2022 Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list unveiled

DALLAS – The Football Writers Association of America released its 2022 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List today, selecting 85 defensive standouts from 61 schools in all 10 Division I FBS conferences plus independents. The watch list roster includes five returning players from last season’s FWAA All-America team including 2021 winner Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama, five of the top 13 tacklers from last season, the top two sack leaders and six of the top 13, and two players in the secondary who each had five interceptions last year.

The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce finalists for the 2022 trophy on Nov. 16 and the winner will be unveiled Dec. 5 at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet in Charlotte, N.C.

Anderson, the Alabama linebacker who earned consensus All-America status as well as the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, headlines a trio of returning All-Americans coming off First Team honors. Anderson did it all last year for the College Football Playoff runner-up Crimson Tide, leading the nation in sacks with 17.5 to go with 33.5 tackles for loss and 101 total tackles – 57 solos – in his 15-game season. Will McDonald IV, a senior Iowa State defensive end, also returns to the list. McDonald posted 11.5 sacks to tie for seventh nationally last season after tying for the national sack lead in 2020 (10.5) and was the Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Big 12 Conference. Steven Jones Jr., a senior safety at App State, is the country’s interception leader after snagging five last season and is one of a record seven players representing the Sun Belt Conference.

From the FWAA’s 2021 Second-Team All-America crew are Iowa teammates Jack Campbell and Riley Moss. Campbell is a senior linebacker who led the nation in tackles with 143 in 14 games and Moss tied for 14th nationally with four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. The Hawkeyes are one of four Big Ten schools and one of 20 overall that had at least a pair of players on the list. Alabama tops the team field with four, with Anderson alongside fellow linebacker Henry To’oTo’o, junior cornerback Eli Ricks and senior safety Jordan Battle. To’oTo’o had 127 tackles last season, tied for 27th nationally. The Crimson Tide have had Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists in nine of the last 11 seasons.

Defending national champion Georgia placed three on the list as the Southeastern Conference led all conferences with 14 selections. The Bulldogs have a player from each front of their defense in junior tackle Jalen Carter, senior linebacker Nolan Smith and sophomore cornerback Kelee Ringo. Georgia’s trio ties Clemson for the second-most by any team with the Tigers posting standout linemen Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy on the list along with junior linebacker Trenton Simpson.

Coming off its standout defensive season that propelled it into the College Football Playoff, Cincinnati also boasts a pair of linebacking brothers on the list in Ivan Pace and Deshawn Pace. Ivan Pace is a senior transfer from Miami (Ohio) and was a first-team All-MAC selection after his 125 tackles listed 10th in the nation. He once tied an NCAA record with six sacks against Akron in 2019, and now gets to team with younger brother Deshawn, a junior who was third on the Bearcats last year with 94 tackles, nine of them for losses, and had a team-high four interceptions.

Two more outstanding sack leaders made the list. Army junior linebacker Andre Carter was second to Anderson with 15.5 sacks and tied for sixth nationally with 18.5 tackles for loss. Coastal Carolina’s sophomore defensive end Josaiah Stewart had 12.5 sacks. Among other tackles leaders is San Jose State graduate linebacker Kyle Harmon, one of two Spartans on the list after posting 135 tackles last year, fifth in the country. Another of the top returning interceptions leaders is Georgia State junior safety Antavious Lane, who tied App State’s Jones with five interceptions last year as the country’s returning pick leader. 

In addition to the above mentions, Arkansas, Baylor, Coastal Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, San Diego State, Troy, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin all had two players make the watch list. The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences each had 10 players on the team with the Pac-12 listing eight. The American Athletic, Mountain West and Sun Belt all had seven members, with Conference USA, the Mid-American and the independents each posting four.

The are 25 linebackers on the watch list, 18 safeties, 17 defensive ends, 13 cornerbacks and 12 tackles.

Players may be added or removed from the watch list during the course of the season. As in previous years, the FWAA will announce a National Defensive Player of the Week each Tuesday this season. If not already on the watch list, each week’s honored player will be added at that time.

2022 BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY PRESEASON WATCH LIST

DE Praise Amaewhule, UTEPDT Siaki Ika, BaylorCB Clark Phillips, Utah
LB Darren Anders, Bowling GreenS Tanner Ingle, N.C. StateLB Bumper Pool, Arkansas
LB Will Anderson Jr., AlabamaS Antonio Johnson, Texas A&MCB Joey Porter, Penn State
DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas StateS Quindell Johnson, MemphisCB Eli Ricks, Alabama
S Jordan Battle, AlabamaLB Mikel Jones, SyracuseCB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
DT Keeanu Benton, WisconsinCB Steven Jones Jr., App StateS Jammie Robinson, Florida State
DT Bryan Bresee, ClemsonS Brandon Joseph, Notre DameLB Vince Sanford, Air Force
S CJ Brown, NIUDT Calijah Kancey, PittLB Noah Sewell, Oregon
LB Jack Campbell, IowaCB Kyu Blu Kelly, StanfordLB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
LB Andre Carter, ArmyS Antavioius Lane, Georgia StateS JL Skinner, Boise State
DT Jalen Carter, GeorgiaCB Darrell Luter Jr., South AlabamaCB Cam Smith, South Carolina
S Grayson Cash, UABLB Carlton Martial, TroyLB Nolan Smith, Georgia
S Jalen Catalon, ArkansasDE Brock Martin, Oklahoma StateDE Javon Solomon, Troy
DT Elijah Chatman, SMUDE Ochaun Mathis, NebraskaLB Omar Speights, Oregon State
LB KD Davis, North TexasLB Caden McDonald, San Diego StateDE Josiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina
DE Brandon Dorlus, OregonDE Will McDonald IV, Iowa StateDT Dante Stills, West Virginia
LB Dillon Doyle, BaylorS Patrick McMorris, San Diego StateDE Ron Stone Jr., Washington State
DE Viliami Fehoko, San Jose StateCB Riley Moss, IowaCB D’Jordan Strong, Coastal Carolina
CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi StateDE Myles Murphy, ClemsonDT Junior Tafuna, Utah
DE Isaiah Foskey, Notre DameDT Myles Murphy, North CarolinaDT Leonard Taylor, Miami
LB Antonio Grier, USFDT PJ Mustipher, Penn StateLB Drake Thomas, N.C. State
DE Derick, Hall, AuburnDE B.J. Ojulari, LSULB Henry To’oto’o, Alabama
LB Kyle Harmon, San Jose StateDE Collin Oliver, Oklahoma StateDT Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
DE Zach Harrison, Ohio StateLB DeMarvion Overshown, TexasLB Payton Wilgar, BYU
S Xavier Henderson, Michigan StateS Gervarrius Owens, HoustonS Evan Williams, Fresno State
LB Nick Herbig, WisconsinLB Deshawn Pace, CincinnatiS Divaad Wilson, UCF
S Ronnie Hickman, Ohio StateLB Ivan Pace, CincinnatiS Rashad Wisdom, UTSA
DE Jamal Hines, ToledoLB James Patterson, BuffaloCB Charles Woods, West Virginia
CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU  

By conference: SEC 14; ACC (10); Big 12 (10); Big Ten (10); Pac-12 (8); American Athletic (7); Mountain West (7); Sun Belt (7); Conference USA (4), Mid-American (4), Independents (4). 

By position: Linebackers 25, Safeties 18, Ends 17, Cornerbacks 13, Tackles 12.

Players may be added or removed from the list before or during the season.

The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the association’s full membership, selects a 26-man All-America Team and eventually the Nagurski Trophy finalists. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be chosen from the five finalists named in November. Committee members, by individual ballot, select the winner they regard as the best defensive player in college football.

The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football, then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses college football’s most prestigious awards. The NCFAA’s 25 awards have honored more than 800 recipients since 1935. Visit NCFAA.org for more information.

The members of the NCFAA are unveiling preseason watch lists over a two-week period. Sixteen of the association’s 25 awards are presenting their preseason watch list during this time as the NCFAA has spearheaded a coordinated effort to promote each award’s preseason candidates. Following is the remaining 2022 preseason watch list calendar:

  • Wed., July 27: Lou Groza Award/Ray Guy Award
  • Thurs., July 28: Hornung Award/Wuerffel Trophy
  • Fri., July 29: Walter Camp Award
  • Mon., Aug. 1: Bednarik Award

2022 Outland Trophy watch list unveiled

DALLAS – The Football Writers Association of America has announced the preseason watch list for the 2022 Outland Trophy, recognizing 89 returning standout interior linemen representing all 10 Division I FBS conferences and independents. The 2022 season will close with the award’s 77th anniversary and the watch list offers a talented field of players to accompany two returning FWAA All-Americans.

The recipient of the 2022 Outland Trophy will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards, live on ESPN on Thurs., Dec. 8. The official presentation to the winner will be made at the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner sponsored by Werner Enterprises and produced by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee in Omaha, Neb., on Jan. 11, 2023.

Atop the list are two returning FWAA All-Americans, Baylor center Jacob Gall and Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi, each a second-team All-America selection last year. Gall, a redshirt senior, is one of three Baylor players on the list, tops in nation among the 67 teams represented along with Clemson and defending national champion Georgia. Oluwatimi, now a graduate student, will be in the middle of Michigan’s offensive line this fall after transferring from Virginia, where he guided the country’s third-leading offense up front, one that averaged 516.3 yards per game.

The Bears also offer redshirt senior Connor Galvin at offensive tackle and junior defensive tackle Siaki Ika, who plugged the middle of the nation’s 10th-best scoring defense at 18.3 points per game last year. Michigan, a College Football Playoff participant last year and one of 16 teams to have at least two players on the watch list, also offers junior guard Zak Zinter. The Wolverines averaged 214.36 rushing yards in their 14 games last year, 15th nationally. 

Like Baylor, Clemson and Georgia’s three nominees are split between the offensive and defensive lines. The Bulldogs (first, 10.2 ppg) and Tigers (second, 14.8) were the top two scoring defenses in 2021. Returning off the Bulldogs’ stalwart defense that was second in rushing and total defense and included 2021 Outland Trophy winner Jordan Davis at defensive tackle, is his likely replacement Jalen Carter. The junior was a second-team All-SEC pick by the conference coaches last year despite playing behind two first-round NFL draft picks (Davis and fellow tackle Devonte Wyatt). Carter is joined by redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Broderick Jones and senior guard Warren Ericson. 

The three Clemson players were each on last year’s watch list as well. The interior defense boasts two tackles in sophomore Bryan Bresee and senior Tyler Davis that helped the Tigers become seventh in rushing defense (96.31 ypg) and eighth in total defense (305.5) in the nation. They are joined by senior offensive tackle Jordan McFadden. 

Only Georgia (Bill Stanfill, 1968) has had an Outland Trophy winner from the trio of schools with three selections. That led the Southeastern Conference again – Georgia led the SEC with three last year also – and the SEC led all conferences with 14 overall selections from nine different schools, with three of them hosting a player on each side of the line of scrimmage. Alabama, the national runner-up whose six all-time Outland winners are second only to Nebraska’s nine, has senior defensive tackle Justin Ebiogbe and redshirt senior guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. on the team. Florida boasts junior defensive tackle Gervon Dexter and senior offensive tackle O’Cyrus Torrence, a transfer from Sun Belt Conference champion Louisiana. Texas A&M has junior guard Layden Robinson on its offensive front with junior defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson in the middle of its defense.  

Cincinnati, which qualified for the playoff with its standout defense a year ago, has two players on the list but both are on offense. Jake Renfro, a junior center, will guide the Bearcats’ front with senior offensive tackle Dylan O’Quinn on the outside. The pair of players from Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin led the Big Ten’s list of 11 players from eight different schools, second only to the SEC. Three of its 11 are defensive tackles – redshirt senior Jacob Slade of Michigan State, senior PJ Mustipher of Penn State and senior nose Keeanu Benton of Wisconsin. 

Boise State, BYU, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pitt, Troy, USC and Utah also have two players on the list. The Atlantic Coast Conference had 11 players with the Big 12 and Pac-12 each with 10 followed by the American Athletic, Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences plus the Independents with six each. Conference USA has five selections and the Mid-American Conference four. There are 29 offensive tackles on this year’s list, just ahead of 25 defensive tackles to go with 18 centers and 17 guards. Just over half of the 131 Football Bowl Subdivision schools – 67 – are represented on the list. 

2022 OUTLAND TROPHY PRESEASON WATCH LIST

C Steve Avila, TCUG A.J. Gillie, LouisianaG Lokahi Pauole, UCF
G Clark Barrington, BYUOT Anton Harrison, OklahomaOT Nolan Potter Jr., NIU
DT Kyon Barrs, ArizonaC Sincere Haynesworth, TulaneC Jake Renfro, Cincinnati
G T.J. Bass, OregonOT Cooper Hodges, App StateG Layden Robinson, Texas A&M
OT Cooper Beebe, Kansas StateDT Siaki Ika, BaylorDT Jaquelin Roy, LSU
DT Keeanu Benton, WisconsinDT McKinnley Jackson, Texas A&MG Brendan Schlittler, Liberty
OT Connor Bishop, ArmyDT Desjuan Johnson, ToledoC John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
DT Bryan Bresee, ClemsonOT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio StateOT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
G Marco Brewer, Oregon StateOT Broderick Jones, GeorgiaDT Jacob Slade, Michigan State 
G Nick Broeker, Ole MissOT Dawand Jones, Ohio StateOT Everett Smalley, Air Force
DT Jalen Carter, GeorgiaDT Calijah Kancey, PittG Sidy Sow, Eastern Michigan
G Caleb Chandler, LouisvilleOT Jaxson Kirkland, WashingtonOT Cole Spencer, Texas Tech
DT Elijah Chatman, SMUC Willie Lampkin, Coastal CarolinaOT Austin Stidham, Troy
DT Will Choloh, TroyOT Quantavious Leslie, WKUDT Dante Stills, West Virginia
C Eli Cox, KentuckyG Josh Lugg, Notre DameC Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas
OT Braeden Daniels, UtahG Christian Mahogany, Boston CollegeC Malik Sumter, Georgia State
DT Tyler Davis, ClemsonC Ahofitu Maka, UTSADT Junior Tafuna, Utah
DT Gervon Dexter, FloridaDT Scott Matlock, Boise StateDT Leonard Taylor, Miami
C Trevor Downing, Iowa StateOT Jordan McFadden, ClemsonOT Kadeem Telfort, UAB
DT Cory Durden, N.C. StateC Manase Mose, North TexasOT Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
DT Justin Eboigbe, AlabamaDT Myles Murphy, North CarolinaOT O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
G Emil Ekiyor, AlabamaDT PJ Mustipher, Penn StateDT Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
DT Ikenna Enechukwu, RiceOT Zion Nelson, MiamiC Alama Uluave, San Diego State
G Warren Ericson, GeorgiaC Drake Nugent, StanfordG Andrew Vorhees, USC
OT Alfred Edwards, Utah StateOT Dylan O’Quinn, CincinnatiOT Carter Warren, Pitt
C Alex Forsyth, OregonOT John Ojukwu, Boise StateDT Daymond Williams, Buffalo
OT Blake Freeland, BYUC Olusegun Oluwatimi, MichiganOT Dylan Wonnum, South Carolina
OT Aaron Frost, NevadaOT Alex Palczewski, IllinoisG Hunter Woodard, Oklahoma State
C Jacob Gall, BaylorC Jarrett Patterson, Notre DameG Zak Zinter, Michigan
OT Connor Galvin, BaylorOT Patrick Paul, Houston 

Tackles, guards and centers are eligible for consideration; Candidates may be added or removed during the season.

The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are a part of the annual FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects a 26-man first team and eventually the three Outland finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner. Only interior linemen on offense or defense are eligible for the award; ends are not eligible.

The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses college football’s most prestigious awards. The NCFAA’s 25 awards have honored more than 800 recipients since 1935. Visit NCFAA.org for more information.

The members of the NCFAA are unveiling preseason watch lists over a two-week period. Sixteen of the association’s 25 awards are presenting their preseason watch list during this time as the NCFAA has spearheaded a coordinated effort to promote each award’s preseason candidates. Following is the remaining 2022 preseason watch list calendar:

  • Wed., July 27: Lou Groza Award/Ray Guy Award
  • Thurs., July 28: Hornung Award/Wuerffel Trophy
  • Fri., July 29: Walter Camp Award
  • Mon., Aug. 1: Bednarik Award

Sports Illustrated’s Johnson wins Edward Aschoff Rising Star Award

DALLAS – Richard Johnson of Sports Illustrated is the recipient of the third Edward Aschoff Rising Star Award, which is presented annually by the Football Writers Association of America and named after the beloved ESPN college football reporter who died on Christmas Eve in 2019 on his 34th birthday from previously undetected Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his lungs.

Richard Johnson

“I count all my experiences in this field as continued education and there are too many editors and writers to name who have made me better and helped me along the way. I grew up reading many of them as a lifelong college football fan and it’s been incredible to get to know them as I grow in journalism.” 

Johnson started at Sports Illustrated  in the fall of 2021. He is known for his long-form storytelling, expertise on the coaching industry, and in depth reporting on the intersection of college sports and social justice with a blend of analysis and candor,

In 2021, Grace Raynor, who covers the Clemson Tigers for The Athletic, won the second Rising Star award. David Ubben, also of The Athletic, was the first recipient in 2020 as a beat reporter for the Tennessee Volunteers.

“Richard’s writing in particular is a combination of what makes all the best people in this business, “Ubben said. “It’s informative, well-reported and entertaining. And his television and podcast work has made him a breath of fresh air in a business where some can get stale. His work always includes interesting perspective and anyone who reads something from Richard will finish it having learned something.

“The people who can do that consistently are growing rare. I couldn’t be happier that Richard won this award. He’s everything right about sports writing and makes me so excited about the future.”     

In honor of Aschoff, a bright light in the sports journalism industry, the FWAA in 2020 decided to recognize one promising journalist no older than 34, who has not only the talent and work ethic it takes to succeed in this business, but also the passion to make it better. Aschoff, a 2008 graduate of the University of Florida, loved people, and even as his career at ESPN escalated, he still guided and befriended younger journalists along the way.

Johnson, a University of Florida alum like Aschoff, knew Ed personally. The two actually spent time together, most recently in the spring of 2018 when they were reporting stories at Arizona State at the same time. They went to a Phoenix Suns game together. 

“I remember when the FWAA announced this award a couple years ago,” Johnson said. “I immediately knew that I wanted to win it, and I guess it’s time to move past my jealousy of past winners David and Grace – I kid as they’re both great reporters who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on the road the last few years.

“Ed is a prime example of how representation matters,” Johnson added. “There are unfortunately too few Black people covering this sport, and for as long as I’d known him, seeing Ed on television or his byline on the website was proof positive that he’d made it in this industry and that I could too. You could say I basically followed his blueprint from UF’s journalism school to covering the Gators all the way to ESPN, and it was an honor to shout him out during my first season on the SEC Network.”

Johnson began his professional career at ESPN in 2015 and later joined SB Nation as a national college football writer the following year. He spent four years working for the site before starting at Sports Illustrated in the fall of 2021.  Johnson co-hosts the SEC Network show “Thinking Out Loud” in addition to co-hosting the college football podcast “Split Zone Duo.” He also makes regular appearances across ESPN linear and digital programming.

He is a co-author of “The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA” – an illustrated e-book about the history of college sports.  Johnson, now based in Brooklyn, began his career as a writer for The Independent Florida Alligator student newspaper.

“Outside of the fact that he knew Ed and looked up to him, RJ has been growing as a writer on our staff, in addition to his continuing SEC Network duties,” said Sports Illustrated Executive Editor Joy Russo in nominating Johnson for the award. “…He has been determined to expand his sourcing profile across the sport, but has also been committed to covering race and inequities within football – the latter has been newer territory for him within the sport, but he’s been dedicated to finding more stories to tell there.”

Samples of Richard’s work:

https://www.si.com/nfl/2022/04/22/matt-araiza-nfl-draft-viral-punter

https://www.si.com/college/2022/04/14/florida-football-billy-napier-recruiting-spring

https://www.si.com/college/2021/10/14/texas-am-fake-recruit-locker-room-tiktok-video

“It may sound corny, and I don’t care, this really is more than just a trophy to me. “Johnson said. “This is Ed’s legacy, and I’m honored to be able to play a part in continuing it.”

Remembering Edward Aschoff

Aschoff moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to begin a more expanded national role that included television coverage. Over three seasons, he reported from campuses across the country for ESPN.com, SportsCenter, SEC Network and ESPN Radio, and he worked as a television and radio sideline reporter during college football games.

Edward Aschoff

Aschoff inspired us through his storytelling, brightened our lives with his gregarious personality, and uplifted our spirits with his energy. The FWAA hopes to honor his memory and his commitment to aspiring journalists with this award.

“Edward epitomized everything you want in a sports journalist: He knew how to build relationships, to gain trust, to break stories but also to tell stories,” said ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson. “And he did it all with a flair that made you want to watch his television pieces or read his written stories right away. His dogged determination and relentless work ethic allowed him to rise to the top at ESPN, and all his exemplary qualities serve as a model for young journalists everywhere about what truly can be achieved if you go after what you want.” The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications has established the Edward Aschoff Memorial Fund, which will provide support for students involved in sports journalism.

“Edward was one of our stars – not just because he was so talented as a journalist and storyteller, but also because of everything he did to help people around him. He always had a good word of advice for young journalists, he was always willing to give back, and he always made people smile,” said Ted Spiker, chair of the department of journalism at the University of Florida who taught Edward in several classes at UF.

Jordan McPherson, a student reporter at Florida from 2013-17 who is now covering the Miami Marlins for the Miami Herald, said Aschoff helped him on several occasions. “He was a pro’s pro and touched my life with just a few brief interactions that he didn’t have to make,” McPherson said. “His positivity was infectious, his ability to mentor through simple conversation was second to none. He will be missed, but always be remembered.”

Nominations sought 2022 Armed Forces Merit Award

Fort Worth, TexasNominations are now being accepted for the 2022 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that have an impact within the realm of college football.”

With the 2022 recipient being announced Thursday, November 11, 2022, nominations for the 2022 Armed Forces Merit Award will be accepted through October 1 when a selection committee of seven FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will review the list of candidates for the 11th annual presentation.

“We are pleased to join with the Football Writers Association of America to honor an individual with a military background or group that works with our armed services that has an impact within college football,” said Brant Ringler, the executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

FWAA executive director Steve Richardson echoed Ringler’s sentiments along with adding that “we have an outstanding list of candidates each year and it is difficult to honor only one recipient when there are several individuals and programs that are very deserving of the honor.”

With 31 nominations (28 individuals and three programs) considered for the 2021 award, University of Nebraska linebacker Damien Jackson was selected as the 10th recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award.  A Cornhusker walk-on in 2007 after serving four years in the military as a member of the Navy SEALs, Jackson was placed on scholarship for the 2020 season and has played in the 20 games for Nebraska.

Jackson Has made the Big 10 All-Academic team that last four seasons.  Before his military service, Jackson played baseball and soccer at Shadow Ridge High in Las Vegas, Nev. A child, youth and family studies major, Jackson earned his degree in December of 2021.  He has volunteered his time with the Nebraska Football Road Race, a Day of Service and local hospital visits.

Past recipients of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA include Nate Boyer of the University of Texas (2012), Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas (2013), Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University (2014), Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo., 2015), Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University (2016), Dr. Chris Howard from Robert Morris University (2018), Army West Point assistant coach Mike Viti (2019) and Collin O’Donnell of Bluefield College of Virginia.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

Nominations for the 2022  Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA should be submitted to Tim Simmons (bfishinc@aol.com, 303/678-8484), the award’s coordinator, by October 1. The nomination link can be found at https://www.armedforcesbowl.com/armed-forces#meritaward-section.

2022 Nominations

Programs (7)

  • Athletes Of Valor, Alex Stone, Founder & CEO, Athletes of Valor (U. S. Marines)
  • Battlefields To Ballfields, Mike Pereira, CEO/President/Director
  • Bronze Boot Run – Laramie to Fort Collins prior to the Wyoming at Colorado State football game
  • National Association of College Directors of Athletics, Wounded Warrior Project
  • Thomas University Military Transition Initiative
  • Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Ga.
  • New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, N.M.

Active Players (1)

  • Kyran Griffin-Isom, Troy University, WR, 6-3, 169, Jun., New Orleans, La. (U. S. Marines)

Football Coaching Staff (19)

  • Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jake Campbell, Assistant Backfield, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • C.B. Cornett, Volunteer Coach-Linebackers, Georgia Military College (U. S. Marines Corps)
  • Robert Green, Cornerbacks & Director of Racial Equality, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Charlie Jackson, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Brian Knorr, Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Ken Lamendola, Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Steed Lobotzke, Offensive Line, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Curtis Luper, Running Backs, Missouri (U. S. Army)
  • Alex Means, Outside Linebackers, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Ben Miller, Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach, Illinois (U. S. Air Force)
  • Blane Morgan, Head Coach, Lamar University (U. S. Air Force)
  • Andre Morris, Spurs, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • John Rudzinski, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs, Virginia (U. S. Air Force)
  • Brett Skene, Offensive Assistant, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Trent Steelman, Quarterbacks, Eastern Kentucky University (U. S. Army)
  • Mike Thiessen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Charlton Warren, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs, North Carolina (U. S. Air Force)
  • Mick Yokitis, Wide Receivers, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)

Football Support Staff (9)

  • Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, Chief of Staff/Football Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • Chris Lehmann, Colorado & Colorado State Football, Wyoming Air National Guard
  • LTC John Nawoichyk, Assistant AD/Military Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Omar Nelson, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • CPT Blake Powers, Admission Support, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Trey Reed, Assistant Athletic Director, Athletic Communications, Midwestern State (U. S. Army)
  • Steve Senn, Director of Recruiting, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jordon Simmons, Assistant Head Coach – Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Colorado State (U. S. Army)
  • Rusty Whitt, Football Strength & Conditioning Coach, Troy (U. S. Army)

University Leadership (3)

  • Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • im Knowlton, Director of Athletics, California (U. S. Army)
  • Natesh Rao, Senior Associate Athletic Director, Arizona State (U. S. Navy)

Dennis Dodd named recipient of 2022 Bert McGrane Award

INDIANAPOLIS — Veteran sportswriter Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has been named the recipient of the FWAA’s Bert McGrane Award for 2022, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame.  He will be honored during the Past Presidents Dinner here tonight.  

“To paraphrase the great Bobby Bowden upon his retirement,” said Dodd, who was previously a co-FWAA Beat Writer of the Year recipient, “there is only one more big event in your life after you win the Bert McGrane.

Dennis Dodd

“Seriously, I am humbled to join such an accomplished and legendary group. I truly don’t consider myself worthy. The FWAA has been at the core of my professional life. The FWAA’s values and principles have formed the foundation of college sports writing. Its members consider journalism a vocation, not just a job.”

The Bert McGrane Award, since 1974, has been bestowed on a FWAA member in recognition of contributions to the association and to college football and recognized in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Dodd was named the Steve Ellis co- FWAA Beat Writer of the Year in 2018 and was also FWAA President in 2006.

“These last 18 months or so have been an inspiration,” Dodd continued. “Some of the best writing in any discipline has come from FWAA members during the pandemic. The virus presented a lot of us with unique challenges. We, as a group, rose to the occasion to frame COVID and its impact on the sport. To be part of this great fraternity remains an honor of a lifetime.”

A rundown of Dodd’s career …

PERSONAL: Married. Wife Janet. Two children — Haley, 29, and Jack 25. Haley is a graduate of Missouri, former Volney Meece scholarship recipient in 2009 and is working in Los Angeles in digital media. Jack is in business development in Kansas City. Dennis has won three first-place FWAA Best Writing Contest Awards. He is one of seven media members to cover all 16 BCS title games. Counting this year’ CFP championship game, that’s 22 of 24 championship games overall in the BCS era (since 1998). He has written two books, one on the history of Missouri basketball and the other on the formation of the Big 12. He calls his wife, Janet, “the absolute light of my life, guidance counselor, travel companion, life coach, cancer survivor and best friend.” One of his hobbies, NCAA Football on the PlayStation, was taken away from him by litigation. That and Jack took the Xbox to college. His passions are Happy Hour, hockey and Friday nights before Saturday games in college towns dining with media friends. “There’s no better fellowship,” he says.

MENTORS:  Kansas City Star co-workers Tom Shatel and Steve Richardson, early on. Richardson, Dodd says, “mentored him when he came to Kanas City in 1981.” Shatel: “I wish I could be him as a writer and a father.” They can all still be seen in San Diego in somebody’s picture of that little joint by the sea. Dodd started going to America’s Finest City 38 years ago to watch the 1983 Holiday Bowl. In his last college game, Steve Young caught the game-winning touchdown. Shatel was along for the ride. Ivan Maisel, a “literary and personal hero.” I also want to thank Vahe Gregorian, Andy BagnatoChuck Culpepper, David Jones, Todd Jones, Dick Weiss, Mark Blaudschun, Tony Barnhart, Chris Dufresne, Pat Forde and everyone who has pounded the keyboards at midnight with me.”

BEST STORIES:  He is most proud of two — one was on Dave Redding. “I drove up to central Nebraska to see legendary strength coach Dave Redding,” Dodd said. “In a profession full of characters, rogues and heroes, he was all three. Red Man had been stricken with Parkinson’s. He lived in a house built on the banks of the Platte River by himself and his dad. His only companions were a couple of dogs and a houseful of memories. He showed me his Super Bowl ring he earned with the Packers.He went in depth on two brothers who made it big in Hollywood before both dying of HIV. He kept asking me if I wanted a drink. It was 2 p.m. It was clear he was lonely. I had to decline because I had to drive back to Lincoln. I’m really proud of honoring him by writing that story.”

“In 2001, I had the idea to drive out to Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, to find the Knute Rockne Memorial where the great coach’s plane had crashed in 1931,” Dodd said. “It was the 70th anniversary of the crash that killed Notre Dame’s legendary coach. Before the days of GPS or Siri, I drove 90 minutes to Emporia, got directions to Cottonwood Falls, and then got directions again to Bazaar, Kansas. That’s the closest spot on a map to the memorial which stands alone on a 1,500-acre plot of land in the Flint Hills.

“I met a gentle soul named Easter Heathman.” Dodd said. “As a 13-year old in 1931, he had seen the plane come out of the clouds and crash. He was one of the first upon the scene. He remembered seeing a body with the legs wrapped with bandages. Years later, Heathman figured that must have been Rockne because the coach had phlebitis. Over the years Easter became a caretaker for the memorial, taking anyone who wanted to see it, up to the site. The landowner had given him a combination to unlock the gate. I revisited the story on the 90th anniversary of the crash this past March. But I had to sneak onto the land which has new owners who prohibit trespassers, including reporters like me. The five-mile hike across the Kansas prairie was worth it to geta cell phone picture of the memorial for the story.”

BEST ADVICE: Came from Janet, of course: “Listen … listen to her, listen to your children, listen to your heart,” Dodd says. “Professionally, listen to your interview subjects. They are doing you a favor by talking to you. They have a story to tell. It’s up to you to communicate it clearly.” Also, “Read (your story) one more time before sending it.”— Several editors.

THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN THE PROFESSION:  Dodd says: “The lack of intimacy. I don’t have to tell anyone in the FWAA how hard it is now to connect with subjects. Open locker rooms are few and far between. Interviews are now ‘media availability.’ A chat must fit into an available ‘window.’ I believe schools sometimes are doing a disservice to these kids. They come to college to grow as people and, sure, as athletes. For a lot of them this is going to be the time of their lives. I’ve said it many times, on the college beat we’re there to write something positive 80 to 90 percent of the time. Don’t make it so hard. I mourn the loss of access. Often the story that gets told is not THE story. COVID has obviously had an impact, but let’s hope we can get back to what we had. 

“On the positive side, the best biggest change is the influx of women into our profession. There still aren’t enough, but they keep coming. That’s a good thing. Thank you, Stef Loh for being our 2018 FWAA President and Heather Dinich this year. I know there are moretalented leaders inthe pipeline. Kelly Whiteside was our first female FWAA President in 2002”.

BEST INTERVIEW:  Jeff Sims.  “He wasthe coach at Garden City Community College,” Dodd says. “When I visited a few years ago, this was before Last Chance U. Sims grew up in St. Louis and had a dad — a cop—  who smoked marijuana in front of him. Sims once waited outside a prison to get a commitment from a player who was completing 3 1/2 years for armed robbery. There’s a book here somewhere about the desperation at the junior college level — for the players to get there, get good and get out. During my visit there, I sat across from a linebacker, Alex Figueroa, who’d been kicked out of a previous school for a violation of school policy. His teammate had body-slammed a high school security guard on camera. These are some of the kids Sims pursued to be on his team. It remains a fascinating interview. Coach and players made no excuses about why they were there in the southwest corner of Kansas — to get out as soon as possible.

Auburn’s Shelly Poe named FWAA Lifetime Achievement Award winner 2

Indianapolis — FWAA member Shelly Poe, Auburn’s Assistant AD/Media Relations, has been named the recipient of the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the 2021 season, becoming the fourth person in the Sports Information field to receive the honor.

The award goes to a FWAA member or someone close to the organization who has contributed greatly to either college football, the writing profession or the FWAA during his or her career. Poe would be considered a trailblazer as a female football SID. 

Shelly Poe

Poe was the only female head SID at a Division I football school when she was named West Virginia’s (her alma mater) in 1988 after holding an assistant’s post at the same school for three years. She also was the youngest Division I head SID at that time at 23 years of age.

“I was very fortunate to have been one of the first women to make a career in football, and I was able to do that because a number of smart, tough, persistent women paved the way for those my age to choose the career path,” Poe said. “There were often challenges and resistance, but I quickly learned that the winners in athletics judged people based on how their talents can benefit the program.

“I worked hard to gain that trust and advocates stepped up from the most surprising quarters whenever biases made things difficult. Along the way, I’ve built so many lifelong relationships with friends who were first introduced to me as players, coaches, co-workers and media colleagues, and that is the real dividend.”         

“Shelly has been a staple in the college sports information field for more than three decades,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “It is one thing to have longevity in the field, but she has been a strong advocate for the media among her peers and those she has worked for at three FBS institutions. She also has been a tireless worker for CoSIDA.”

Besides her tenure at Auburn for the past decade, Poe also was Director of Football Communications at Ohio State from 2007 to 2012 following 20 years at West Virginia. An ex-officio member of the FWAA Board from 2013 to 2018, Poe is a 2006 member of the CoSIDA Hall of Fame, the 2013-14 CoSIDA President, the recipient of the 2012 CoSIDA Trailblazer Award and she was part of a CoSIDA-FWAA task force to determine media services adjustments at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in the summer of 2020.  She has been at Auburn since 2012.  

“I was blessed to work for many years for one of the finest gentlemen ever in this game, Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen, who would do an extra interview or make time for a guest, ‘because I think it’s good for the game,’” Poe recalled. “Those words have been a standard for me, and I hope I’ve made the game better by assisting so many talented people in telling its stories.

“My best friend, the late coach Dave Adolph, was known for asking, ‘Do you love football?’ I do love it, and I love the positive impact it’s had on so many lives, especially mine.”

The FWAA started naming a Lifetime Achievement Award winner nearly a decade ago. Art Spander of the San Francisco Examiner was the first recipient in 2013, followed by Bill Little (University of Texas) in 2014, Irv Moss (Denver Post) in 2015, OK (Buddy) Davis (Ruston Daily Leader) in 2016, Mike Finn (ACC) in 2017, Dave Plati (University of Colorado) in 2018, Wright Waters (Football Bowl Association) and Paul Hoolahan (Sugar Bowl) in 2019 and Sid Hartman (Minneapolis Star Tribune) posthumously in 2020.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Georgia Student receives Volney Meece Scholarship

Indianapolis — Jacob Weiszer, a senior at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Ga., was named the 25th winner of the Volney Meece Scholarship on Monday.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the Football Writers Association of America and named for the late Volney Meece. Meece served 22 years as the FWAA’s executive director and was the organization’s president in 1971.

Jacob Weiszer

The scholarship is a $1,000 annual grant for four years. It is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member.

The 17-year-old Weiszer is the son of FWAA member Marc Weiszer. 

Jacob has compiled an impressive list of academic and extracurricular achievements. Accepted at the University of Georgia, where he is already taking classes, Jacob has also applied to several more universities. If he selects Georgia, he will be considered a sophomore when he enters next fall because of the college credits he’s earning as part of the of dual-enrolling program with the university.

At Cedar Shoals, Jacob has maintained a weighted 4.32 GPA while taking several advanced placement courses. A member of the National Honor Society, he ranks third academically in his senior class of 280 students and has been awarded the school’s Phi Beta Kappa Book Award, for exemplifying the highest level of academic, ethical and social commitment.

Jacob is a four-year member of his school’s soccer team, plays Alto saxophone in the marching band, is sports editor of the school magazine and a reporter for Cedar Shoals’  WJAG-TV station. He also volunteered as a youth summer camp counselor and is a religious school volunteer, helping mentor first-grade students in Judaic studies and the basics of Hebrew.

Jacob has attained many additional honors while also working part-time at a neighborhood restaurant. He intends to pursue a business degree with a goal of working in the accounting, financial or international business fields.

Past winners of the Volney Meece Scholarship

1997 Brett Goering Topeka, Kan.
1998 Kelly Brooks Denver, Colo.
1999 James Butz Schaumberg, Ill.
2000 Sara Barnhart Atlanta, Ga.
2001 Patrick Davis Coventry, Conn.
2002 Jacqueline O’Toole Gaithersburg, Md.
2003 Garrett Holtz Denver, Colo.
2004 Katie Hersom Oklahoma City, Okla.
2005 Katie Wieberg Lawson, Mo.
2006 Kaylynn Monroe Winter Park, Fla.
2007 Nate Kerkhoff Overland Park, Kan.
2008 Jack Caywood Lawrence, Kan.
2009 Haley Dodd Overland Park, Kan.
2010 Donald Hunt Philadelphia, Pa.
2011 Alaina Martens Papillion, Neb.
2012 Emily Alford Tupelo, Miss.
2013 Sarah Helsley Edmond, Okla.
2014Robert AbramsonPalos Verde, Calif.
2015Danielle HooverTulsa, Okla.
2016Dolen HelwagenPataskala, Ohio
2017Elizabeth SchroederNorman, Okla.
2018Mallory RosettaBaton Rouge, La.
2019Alexandra HaleyHamilton, N.J.
2020Sarah ShatelOmaha, Neb.

FWAA names finalists for First-Year Coach and Freshman Player of the Year Awards

GAINESVILLE, FLA.  – The Football Writers Association of America is pleased to announce the finalists for the Steve Spurrier First Year Coach Award, which goes to the best coach in his first year at a school, and the FWAA Freshman of the Year Award. Both awards are sponsored and presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, with the winners announced in January.

“I’m excited to honor my former coach (Spurrier) with the naming of the First Year Coach Award,” said Chris Doering, former college and NFL player and current football analyst for SEC Network. “It means a lot to me knowing how passionate he is about this award and what it stands for. In most cases as a first year coach, you’re basically being asked to turn around a program with a largely inherited roster. Coach Spurrier took great pride in each of his first year head coaching opportunities with an innate ability to get those around him to buy into the culture and what they’re being asked to do. I think it speaks to the essence of what a good coach is.”

Steve Spurrier First Year Coach Award finalists presented by Chris Doering Mortgage:

Shane Beamer, South Carolina: Beamer, the son of first-ballot College Football Hall of Famer Frank Beamer, helped the Gamecocks improve from 2-8 to 6-6 in his first season as a head coach. Beamer had to win games with three different quarterbacks – two apiece – one a former FCS quarterback and another a former graduate assistant coach.

Josh Heupel, Tennessee: Heupel led the Vols to a 7-5 record after taking over a program that went 3-7 the year before and was mired in an NCAA investigation left over from the previous staff. Heupel, a national championship quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up as a player at Oklahoma, is vying to become the first two-time winner of the Spurrier Award, having won it at Central Florida in 2018.

Gus Malzahn, UCF: Malzahn led the Knights to an 9-4 season including a Gasparilla Bowl victory over Florida, a three-game improvement from the 6-4 mark they ran up last season despite losing several key players, including QB Dillon Gabriel. Malzahn finished the season coaching with a broken tibia after being injured in a sideline collision, working some games from a sideline platform rather than going up into the coach’s box and just finished off the highest recruiting class in school history.

“This award is given to the coach in his first year at his school who comes in and exceeds expectations,” said Steve Spurrier. “All three of these coaches got their programs heading in the right direction and they didn’t make any excuses. They took what was there and started running with it and they all had outstanding seasons.”

Chris Doering Mortgage is also honored to present the Freshman Player of the Year award. Doering said this award is of particular interest to him because compared to his days as a player when you would typically get red-shirted and a chance to acclimate, today’s players are expected to come in and immediately contribute.

TE Brock Bowers, Georgia: The SEC Newcomer of the Year and a second-team All-American, Bowers set Georgia all-time tight end records for receiving yards (791) and touchdowns (11), and he enters the College Football Playoff needing three catches to set the receptions record. Bowers had a career-high 10 catches in the SEC Championship Game and recorded his fourth game with more than 100 yards receiving.

Chris Doering on Brock Bowers: “The tight end position has been something that has been a way to create a mismatch at the NFL level for 10 plus years. It’s now creeping into the college ranks and they can do it all, hands on the ground, the ability to run block, run routes to create matchup issues among the linebackers and safety’s. Brock definitely tasks opposing defensive coordinators with figuring out how to defend him.”

DE Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State: The Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year tied for seventh in the nation with 11.5 sacks for an Oklahoma State team that led the Big 12 and finished eighth in the nation in scoring defense. Oliver came through with two sacks in the Cowboys’ win over Oklahoma, and two more in the Big 12 Championship Game against Baylor.

Chris Doering on Collin Oliver: “You talk to defensive coordinators and they’re looking for a game-wrecker guy who can impact the opposing offense and their quarterback’s passing game. Oliver is that game wrecker and is a large part of Oklahoma State’s resurgence to one of the top defensive units in the country.”

QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State: The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year currently has the best Ohio State single-season mark for passing efficiency (182.2), completion percentage (70.9) and passing yards per game (351.1). The Buckeyes led the nation in total offense and scoring offense with Stroud under center, and Stroud was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien national quarterback of the year award.

Chris Doering on CJ Stroud: “The quarterback position at Ohio State came with a lot of expectations and competition heading into the season. They were not sure who was going to start, let alone how much success that player would have. Stroud took this offense and the opportunity and ran with it. He served as great leader for the Ohio State Buckeyes.”

ALL-TIME FWAA FIRST-YEAR COACHES OF THE YEAR

2002 Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame2012 Urban Meyer, Ohio State
2003 Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa2013 Gus Malzahn, Auburn
2004 Mike Price, UTEP2014 Bryan Harsin, Boise State
2005 Steve Spurrier, South Carolina2015 Tom Herman, Houston
2006 Chris Petersen, Boise State2016 Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; Clay Helton, USC
2007 Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College2017 Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
2008 Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech2018 Josh Heupel, UCF
2009 Chip Kelly, Oregon2019 Ryan Day, Ohio State
2010 Jimbo Fisher, Florida State2020 Karl Dorrell, Colorado
2011 Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia 

ALL-TIME FWAA FRESHMAN PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

2018 Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson2020 Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama
2019 Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis 

This will be the 21st straight season in which the FWAA has named a Freshman of the Year and the 20th consecutive year for the First Year Coach Award, although the first time with a namesake for the award, Steve Spurrier. The winner of each award will be announced in January 2022.

Spurrier, along with former player Chris Doering of Chris Doering Mortgage, is planning a February dinner to honor the winners. The site of the dinner in the state of Florida will be announced at a future time.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. Chris Doering Mortgage is committed to skillfully and ethically delivering the highest quality customer service throughout the mortgage process, with a team of professionals that strive to exceed the expectations of clients and business partners while continually educating and adapting to the changing needs of the industry. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com.

Cincinnati’s Fickell wins 2021 FWAA-Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award

DALLAS – Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has taken the Bearcats to unmatched feats this season, qualifying for the College Football Playoff as the nation’s only undefeated team (13-0) and the first so-called ‘Group of 5’ program to do so while winning a second straight American Athletic Conference championship. For those achievements, Fickell has been named the recipient of the 2021 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Fickell is a first-time winner of the Eddie Robinson Award in his second straight season as a finalist. He is Cincinnati’s first winner of the award as well and the second coach from the American Athletic Conference to win the honor. He was selected from voting by the entire FWAA membership from a record field of 12 other finalists from all 10 FBS conferences and independent programs. Then-head coach Brian Kelly was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award at Cincinnati in 2009.

The other finalists were Blake Anderson of Utah State, Dave Aranda of Baylor, Thomas Hammock of NIU, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan, Billy Napier of Louisiana, Pat Narduzzi of Pitt, Nick Saban of Alabama, Kalani Sitake of BYU, Kirby Smart of Georgia, Jeff Traylor of UTSA, Mel Tucker of Michigan State, and Kyle Whittingham of Utah.

Fickell will receive the iconic bust of the late Eddie Robinson, a College Football Hall of Fame coach at Grambling State University for 55 years and winner of 408 career games, at a Jan. 8, 2022, reception in Indianapolis prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Luke Fickell

Prior to that, Fickell’s No. 4 Bearcats will face top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 31 for a berth in the national championship game.

“On behalf of the Sugar Bowl Committee, I want to congratulate Luke Fickell on an outstanding season,” said Ralph Capitelli, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “His accomplishments speak for themselves – the only undefeated team in the country, a conference championship and Cincinnati’s first trip to the College Football Playoff. More importantly, he’s conducted himself with class and demonstrated great sportsmanship throughout his career. He’s truly deserving of an award named for Louisiana’s own Coach Robinson.”

“The Eddie Robinson Family congratulates Luke Fickell and the University of Cincinnati football program on their historic 2021 season, and especially for winning this year’s ‘Eddie’ Award,” said Eddie Robinson III, coach Eddie Robinson’s grandson.

In a season of anticipation to see if the Bearcats could duplicate their banner 2020 results, Fickell led Cincinnati to a 13-0 mark as it heads into the CFP Semifinals headlined by a win at No. 5 Notre Dame that cemented the Bearcats’ place among the national title contenders. Cincinnati then maintained that standard as one of only two teams that list in the Top 10 in the FBS in scoring offense (8th at 39.2 ppg) and scoring defense (t-4th at 16.1) which aided another undefeated run through the American Athletic Conference with 12 All-AAC first-team selections.

Fickell is in his fifth season at Cincinnati and won the AAC’s Coach of the Year this season for a third time within the last four years. He is 47-14 at Cincinnati, including a 43-6 mark since the start of the 2018 season. Only a final-seconds loss to Georgia in last season’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl kept Cincinnati from back-to-back undefeated seasons going into this year’s postseason.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award. To be mentioned with one of the all-time greats in Eddie Robinson, who did so much for this profession, is humbling,” Fickell said. “I got into coaching because of the impact my coaches had on me when I was growing up, and my goal is to have a positive impact on my players. Any awards we receive are a credit to the success of our team as a whole and the hard work put in by all of our student-athletes.”

“It’s quite fitting that Cincinnati’s historic season is decorated with an honor for the coach who guided them through it,” said FWAA president Heather Dinich, a senior writer for ESPN.com. “To finish with a perfect 13-0 record speaks volumes about the program, the buy-in, and the discipline it takes to get there – and it all starts at the top. Congratulations to Luke Fickell.”

Fickell has guided Cincinnati to the highest rankings in school history as well. UC has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls earlier this fall and its current No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings is the highest ever by a non-Power 5 school.

The Eddie Robinson Award is the second of two FWAA postseason honors won by Cincinnati this season. Standout cornerback Ahmad Gardner became Cincinnati’s first two-time FWAA All-American this season with only UC’s sixth all-time All-America honor. The AAC’s only other Eddie Robinson Award winner was UCF’s then-head coach Scott Frost in 2017.

The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. Beginning in 1997, the FWAA Coach of the Year Award has been named in honor of the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.

Robinson, who passed away in 2007, won 70.7 percent of his games during his illustrious career. Robinson’s teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships after joining the league in 1959. His Tigers won nine Black College Football Championships during his career spent all at the same school.

The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org and @NCFAA on Twitter to learn more about the association.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 99 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 19 Heisman Trophy winners in its 87-year history. The 88th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic is scheduled to be played on Jan. 1, 2022 between Baylor and Ole Miss. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.7 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit AllstateSugarBowl.org.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

2021 Eddie Robinson Award
• Thirteen finalists named for 2021 Eddie Robinson Award
• Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award | All-time winners

Utah Utes win 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. –The Utah Utes football team is the 20th annual recipient of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Utah won its first Pac-12 title in a season that has been defined by both tragedy and triumph, as the program has lost two of its players, Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, since the end of the 2020 season.

Both players wore the No. 22 jersey, which the program has retired. The message throughout the Utes has been to live the way Jordan and Lowe did, and to be 22 percent better every day.

Utah is the third team to be honored as the Courage Award winner, joining the 2005 Tulane and 2009 UConn teams.

“We always tell our guys that adversity will hit at some point, but what matters most is how we respond to it,” Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham said. “This team has been faced with more adversity than we ever thought possible, and watching our players overcome it and respond to it the way they have has been incredible. The level of unity and love this team has for one another is something special. They define courage and we are proud to coach them.”

In 2020, Jordan led all freshmen nationally in rushing yards per game (119.4) and was named the Pac-12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year. He tragically died on Dec. 26, 2020. Lowe, a good friend of Jordan’s who had attended West Mesquite High School in Texas with him, was given the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship ahead of this season. Lowe also changed his jersey number from No. 2 to No. 22.

Lowe played in 20 career games and became Utah’s backup nickelback this season. But he, too, lost his life on Sept. 26, 2021 — nine months to the day of his friend and teammate’s death. Utah has created the Aaron Lowe Memorial Scholarship in Lowe’s honor.

Utah retired the No. 22 jersey during an Oct. 30 game against UCLA, making it the first retired number in school history. On that same night, the program unveiled a video honoring Jordan and Lowe that now plays at Rice-Eccles Stadium between the third and fourth quarters. The video has come to affectionately be known as a “moment of loudness,” as Whittingham encourages fans to live the way Jordan and Lowe did.

The Utes had entered that Oct. 30 matchup against the Bruins at 4-3. They won that game, 44-24, to earn sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South. And they have not looked back since.

Utah has won six straight games and now sits at 10-3 overall and No. 11 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Two of those victories during this winning streak came in dominant fashion over a higher-ranked Oregon team — a 38-7 rout in Salt Lake City on Nov. 20, then a 38-10 victory in a rematch 13 days later in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas.

“Every year, we are privileged to help share the stories of so many remarkable people and programs throughout the college football season,” former FWAA President Matt Fortuna said. “Watching this year’s Utah team was particularly moving. The way the Utes have been able to push forward and find tremendous success on the field, while honoring Ty and Aaron every step of the way, shows that they have never lost sight of life’s bigger picture.”

Utah will close its season against No. 6 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, marking the Utes’ first appearance in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

“This is the 20th year that the FWAA has awarded the Courage Award, and it’s hard to think of a more appropriate representative than this year’s Utah team,” Fortuna said. “We would like to thank the Orange Bowl for their 17 years of sponsorship.”

Amid Utah’s confetti-filled celebration after winning the Pac-12 title, a member of the team’s traveling party placed a red “Pac-12 Champions” t-shirt on the 22 yard line at Allegiant Stadium, in honor of Jordan and Lowe.

Players spoke adamantly after the game about how much it meant to win the conference title for Jordan and Lowe.

The entire Utah football program has embodied what the Courage Award is all about,” Orange Bowl Committee President and Chair Jack Seiler said.“Through their tributes to their fallen brothers, and through their remarkable play on the field, the Utes have simply been inspiring to so many around college football. They have represented the very best of this great game. We are excited to honor them on December 31.”

The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. The winner of the award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.

Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award are Arkansas State analyst Alex Charlton (2020), Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson (2019), SUNY Cortland linebacker Kyle Richard (2018), Wisconsin safety D’Cota Dixon (2017), Pitt running back James Conner (2016), Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton (2015), Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. (2011), Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa’s Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy’s Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson’s Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis’ Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State’s Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo’s William Bratton (2002).

###

About Orange Bowl

Orange Bowl is a 380-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. With its primary mission since being created in 1935 to bring tourism to South Florida through an annual football game and events, it has also maintained a legacy of charitable contributions and community outreach. Orange Bowl community outreach efforts are comprised of four pillars through its Orange Bowl Cares program: Youth Sports, Education, Community Engagement and Legacy Programs. Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, 2021. For more information on the 2021 Orange Bowl events, including promotional inquiries and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to orangebowl.org or follow @OrangeBowl on social media.

About FWAA

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.