Harlon Hill Trophy was given out in Little Rock for the first time with Ferris State junior quarterback Jayru Campbell receiving the award. The trophy had been awarded at the University of North Alabama, but the school moved to Division I, so the Great American Conference decided to award the trophy beginning with the 2018 season.

Campbell completed 187 of 310 passes for 2,931 yards with 27 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2018.

Five other major awards were given out Thursday night:

• The Darren McFadden Award, given to the top college and high school running backs, were awarded to Arkansas' Rakeem Boyd and Bryant's Latavion Scott.

• Arkansas' Armon Watts and Zach Williams of Joe T. Robinson earned the Dan Hampton Award, which is given to the best defensive lineman on the college and high school levels in the state.

• The Willie Roaf Award (best offensive lineman in the state in college and high school) was awarded to Harding's Bryce Bray and Stacey Wilkins of Camden Fairview.

• Watts also received the Paul Eells Award, which is given to an in-state football player that exemplifies strong character and perseverance.

• The Sully Award, in honor of KATV broadcaster Steve Sullivan and awarded to the best college and high school football radio calls in the 2018 season, was given to Rex Nelson for his work for Ouachita Baptist and Greenwood play-by-play broadcaster Tim Terry.

Sports on 01/11/2019

LR Touchdown Club awards

COLLEGE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

FBS

ARKANSAS De’Jon Harris

ARKANSAS STATE Justice Hansen

FCS

ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF Taeyler Porter

CENTRAL ARKANSAS Carlos Blackman

DIVISION II

ARKANSAS-MONTICELLO DeAndre Washington

ARKANSAS TECH Bryan Allen

HARDING T.J. Winslow

HENDERSON STATE Logan Moragne

OUACHITA BAPTIST LaDarius McElroy

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS Ka’Ronce Higgins

DIVISION III

HENDRIX Garrett Wolf

NAIA

ARKANSAS BAPTIST Kendriel Johnson

HIGH SCHOOL

CLASS 7A Latavion Scott, Bryant

CLASS 6A Peyton Holt, Greenwood

CLASS 5A Justice Hill, LR Christian

CLASS 4A Zach Williams, Joe T. Robinson

CLASS 3A Malik Chavis, Rison

CLASS 2A Dhante Gibson, Junction City

Print Headline: CLIFF HARRIS AWARD: Washburn senior leaves impression

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