In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 6

Our weekly look In The Trenches is focused on Dallas, where Oklahoma and Texas wage their annual border state battle, this one for a early spot in the Big 12 driver’s seat. Four members of the preseason Outland Trophy Watch List will be on the field at the Cotton Bowl as the resurgent Longhorns will have their hands full with the Big 12’s most potent offense. Meanwhile, Auburn and Mississippi State will tussle in Starkville in a key SEC West battle.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches181006.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

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Notre Dame’s Tillery is Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week

Senior tackle leads impressive win over Stanford

DALLAS Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery continued his torment of opposing quarterbacks against Stanford, tying a school record with four sacks and flustering the Cardinal backfield in the Irish’s 38-17 win. For helping Notre Dame hold Stanford to just 31 total yards and three points in the second half, Tillery has earned the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Sept. 29, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.

The 6-6, 305-pound senior from Shreveport, La., has been a consistent force along the Irish defensive front. In addition to corralling four of Notre Dame’s five sacks, Tillery had six total tackles against Stanford, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries. Tillery, with 32 career starts, is on an impressive tear of late, in that 8.5 of his 12.5 career sacks have come in his last seven starts (five this season, two last year).

Tillery is tied for the national lead with 7.0 sacks through five starts in 2018, including a national-best 5.0 solo sacks. Tillery is fourth in yardage lost by way of sacks (minus-45 yards). The three-year letterman is also tied for 19th nationally with 7.5 tackles for loss on the season, costing opponents an additional 45 yards in losses. His three forced fumbles are also tied for the national lead.

Tillery’s four solo sacks against Stanford equaled the Notre Dame record accomplished most recently by Victor Abiamiri – also against Stanford – in 2005 and matched by Justin Tuck twice in games against Stanford in 2003 and Pitt in 2002.

Each Tuesday during the regular season, the FWAA has selected a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week since 2001. Tillery is on Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce five finalists for the 2018 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Wed., Nov. 14. The winner will be chosen from those five finalists who are part of the 2018 FWAA All-America Team.

The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the association’s entire membership, selects a 26-man All-America Team and eventually the Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists. The committee members then select the winner as the best defensive player in college football.

The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet, presented by ACN, will be held on Mon., Dec. 3 at the Charlotte Convention Center. In addition to the 2018 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner’s announcement, the banquet will also celebrate the recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by the Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery.

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 the most prestigious awards in college football. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

About the Football Writers Association of America:
Founded in 1941, the FWAA consists of 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

ABOUT THE CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB AND ITS SPONSORS
The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1991 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. Since 1991, the club has raised more than $2,000,000 to benefit area high school and collegiate athletics. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or jrocco@touchdownclub.com). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.

ACN, Inc.
Founded in 1993, ACN is the world’s largest direct seller of telecommunications, energy and essential services for residential and business customers. ACN provides the services people need and use every day including phone service, high-speed internet, wireless, television, security and automation, computer support, payment processing and natural gas and electricity. ACN operates in 25 countries with offices located throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. For more information, visit myacn.com. For information on ACN’s home-based business opportunity, visit acninc.com.

About Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery
Dr. Richard R. Rolle Jr. is a leading oral & maxillofacial surgeon, with strong ties to athletics and delivering excellence www.rolleoralfacialsurgery.com. Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery offers expertise in: dental implants, wisdom tooth extraction, youth-capturing, cosmetic injectables, oral surgery and cleft lip reconstruction in his Lake Norman, North Carolina practice. Dr. Rolle holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame where he played varsity football under legendary Coach Lou Holtz. He completed his oral surgery internship at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital and holds a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Meharry Medical College. Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery is the official surgeon for the Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Checkers and Charlotte 49ers.

2018 Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Players of the Week
• Weekend of Sept. 1: Tyler Horton, Boise State
• Weekend of Sept. 8: Nate Landman, Colorado
• Weekend of Sept. 15: Alvin Davis Jr., Akron
• Weekend of Sept. 22: Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington
• Weekend of Sept. 29: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

Related link:
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (All-Time Winners, Finalists and Players of the Week)

In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 5

Our weekly installment of In The Trenches takes a look at a pair of primetime battles that with likely have College Football Playoff implications. Ohio State travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State for early bragging rights in the Big Ten, while Notre Dame renews its rivalry at Stanford in another Top 10 matchup. Both games feature five players from the preseason Outland Trophy Watch List.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180929.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

Deadline approaches for 2018 Armed Forces Merit Award nominations

Fort Worth, Texas — The deadline for nominations for the 2018 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) is October 1.

Armed Forces Merit Award

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 has an impact within the realm of college football.”

With the 2018 recipient being announced the week of November 4, 2018, nominations for the 2018 Armed Forces Merit Award will be accepted through October 1 when a selection committee of five FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will review the list of candidates for the seventh 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 president Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times echoed Ringler’s sentiments along with adding that the group is “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 38 nominations considered for the 2017 award, Kansas State and its football team was announced last November as 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.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas was the initial recipient in 2012.  Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in 2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University.

Boyer (long snapper), McCoy (defensive lineman), Rodriquez (wide receiver) and Robertson (defensive back) served in the Army before playing collegiate football.  After his military service with the Marine Corp, Rhodes played four seasons at Middle Tennessee, including an appearance in the 2013 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl with the Blue Raiders.

In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 4

Our weekly installment of In The Trenches takes a look at a pair of key early-season conference matchups on opposite sides of the country. Clemson and Georgia Tech do battle in Atlanta in the afternoon, following by a telling Pac-12 matchup between Stanford and Oregon in Eugene in prime time. Both games feature notable Outland Trophy candidates and are likely decided by the ground game.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180922.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

Members: Nominate your daughter or son for the Volney Meece Scholarship

The FWAA is now accepting applications for the 22nd annual Volney Meece Scholarship.

For an application please contact Dave Sittler, 8314 S. Jamestown Ave, Tulsa, OK 74137. His email is davesitt@aol.com and his cell phone is 918-629-3851 (text).

Applications must be received by Dec. 15, 2018.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the FWAA and named for the late Volney Meece, who served 22 years as the FWAA’s Executive Director and was the organization’s President in 1971.

The $1,000 annual grant for four years is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member. Since the program started in 1997, the FWAA has distributed $83,000 in scholarship money to deserving children of FWAA members.

The winner will be announced at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast at the media hotel in conjunction with the College Football Playoff  National Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2019, in San Jose.

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.
2014 Robert Abramson Palos Verde, Calif.
2015 Danielle Hoover Tulsa, Okla.
2016 Dolen Helwagen Pataskala, Ohio
2017 Elizabeth Schroeder Norman, Okla.

In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 2

Our second installment of In The Trenches takes a look at key Outland Trophy matchups in college football this weekend. The spotlight is on Mississippi State at Kansas State and Wyoming at Missouri, a pair of under-the-radar games that pit Outland Trophy candidates against each other.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180908.pdf

Please follow our Outland Trophy endeavors on Twitter:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

In The Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 1

Our first installment of In The Trenches debuts with a look at key Outland Trophy matchups in college football each week. We start with Michigan at Notre Dame and Washington vs. Auburn in Atlanta. Both games feature four players on the preseason watch list and should be a great way to start the season for award watchers.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180831.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

Houston’s Ed Oliver will try to double-down on the 2018 Outland Trophy

By Gene Duffey

Special to the FWAA  

The University of Houston’s Ed Oliver grew up wanting to be first. So far, so good. He wasn’t the first born in his family, having to settle for being the third of four boys, but he couldn’t help that.

He wanted to be the first one remembered among the string of outstanding defensive linemen to come out of Westfield High School in Houston. Check. He wanted to be the first five-star recruit to play at the University of Houston. Check. He wanted to become the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy. Check.

“I was the first to do a lot of things,” he said. “I was the first recruit this high to come to Houston. I take pride in being the first sophomore to win the Outland. That’s an amazing accomplishment. I could have done it as a freshman. See, I’m kind of hard on myself.”

Ed Oliver’s value system is different from most. Good is never good enough. The best can still be better.

That is why he wants to be the best interior lineman in college football once again this fall. If he claims the 2018 Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Oliver will be only the second player to receive the award twice. Nebraska center Dave Rimington achieved the first double Outland Trophy haul in 1981 and 1982.

“I do things differently,” he said. “I have a different mindset. Sometimes I get down on myself. I just want to work out and get better. The more people tell me I’m good, the more I come down on myself. Nobody could be harder on myself than me.

Ed Oliver of the University of Houston is interviewed by ESPN’s Chris Fowler after receiving the 2017 Outland Trophy at the College Football Awards Show. Photo by Andy Crawford.

“Even though I might sugar coat it in front of people, it’s always in the back of my head what I did wrong. I could have done better on this play. When I watch film, I (look for) what I could have done better, not how good I am.”

Oliver began receiving extra attention from opposing offensive lines when he started on the varsity as a sophomore in high school. Double teams became a way of life.

He continued to prove himself worthy of the extra attention right away as a freshman in college. Oliver started the opening game of the 2016 season against No. 3 Oklahoma, made seven tackles, including two sacks, and helped the Cougars spring a 33-23 upset.

“The biggest thing that surprised me was how fast it happened,” said A.J. Blum, Houston’s defensive line coach who also coached Oliver in high school. “I knew he was capable.”

There was no need to redshirt Oliver. He began dominating from day one. The double teams returned early in the season. They didn’t bother Oliver, or stop him.

“If you keep your pad level low, you can beat them,” he said. “What makes it even sweeter is when you make a tackle out of a double team. It’s so much better. If you put one guy on me, that’s not fair. I’m ready to make a play look too easy.”

Blum, the defensive line coach at Houston, previously worked as Westfield’s defensive coordinator. “(Being double teamed) was inevitable for Ed,” Blum said of Oliver’s days in high school. “It’s just part of playing inside.”

Westfield played a 4-3 defense and the offense focused on Oliver no matter where he lined up. By his senior year he was ranked the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 2 player in the state of Texas.

The double teams followed him to college. “The bodies just get bigger,” he said.

He declared after his sophomore season at Houston, after winning the Outland Trophy, that he would be leaving college following his junior year to play in the NFL. The Cougars were grateful that the NFL doesn’t allow any “one and dones.”

“They’ll probably one-on-one block me in the NFL, because they’re professionals, mano-on-mano,” Oliver said with a smile. The prospect excited him.

Oliver’s exploits in high school received national attention. But he didn’t get carried away with all the attention in recruiting. He took only two official visits, to Houston and Oklahoma.

Naturally, Texas A&M and Texas wanted him. Baylor, too. So did Alabama and Notre Dame. And LSU and Mississippi.

“If I had gone (to visit) some place like LSU or Ole Miss, I would have been more tempted to go there,” said Oliver. “Once I made my decision, I wanted to be true to myself, so I decided to stay home.”

“Ed’s a different guy,” said Blum. “He didn’t want to do the whole (recruiting) process. He always had a cellphone, but it was broken.”

Oklahoma was the first college to offer Oliver a scholarship. Jerry Montgomery, the Sooners’ defensive line coach who went on to join the Green Bay Packers staff, saw Oliver in the spring of Oliver’s freshman year, before he had played a game of varsity football.

“It was something you couldn’t hide,” Blum said of Oliver’s talent. “He’s like a skilled player in a defensive lineman’s body.”

Oliver knew little of the Oklahoma tradition. Or Houston’s. He didn’t pay attention to college football. He liked to play football, not watch it on television.

Blum first spotted Oliver as a seventh grader, running around the gym, hanging on the basketball rim. Oliver played a little basketball and baseball outside of school, but football was always his game.

His father, Ed Sr., who went on to be a construction worker, had played running back at Northwestern State, a I-AA (now FCS) school in Natchitoches, La. His older brother Marcus also played football and Ed just followed along.

“I started because of my brother and I grew to love it,” he said. “Everybody wants to be like your brother. Marcus and me are almost like twins. I ended up playing with his friends, who were two years older than me. That may be why I’m so good now, playing against guys older than me. I was a big kid.”

Houston held a relative edge in recruiting Ed Oliver. Marcus was already at UH. Marcus played in every game on the offensive line as a true freshman and started seven games at offensive tackle as a sophomore. “You can be a big guy here,” Marcus told Ed.

Marcus was not the same caliber player as his younger brother coming out of Westfield. When Houston offered him a scholarship, it was a big deal. Two years later it made Ed’s decision easy.

“Probably the biggest factor was Marcus being here,” Oliver said of choosing Houston. “I trusted my brother. I figured I’d get my two years in here (while Marcus was still on the team), and if I don’t like it, leave. But I like it here.”

Ed and Marcus roomed together for one year in college. But Ed didn’t like the idea of going one-on-one against his older brother in practice. They had faced each other only once in practice in high school.

Marcus moved to guard for his junior year at Houston, which could have lined him up against Ed in practice.

“Marcus is pretty good,” said Ed. “I only beat him a couple of times. He beat me a handful of times. That’s a lot to say right there. He’s got really fast feet. I went to finesse him. He’s (our) most athletic guard.”

Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator of Ohio State’s 2014 national champions, parlayed that into becoming coach at Houston for the 2015 season. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record in his first season, even without Ed Oliver, climaxed by beating Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl.

Herman continued his success in the offseason by signing Oliver. Houston had built its football reputation by recruiting players that Texas, A&M and other Big 12 schools didn’t want. Texas tried to recruit quarterback Andre Ware, who won the 1989 Heisman Trophy at Houston, as a defensive back. Getting Ed Oliver was a big deal.

“When I got here coach Herman told me, ‘We’re going to put you and your brother together,’ ” Ed Oliver said of the practice schedule. “I said I would not do that. That’s my brother. I don’t want to go against my brother for your pleasure or the coaches’ pleasure. I felt like that was messed up. We did end up going against each other some. And I won. I don’t feel as strongly about it now, but it really upset me then.”

After a 9-4 record in Oliver’s freshman year, Herman bolted for Texas. Oliver felt a little betrayed. But the offer was too good for Herman to turn down.

“It did bother me, but my Dad talked to me,” said Oliver. “If a guy is making $30 on a job and someone offers him another job for $60, you would be a fool to stay. I understood what he said 100 percent. You can’t fault anyone for trying to better themselves. If I could stay at UH four years and leave after three, people will be mad at me, but they shouldn’t be.”

Houston didn’t hire A.J. Blum in an attempt to sign Ed Oliver. Blum joined Major Applewhite, Herman’s successor, a year after Ed Oliver arrived. The two had built chemistry during their days at Westfield.

“He’s shown me the ropes,” Oliver credited Blum. “Shown me what to do. I wouldn’t say he’s like a brother, or like a father, but like an uncle.”

Playing for Blum as a sophomore, Oliver only got better.

He made 69 tackles in 2017, including 14 ½ sacks, earning defensive player of the year honors in the American Athletic Conference, chosen by the league coaches. Winning the Outland was next in line.

Oklahoma junior offensive tackle Orlando Brown and Notre Dame senior guard Quenton Nelson were other finalists for the award.

“That was surprising, to be honest,” admitted Blum, not expecting a sophomore to win the Outland. “Those were his goals, to be nationally recognized. We have always talked (about him winning the Outland.) That’s the big dog for defensive linemen.”

At 6-2 and 290 pounds, he is not exceptionally large by today’s defensive line standards. What separates him?

“It’s his quickness and ability to react,” said Blum. “He’s like a wrecking ball out there that turns into a pinball. He can bounce off people and keep his feet.”

Oliver knew he might be special when people mistook him for a senior his freshman year of high school. Wearing a beard his sophomore year in college and with a baritone voice, he could easily pass for 25.

His easy going personality belies the intensity he displays on the field. “He’s a goofball,” said Blum, who gives no special treatment to his best player in practice.

Oliver requested to wear No. 94 at Westfield. But the coaches had something else in mind. They knew Oliver was special. They unretired No. 11 and presented it to Oliver.

A former linebacker named Herman Mitchell had worn No. 11 at Westfield. His junior year Mitchell helped Westfield to a 13-1 record and the regional semifinals. He committed to Oklahoma before his senior season. Then, Aug. 23, 2007, the day of a scrimmage, Mitchell was shot and killed at an apartment complex by a one-time friend.

Ed Oliver learned the legend of Herman Mitchell.

“I guess they felt I could fill the shoes,” said Oliver. “It was an honor. It’s ironic that I took a visit to Oklahoma. When they gave me 11, it gave me a purpose bigger than myself. Every day I competed like I wanted to be the best in the nation.”

Wearing No. 11 proved ideal for Oliver because he occasionally lined up as a fullback in Westfield’s goal line offense. He enjoyed that. No need to change jerseys for offense.

The Ed Oliver bobble-head created by UH to promote his candidacy for 2018 awards.

Wearing No. 10 at Houston made sense. But he didn’t carry the ball until the final game of his sophomore year. Oliver scored the first touchdown in Houston’s bowl game, a one-yard plunge in a 33-27 loss to Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Ed Oliver is kind of a Cougar cowboy. He loves to ride, go-karts, motorcycles, horses. He has three horses on his Dad’s farm in Marksville, La.

Before the 2018 season, Houston created a bobble-head as a promotion for Oliver. This one is rather unique: Ed is riding a horse named Oreo, who in real life was maybe the most stubborn horse that Ed had ever ridden since he was 8 years old. Oliver credits riding Oreo for one of the reasons he is the player he is today.

Oliver has promised not to go through the motions his junior year at Houston, even with the NFL awaiting. He played through five games in 2017 with a nagging knee injury, but still impressed enough to claim the Outland Trophy.

“There’s a lot to be accomplished, so you’ve got to watch me,” he said, speaking more like a guy trying to sell tickets than inflate his ego.

“I want to do everything I did, and be healthy the whole year. I want to show people what they missed last year if I hadn’t gotten hurt. They saw a glimpse of Ed Oliver, a sneak peek. I could go forward pretty fast, but couldn’t move side-to-side. That’s what took away from my game.

“I’m not on cruise control, but I am going to enjoy my time. Once I leave, I can’t come back. I can’t put on that red and white and step on that field. The first couple of months I’ll probably miss it and coach Blum’s voice.”

The Cougars will miss him more.

FWAA adds Shaun Alexander Freshman Player of the Year Award

DALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America is very pleased to announce a new college football award this season named after Shaun Alexander, former University of Alabama and Seattle Seahawks star running back.

The Shaun Alexander Freshman Player of the Year Award will be presented to the top player on the FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team who possesses many of the same attributes that Alexander displayed during his illustrious college and professional careers.

“The FWAA is very excited about this new award because of the person it represents,” said FWAA Executive Director  Steve Richardson. “It is very significant because Alexander also was an outstanding redshirt freshman for the Crimson Tide. His freshman season paved the way for future successes at Alabama and later in the NFL.  Shaun did it all with class, character and enthusiasm.”

Among other things, the recipient will be presented with a gold coin emblematic of this prestigious award.  The traits associated with the award are displayed on one side of the coin: “Ambassador, Legend, Faith, Passion, Talent, Focus, Character, Leader”.  On the other side of the coin, the phrases “Carry the Coin”  and “Finish the Game” are inscribed.

Alexander, a three-time Pro Bowl running back with the Seattle Seahawks, played for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 1996-1999.  He set a school record during his redshirt freshman season with 291 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the Tide’s 29-0 victory over LSU at Tiger Stadium. He finished his college career with 3,565 yards rushing (41 touchdowns),  798 receiving yards (eight touchdown receptions) and one kickoff return for a touchdown while at Alabama.

Alexander then continued his outstanding success in the NFL, rushing for 9,453 yards and scoring 112 total touchdowns, fifteenth most in NFL history.  In 2005, he led the league in rushing and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player.

“It is an honor to have my name associated with the Freshman Player of the Year Award, issued by an organization as well-respected as the Football Writers Association of America,” Alexander said.  “I remember what it felt like when I started playing college football, hoping that I’d excel when my number was called to make my parents, family, and community proud.  Today’s college freshmen are no different.  I wish them all well and hope that the future winners of this Award, those who demonstrate talent, character, and the desire to be great, will carry these traits with them throughout their careers, both on and off the field.”

The recipient of the award will be revealed by Alexander at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 7 in San Jose, California in conjunction with the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship Game in nearby Santa Clara.  The FWAA’s 18th annual Freshman All-America Team will also be announced at that time by FWAA Past President Mike Griffith, chairman of the team’s selection committee since its inception during the 2001 season.

“Shaun Alexander ranks as one of the most dynamic, compelling athletes I’ve covered over the course of my years in the profession,” said Griffith, now a writer for the Cox Media Group/ DawgNation. “The FWAA’s decision to add a Freshman Player of the Year Award in Shaun’s name is a fitting tribute for what he has represented on and off the field throughout his career, and the type of impact and character freshmen players should look to emulate.”

Griffith oversees a panel of  writers on the selection committee who are geographically balanced across the country. They represent all 10 FBS conferences and major independents.  True freshmen and redshirt freshmen are eligible for the team.  Shaun Alexander will be a member of the team’s selection committee.

About the Football Writers Association of America
Founded in 1941, the non-profit Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) consists of more than 1,300 members, including journalists, broadcasters, publicists and key executives in all areas of college football. Led by current President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times, longtime Executive Director Steve Richardson, and a board of veteran journalists, the association continues to grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. Visit footballwriters.com for more information about the FWAA and its award programs.