(CBS) Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish was named the winner of the Vern Smith Leadership Award Wednesday, given to the MAC’s top player.

The award is voted on by league coaches.

Harnish is the sixth Northern Illinois player to win the Vern Smith Leadership Award and joins Tim Tyrrell, who earned the award following the Huskies’ MAC Championship season in 1983, as the only NIU quarterbacks to be named Vern Smith winners.  A Northern Illinois player has claimed the award in five of the last six years, beginning with Garrett Wolfe, who became the first Northern Illinois player since Tyrrell to win the award when he claimed the trophy in 2006.  Defensive end Larry English won back-to-back league “MVP” trophies in 2007 and 2008, while Huskie tailback Chad Spann was the coaches’ selection a year ago.

Behind the passing and running prowess of Harnish, Northern Illinois has won seven straight games in league play to earn its second consecutive trip to Detroit for the Mid-American Conference Championship game. Northern Illinois is 9-3 overall, 7-1 in MAC play this season and NIU is 19-5 with Harnish under center in the last two seasons.

Harnish was also named MAC Offensive Player of the Year Wednesday and earned first-team All-MAC honors.

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