Two University of Louisville football players were named to the 2015 Bronko Nagurski Award preseason watch list, announced Friday by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). The award is presented annually to the national defensive player of the year in college football.
The two Cardinals on the list are senior defensive end Sheldon Rankins and senior linebacker James Burgess. Safety Gerod Holliman was a finalist last season for the Cardinals, while former Cardinals’ defensive end and current Baltimore Ravens’ outside linebacker won the award in 2006.
Rankins was named third team all-ACC last season in helping the Cardinals rank in the top 10 nationally against the run and in total defense. He posted a career-best 13.5 tackles for loss and a team-high 8.0 quarterback sacks. A starter in 13 games in 2014, Rankins totaled eight tackles and a sack in a win at FIU, and also totaled his first career interceptions in wins over Wake Forest and Boston College.
A native of Homestea, Fla., Burgess has been a two-year starter for the Cardinals, totaling 71 tackles in each of those seasons. As a junior last season, Burgess was third on the team in tackles, recording a career-best 11 in a 23-17 loss at Clemson and 10 in the Belk Bowl defeat versus Georgia. He also registered 4.0 sacks and a career-best three interceptions. The Homestead High product has six career interceptions from his linebacker position, including two during his freshman season.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be chosen from those five finalists who are part of the 2014 FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the association’s entire membership, selects the 26-man All-America Team and eventually the Nagurski finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner, the best defensive player in college football during the FWAA’s 75th anniversary year.
The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet, presented by ACN, will be held on Dec. 7 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte. 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.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. The 22 awards boast more than 700 years of tradition-selection excellence. Visit www.NCFAA.org to learn more.