2023 D-I Men’s Offensive Player of the Year

These elite offensive players helped keep the points flowing for their teams.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

Our awards continue with the Offensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt had the most impactful and productive seasons helping their teams score. They set up goals, finished off points, and produced yardage at consistently high levels against the top defenders.

D-I Men’s 2023 Offensive Player Of The Year

Jacques Nissen (Brown)

Brown’s Jacques Nissen at the 2023 College Championships. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

When everyone knows that you want the ball and you can still go get the ball, something’s going right. Suffice to say, a lot went right when Jacques Nissen was involved this season. The heartbeat of Brown’s offense, Nissen showed off a well-rounded game that fueled a wildly successful season. Already known as a thrower, Nissen displayed all of the pinpoint hucks, swift arounds, and nifty OIIOs you might expect. He also churned through resets, oftentimes going the length of the field without waiting more than a few seconds to receive a pass back. He ran down deep looks and skied his defender. He sifted through zone and junk looks with aplomb.

Along the way, he led a Brown team from an underachieving early season malaise to a regional victory and to the closest game UNC faced at the College Championships. It wasn’t just that Nissen could get open wherever he wanted or that he not only found windows no other thrower would look for but also hit the throws to said windows, what makes Nissen special is that his team relied on him to do so much and he delivered. Everytime his teammate was stuck in a puzzling situation, Nissen was the missing piece. There are some athletes who can put on such an individual show that their games become appointment television. Your Caitlyn Clark’s and Shohei Othani’s of the world. Within the confines of D-I men’s college ultimate, Nissen is a show worth tuning in for.

First Runner-Up

Ben Dameron (North Carolina)

UNC’s Ben Dameron attacks the disc at the 2023 College Championships. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

On a Darkside team chock full of killers top to bottom, Dameron separated himself from the pack as the most dangerous. Some Darkside teams in the past have come short of their championship potential because nobody seized the moment and took over. That was a non-issue for the 2023 iteration of the team, as Dameron put up a legendarily clutch three-goal, five-assist performance in the national final to propel UNC to their third straight title.

One of the division’s most complete players – only Player of the Year Henry Ing was as well-rounded – it’s difficult to identify any holes in his offensive game. He’s got all the throws in the book, elite athleticism, and the alpha-dog mindset that allows him to crush any matchup who tries to step to him.

Second Runner-Up

Rutledge Smith (North Carolina)

UNC’s Rutledge Smith at the 2023 College Championships. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

“Flatside merchants” was the term used by some UNC Darkside players to describe their penchant for low, inside shots to disarm even the tightest defenses, and it’s hard not to think of Rutledge Smith as a kind of Chairman of the Flatside Merchants’ Association: his ankle-high, ever-so-slightly-airbounce-kissed, impossibly-angled backhands were (once again) the division’s most unanswerable break throw. That bit of inarguable excellence coupled with his tremendous reset availability would probably have been enough to consider him for a place on this podium. Throw in a dialed-up hucking game and a sneaky-great first season of testing the waters as a deep cutter, and the junior was a shoe-in.

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

  2. Jake Thorne
    Jake Thorne

    Jake Thorne is a staff writer for Ultiworld with a focus on the college division. He is a graduate of Cal Poly SLO, where he played for four years. He now lives and works full-time in sales for a fintech company in San Francisco.

  3. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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