D-I Men’s 2024 Player of the Year: Brown’s Jacques Nissen

Recognizing the top performer of the 2024 season.

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.

After announcing the finalists in our First-Team All-American, we are proud to present Player of the Year, our most prestigious award. Our Player of the Year winner is the best performer of the 2024 college season, and the highest vote-getter for All-American honors. The winner is not eligible for consideration in any of our other individual awards. The runner-ups are the second and third most vote-getters.


D-I Men’s 2024 Player Of The Year

Jacques Nissen (Brown)

 

Who will be the next Jacques Nissen? You would think that after watching him set fire to the game’s fiercest competition with a radical mix of swagger and stateliness that players across the entire ultimate ecosystem will rush to imitate his game in the coming years. They had better not try: the shortcomings will prove immeasurably vast.

There’s an argument to be made that Nissen’s Nationals performance was the best of all time.  It isn’t just that he filled the stat pages. His 38-assist/13-goal line is on a level with the best the division has ever seen at Nationals: the 51 combined scores sit comfortably among 2015 Jon Nethercutt (50), 2016 John Stubbs (52), and his 2024 teammate Leo Gordon (52). In total plus/minus, factoring in blocks and turnovers,1, Nissen’s +47 in 24 surpasses them all.2

And it isn’t only that he persevered to lead Brown to a championship that seemed, even as late as pool play, extremely unlikely. Yes, Brown are the lowest seeded team to win a title since Carleton in 2011. Yes, Nissen was the constant buoyant force that kept them playing at a Nationals level throughout the regular season as they worked through injuries. Yes, he was at the heart of the toiling through rain and re-tooling of the game plans that led to a rejuvenated, increasingly untouchable, B-Mo in the bracket.

Nissen will go down in history as a thoroughly unique talent in the college game not because of his world-class leadership and gaudy numbers – field generals and fat statlines happen every year, even if Nissen’s 2024  represents an extreme in both – but because of the shapeshifting and unanswerable brilliance of his offensive output.

His unmatched array of throwing options and off-disc feints was as delightful to witness as it was – one assumes, with good reason – infuriating to defend. Or, rather, to attempt to defend. What can you do to stop the player who can do anything? His options knew no limit. Nissen was as likely to plant a 40-yard hammer from motion into a window the size of a basketball rim as he was to reach with his left-hand over the mark’s shoulder and open up the next three throws with a soft break to space in the dominator. He was as liable to set his feet, wait four or five stalls, and then use his backhand like a trebuchet to shoot the disc beyond three defenders chasing the play at full tilt as he was to pull up suddenly upon catching a short pass and plop an unfathomably accurate blade right before any defender on the field had time to cotton on to his vision.

It was, at times, more than impressive: it was unreal. Watching Gordon or Elliott Rosenberg follow a Nissen swing pass and just let it hover like a humming bird for a couple of seconds before closing the pancake catch was a form of hypnosis. I swear I saw Nissen, at Florida Warm Up, throw a fully crossfield OI forehand assist from the forehand sideline around a backhand mark. And the way he managed the tempo of any given point, from the plodding step of a Galapagos tortoise to the unhinged romp of a Pamplona bull, was a phenomenon more like magic than sport.

The list goes on: the shoulder dips that would net him free yards in the backfield without his having to take a single misdirecting step, the upward dynamicism to expand his catch radius to maximum levels, the mental acuity to all but abandon his deep game and commit to the short open pass at all costs down the stretch of Nationals, the cocky exuberance that infected his teammates with confidence, and the sheer unbreakable tirelessness of it all.

In 2024, Nissen’s performance was nothing less than the best. And it wasn’t close. And we’ll never see the likes of it again.

 

First Runner-Up:

Anton Orme (Cal Poly-SLO)

Second Runner-Up:

Aidan Downey (Georgia)


  1. Statistics are somewhat less reliable for blocks and turnovers than they are with goals and assists, but we’ll use the data we have. 

  2. Stubbs’ +41 in 2016 is second. 

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

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

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