On Monday, Colorado School of Mines quarterback John Matocha submitted a final project for his computer vision class that his professor called “by far the most entertainingly fun final projects this year.”
On Friday night, he was named the winner of the Harlon Hill Award, awarded to the best college football player in NCAA Division II, for his play this fall. He becomes the third Colorado School of Mines player to win the award along with fellow quarterbacks Justin Dvorak (2016) and Chad Friehauf (2004), and was only the fourth player in program history to be nominated after Wheat Ridge’s Michael Zeman finished fourth last year. Mines is the only Division II program with three Harlon Hill winners.
Matocha received 37 first-place votes to total 178 points. Ferris State defensive end Caleb Murphy took second with 117 points, while 2021 winner, Shepherd University quarterback Tyson Bagent, finished third with 108 points.
“I think it would be amazing for the school, and like I said, it would be more of a representation and a credit to my team,” Matocha told The Post on Wednesday. “All those guys, I told them I’d take them out to dinner and we’ll do something fun.”
Mike knew. #HelluvaEngineer⚒ pic.twitter.com/aq1BP927c8
— Mines Football (@MinesFootball) December 17, 2022
Matocha, a senior from Magnolia, Texas, had a sensational 2022 campaign, throwing for 4,570 yards and 50 touchdowns on 69.7% passing. Motcha has thrown for 10,500 yards over three seasons as Mines’ starter, but his senior year has been next-level. He has been a key component to helping the Orediggers (13-2) reach the NCAA Division II title game, where Mines will face reigning national champion Ferris State (13-1) at 11 a.m. MST Saturday on ESPNU.
The final project for that computer vision class? Using computer vision to build a bot for “RuneScape”, a fantasy-based online role-playing computer game which was a hit in the early 2000s. He ensured The Post he used a private server to not break the terms of service.
“I think it was just different,” Matocha said. “I think it was a very unique project and it’s something that I was able to put in a lot of time and effort into it.”
Matocha, already named the Division II Conference Commissioner Association’s offensive player of the year, leads the nation in passing touchdowns, quarterback rating (184.3) and points responsible for (338). In the postseason, Matocha has accounted for 126 points scored on 21 total touchdowns. He is the only active player in NCAA Division II to have over 10,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing.
Of course, he put the success all down to his teammates.
“I couldn’t do anything I do without the five guys in front of me, my wide receivers and our running back,” he said. “They help me out so much and make my life a lot easier. It’s more a credit to them than me.”
Also earning national recognition as Associated Press All-Americans were center Matt Armendariz (first team), wide receiver Max McLeod and corner back Mason Pierce (both second team), while first-year head coach Brandon Moore was named the All-National Football Foundation Colorado Chapter’s coach of the year.
The Harlon Hill trophy was was presented by the Little Rock Touchdown Club and the Great American Conference in Little Rock, Ark., and was voted on by 164 sports information directors across the Division II landscape. He will be formally awarded the Harlon Hill Award at a ceremony in January.