DALLAS, Tex. (WCBI/Ole Miss Athletics) – Ole Miss rising sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche has been named to the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, announced Thursday by the Football Writers Association of America.
Nkemdiche is one of 81 players on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the national defensive player of the year by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Every NCAA Division I Bowl Subdivision conference and several independents are represented on the list that is evenly divided among linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
A native of Loganville, Ga., Nkemdiche led Ole Miss with 82 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions as a redshirt-freshman last season. He earned Freshman All-America distinction, All-SEC second team and SEC All-Freshman accolades. He has been tabbed preseason All-SEC and All-America this year by several magazines and websites that make early prognostications.
Nkemdiche is the fourth Rebel to be named to a national award watch list this preseason, joining Bo Wallace (Maxwell Award), Evan Swindall (Rimington Trophy) and D.T. Shackelford (Lott IMPACT Trophy).
The Southeastern Conference led all leagues with 16 players on the watch list, headlined by South Carolina junior end Jadeveon Clowney, the lone returning finalist from last season.
Players may be added or removed from the watch list during the course of the season. Once again, the FWAA will choose a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week each Tuesday throughout the season. If not already on the watch list, the honored player will be added at that time. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce five finalists for the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Nov. 21.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be chosen from those five finalists who are part of the 2013 FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the association’s entire membership, selects the 25-man All-America Team and eventually the Nagurski finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner, the best defensive player in America.
The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet will be held on Dec. 9 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte. In addition to the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner announcement, the banquet will also celebrate the recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by the CTC and Florida East Coast Railway. Georgia Tech’s Randy Rhino, a member of the FWAA’s 1972 All-America team, will be honored. Florida head coach Will Muschamp will be the keynote speaker at the banquet.
The FWAA has named 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.