Our Favorite Donovan Videos

Our D-III team discusses some standouts from the first-ever collection of Donovan Award nomination videos.

One of the most exciting parts of award season is the overwhelming number of videos. During the last two weeks of April, it seemed like you could open your computer every morning and find five new highlight reels of Donovan and Callahan nominees. More teams than ever are filming games and nominating candidates for their respective division’s award. In the first year of the Donovan award, we’ve seen a wide range of quality for videos. This was to be expected; many programs had never made a team highlight reel, let alone a highlight reel for an award.

Our team of D-III reporters have sifted through all the videos to pick their favorites and justify their selections. It is important to note that we are strictly choosing these as our favorite videos and are not necessarily endorsing these players to win the award. REMINDER: voting for the Donovan award closes tomorrow night at 11:59 pm PST. Get your votes in here!

Henry Babcock, University of Richmond

What this video does best is showcase the versatile set of skills that makes Babcock such a dominant force in D-III. Speedy cutting? Check. Point blocks? Check. Career ending skies? Check. Athletic blocks? Check. Huge and precise throws? Double check. It’s all there for him. And what’s even more impressive, and what makes this the best Donovan video this year is that it showcases the entire package of such a talented and athletic player in exactly three minutes. This video makes it clear that Babcock is the rock on which Richmond has built its recent success.

Even Babcock’s personal successes — two-time captain, AC All-Freshmen, two-time AC 1st Team, 2016 AC D-III POTY, and a U24 tryout — are tastefully spelled out not in one big unreadable list (my one complaint about Shofner’s video last year) but as short jump cuts to both tell you how good he is and then immediately show you how good he is. I especially appreciated the mentions of his YCC coaching experience and Richmond’s Spirit Award at last year’s College Championships. That is an important part of what the Donovan award, and Richmond can make the case for having one of the most talented and spirited players in the division leading their team into Nationals in a week.

The song choice is straight fire and the edits do a good job syncing up to it. A few points off for using the Alessia Cara version and not the movie version sung by Auli’i Cravalho. To top it all off, all of this footage — with the exception of the “Thanks for a great 4 years!” section at the end — is from Sunday of last year’s Regionals through this year’s Regionals. It only took one college season for him to display every aspect of his game at the highest level and we can expect to see more of this as Richmond goes into Nationals with only one or two point losses to a few D-III teams, except for Davidson who Richmond crushed 15-6 in the Regional final. They’re peaking at the right time and Babcock looks ready to lead the way deep into Sunday.

Tim Schoch

Emmett Blau, Williams College

Why does Emmett Blau have the best Donovan video? Great question. Let me lay it out for you:

Music: The lyricless track at the beginning is a perfect way to put the focus on the player rather than the song, and it lines up beautifully with the plays made. The stylistic contrast it highlights when the offensive footage starts rolling is also quite appealing as the steady beat provides a nice backdrop to his impressive array of throws. The song also has the word “Frisbee” in it. Nobody is going to top that.

Opening Montage: Not only does Emmett have incredibly cut biceps (that has to count for something, right?) but the video does an exquisite job of establishing his credibility as a force on the field. Perfect scoober? Check. Layout Ds? Check. Big skys? Check. Handblocks? Check. They quickly and clearly showcase that this is not a one-dimensional player and he deserves our attention.

Length: Please, for the love of everything good in this world, you should not have a video longer than five minutes! If 4:26 is long enough for Nick Lance, you don’t need more time. At 2:19, Emmett’s video does a beautiful job of being succinct while getting everything important across to anyone who has never seen him play the game.

Clean Layouts: Maybe it’s just because I’ve watched Cameron Wariner’s Callahan video 20+ times, but I have a renewed appreciation for someone making spectacular layouts while not hurting people. There’s three or four layouts in this video that easily could have turned into very ugly plays, but Emmett makes them without being remotely reckless or dangerous. It’s rare to find people with this level of body control, especially in the D-III ranks.

Best Overall Ability: This one is subjective for sure, but I’m still right. Emmett is the most well-rounded player, at least as presented on video. What Henry Babcock shows in throwing ability, Emmett matches. He can run handler offense like Ethan Penner. And he drops some of the same stunning athleticism of Griffin Miller. He gives us all we could ask for and doesn’t leave us wanting, all on some of the best film footage any of the candidates have.

Being Categorically Correct: This is not only unique to his video, but it is refreshing to see that a player can capture this amount of highlights in one season and focus on what that player has currently been doing. The Donovan award needs to go to the best player this year, and it is refreshing to see a video that highlights a player accomplishing high levels of play this year.

Jacob Moore

Kateri Boucher, Hamilton Hot Saucers

Coming into our first Donovan Award season, my biggest concern was how many teams would actually have footage to create a video for their nominee. There’s little to no D-III footage on YouTube, very little D-III footage in the Ultiworld archives because of the lack of big D-III tournaments, and many teams don’t have the numbers to spare someone to work a camera during games (shout out to the unsung rookies filming for their vets who want highlights). I was eager to see how teams made the most of their footage for Donovan videos; Hamilton did this beautifully for Kateri Boucher’s video, and that’s why it’s my favorite video from the women’s nominees.

There’s only about 80 seconds worth of actual game footage in this video, and it appears to be from only a handful of games.  However, the quality of highlights that the editor managed to extract from such a limited supply is impressive. Noteworthy plays are what we remember from these videos, and two in particular stand out from Kateri’s for me. At the 0:25 mark, watch her destroy a zone with a give-and-go leading to a big blade over the top. At the 1:10 mark, she gets a block on a huck then immediately picks it up and boosts a huck for a goal the other direction. Shooters gotta shoot!

The other thing I enjoyed about this video was the meaningful use of testimonies. In general, I don’t like testimonies in award videos. I just think they lack impact; I’ve never had my opinion about a player changed by someone else’s testimony.  That being said, Hamilton did a couple of things well with their testimony section for Kateri. First, they had a picture slideshow going with pictures relevant to what the testifier was saying, which is exponentially more watchable than someone standing in front of a camera talking about the candidate. Second, I loved the testimony from the men’s team captain. It shows a camaraderie between the two teams that I wish we saw more of throughout the college division.

The music is catchy and an appropriate tempo. The length is spot on. Noteworthy highlights, meaningful testimonies… This is a well done Donovan video.

Michael Ball

Tulsa Douglas, St. Olaf College

In terms of exciting video footage, Douglas’s Donovan Award video leaves a lot to be desired. As is the curse of playing in a division that has historically received very little coverage, there’s almost no footage — yet! — of Douglas competing in college. So rather than try to slap together a traditional reel filled with sort-of highlights in grainy footage shot with an uneven handheld camera from several hundred yards away, St. Olaf went another direction to showcase the talent and personality of their star. What we got instead is an epic movie trailer.

Rather the typical airy, generic gushing from fawning teammates, the video opens with a voiceover from one of the most respected coaches in the game making a powerful, unique statement about Douglas’s towering stature not just in the college division but in the sport. That voiceover gives way not to some synthy club beat or breezy pop song, but a booming overture, the likes of which are typically associated with grand Hollywood blockbusters. An impressive selection of photos flash by on the screen, punctuated with quotes from other Douglas fans. The images showcase not only the full array of Douglas’ considerable on-field skills — throws, athleticism, defense — but also perfectly capture her personality, intensity, and leadership qualities as we see her coaching youth, laughing with teammates, and inspiring in a huddle.

Throughout her video, Douglas is presented not just as some random D-III player, but as a larger-than-life, near mythological hero. Rather than forcing out four minutes just to conform to convention, the video lets the Booth voiceover and images shine in a crisp minute and fifteen seconds. The production level on the photos and chyrons is slick. Without a single piece of action footage, the video is able to produce an accurate portrayal of Douglas as a player humbly dedicated to her own growth and passionately committed to the growth of younger players. If the goal is to showcase Douglas upholding every tenet of the Donovan Award’s criteria, the video hits the nail on the head.

Marianna Heckendorn

Griffin Miller, Spring Hill College

And the award for “Best Video Opener” goes to Griffin Miller.  This is one of the best intros to a Callahan/Donovan award video I’ve ever seen. As someone who thinks adjectives like “Bootylicious” don’t belong in Callahan videos and is patiently waiting for a ruthless video set to “Khyber Pass” by Ministry, I’m a fan of the echoing vocals that kick off an eight minute reel of an obscure Texan owning everyone.  I’m not a fan of eight minute videos (unless they bear the title “Tyler Degirolamo”), and before watching this tape, I’d never heard of Spring Hill.  Simply put, the intro to this video and the heavy drops of bass and instrumentals makes this video worth watching.

Had this video contained any other music and been edited in any other manner, I probably wouldn’t though twice about it or Griffin Miller. When the music drops and Miller puts an expression you don’t often see on Travis Carpenter’s face, you know you’re in for a wild ride. Whether Griffin Miller should win the Donovan award or not is an entirely different conversation. The simple fact of the matter is, this obscure D-III player from a school I certainly had never heard of forced everyone to pay attention because of how his video made people feel. That’s representative of the power of a good soundtrack. Nomination videos should make us feel like we’re watching the best ultimate ever played. When you make people feel like they’re watching an NBA highlight reel with the right combo of elite plays and drops, you’ve won half the battle with your video. They should tell us a story and force us to never look away from our hero.

Miller comes off as a total stud rocking a gnarly shoulder brace and making marks look silly. He comes off as a player that commands respect and plays at a level above that of everyone else on the field. Keep in mind that his video achieves this in low-res clips where no matter how high or low quality they may be, you never lose track of where Griffin is. That’s how you impress upon people the caliber of player that you are. Editors, take note, because we’ve been treated to some good videos and some mediocre ones this year. My pick for the best of the bunch is Griffin Miller’s.

Hugo Sowder

Ethan Penner, John Brown University

For me, highlight videos are about more than just the highlights. There are five criteria that I look for in Callahan — and now Donovan — videos. In no particular order:

  • Music selection
  • Types of plays shown
  • Video length
  • Production quality/editing techniques
  • Something that makes it stand out

Penner’s video is solid it in all of these categories.

First, the music selection is on point. It is upbeat enough to keep the viewer engaged, but chill enough not to distract from the plays being shown. The music also fits the types of highlights. These are not the overpowering layout D’s from Justin Allen’s Callahan video or Jimmy Mickle’s sky’s from his videos, and the tone of the music reflects that.

That brings me to criterion two. It is refreshing to see a video packed with sweet fundamental plays. I particularly loved the point in the middle of the video where Penner gets open three times in a row on the same move. The give-and-go moves are clearly Penner’s specialty, though, and that comes out in the video.

At 4:42, the video is just on the edge of being too long, but I think it is fine. Anything above five minutes is definitely over the top. Better to be too short and leave the people wanting more than too long and leave the people wanting less. Penner’s video strikes a nice balance.

There is nothing too fancy about the editing or production quality, which is fine. The video did not need it in my opinion. I enjoyed the random guy screaming “Yeah!” for six seconds in the middle though.

The beginning of the video is what makes it stand out in my mind. It shows Penner does not take himself too seriously and sets the tone for the rest of the video. As a Brandeis alumnus, I also enjoyed the pictures of Penner during our game against them last year.

Overall, Penner’s video is very, very solid. It has all of the qualities you need for a good Donovan video and makes for an enjoyable watch.

Elan Kane

Danny Yates, University of Alabama-Huntsville

University of Alabama-Huntsville standout Danny Yates showcased an array of skills throughout his Donovan video. A dynamic combination of size and disc skill show the true value of Yates. As a complete handler, Yates’ video shows his worthiness of the nomination.

I love to see a complete handler. As a big-time player on a hot team, picking up steam with their first Nationals appearance, it’s great to see Yates being recognized! Huntsville didn’t get seen by many D-III teams outside their region this year, but surely made a name for themselves. With a player like Yates, it’s easy to see why.

Such a complete handler is one of my favorite things to see in the sport of ultimate. Yates showcases his creativity and ability as a handler. We see him work through pivots and a variety of release points to get off throws to the break side throughout the video. He also showcases a variety of hucks, coming from both power position and a standstill, both backhand and forehand… Every time, they’re on point. Additionally, Yates shows off his skill with toppers and upside-down throws; a beautiful addition to any video. Best of all, he’s a lefty. Lefties just have a special beauty to the way they play the game. As a mark, it’s always frustrating to get in position, only to find out the man you’re guarding is throwing left-handed.

Although I don’t have memories of playing Yates in any of my college matchups with Alabama-Huntsville, this video shows off a tremendously talented player. This video does a perfect job of displaying the full skillset of a complete handler, and it makes me consider giving my vote to Yates. Mission accomplished.

Zakk Mabrey

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