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UND's Cole Reyes named Big Sky Conference preseason defensive player of the year

UND safety Cole Reyes answers questions from the media on Monday during the Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff in Park City, Utah. Photo/Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference.

Cole Reyes understands the attention he and his UND teammates have received since the end of the 2016 football season. A Big Sky Conference championship and a trip to the FCS playoffs will do that.

But he also understands that expectations will accompany the attention when the Fighting Hawks open their 2017 season next month at Utah.

Reyes and UND received more attention Monday at the Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff event in Park City, Utah.

Reyes was named the preseason Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year while four other UND players also made the league's preseason team.

UND running backs John Santiago and Brady Oliveira were named to the team as were cornerback Deion Harris and offensive lineman Damon Taylor.

Santiago, who was just the sixth player in league history to earn first-team All-Big Sky honors as a freshman and sophomore, was one of three consensus selections on the team, which is voted on by the media.

The junior joined Northern Arizona wide receiver Emmanuel Butler and Weber State tight end Andrew Vollert as consensus picks.

Reyes, the UND player who is representing the Hawks at the Big Sky event in Park City, took the latest honor in stride.

"Not a lot of pressure comes with it," he said. "We believe in ourselves and what our coaches put in front of us. We trust the process."

Last season, Reyes made 70 tackles and had three interceptions while helping UND's defense lead the Big Sky in scoring defense and rushing defense. Harris added a Big Sky-best five interceptions as UND finished with 20 on the season—the second-best total in the FCS in 2016.

Santiago and Oliveira formed the Big Sky's best rushing tandem, combining for 1,880 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns last year. Helping pave the way for those two was Taylor, who collected second-team All-Big Sky honors in his first season as a starter.

Santiago also was the preseason team's kick returner, giving UND six overall spots on the team—the most of any Big Sky program.

UND fall camp isn't that far off. Players will report Aug. 1.

And Reyes can't wait to get going, especially after UND lost to Richmond at home in the first round of last season's FCS playoffs.

"The offseason has been long because of how last season ended," said Reyes. "It left a bad taste in our mouth. We want to move forward, take the next step and contend for a national title."

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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