UND RB Santiago Nabs Third Career All-Conference Honor

The running back is the fifth player in Big Sky history to make the first team as a freshman, sophomore and junior

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) North Dakota junior running back John Santiago kept an impressive and rare streak alive on Tuesday after being named First Team All-Big Sky for the third-consecutive year. Santiago is just the fifth player in the 55-year history of the league to earn a first-team accolade as a freshman, sophomore and junior at the same position.

Santiago led the entire Football Championship Subdivision with 1,780 all-purpose yards during the 2017 regular season, racking up 717 of those on the ground. His 6.0 ypc average was tops among all Big Sky rushers. The Andover, Minn., native joins Nevada running back Charvez Foger (1985-87), Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp (2013-15), Weber State placekicker, punter and safety Scott Shields (1995-97) and Weber State running back Trevyn Smith (2006-07) on that short list.

The last UND player to earn first team all-conference honors as a freshman, sophomore and junior was Weston Dressler, who accomplished the feat as a wide receiver in the North Central Conference (2005-07).

Classmates Tank Harris and Tanner Palmborg joined Santiago on the All-Big Sky Team as both collected third-team honors. Harris was a second-team honoree at defensive tackle last season, while this is the first postseason accolade for Palmborg, who was recognized for his play at outside linebacker.

Harris started nine of the 10 games he appeared in during the 2017 season and finished with a career-high 30 tackles, which was tops among the Fighting Hawks’ defensive linemen. He finished with 6.0 tackles for loss, which were also a new personal best.

Palmborg was one of just two Fighting Hawks that were able to start all 11 games in 2017. He finished the campaign with a career-high 43 tackles and shared the team lead with 8.5 tackles for loss. He added 2.5 sacks and opened the season with a career-high seven tackles at No. 25 Utah.

Santiago was among a trio of Fighting Hawks that garnered honorable mention accolades. His mention came as a return specialist after finishing second in the Big Sky with a 21.9 ypr average on kickoffs. He also made the most of his 11 punt returns, averaging 18.5 ypr, including an electrifying 64-yard touchdown return at Portland State. Santiago finished the campaign with 970 combined return yards (766, kickoff and 204, punt).

Santiago’s backfield mate Brady Oliveira earned honorable mention honors at running back after rushing for 637 yards and five touchdowns and placekicker Reid Taubenheim rounded out the threesome. Taubenheim finished third on UND’s career list for field goals made with 60. He went 15-for-19 in his final collegiate season.

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