Nov. 16, 2006
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FWAA) – Five finalists for the 2006 Bronko Nagurski Trophy were announced on Thursday by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
Vying for the honor of college football’s best defensive player are Clemson’s Gaines Adams, Michigan’s Leon Hall, Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis, Florida’s Reggie Nelson and Mississippi’s Patrick Willis.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 4 and presented the Bronko Nagurski Trophy at a gala banquet at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, the award’s only two-time winner, will give the keynote address.
Only one of the schools represented has had a previous Nagurski winner – Michigan. Charles Woodson won the award in 1997, the same year he became the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy.
Adams, a 6-5, 260-pound senior end from Greenwood, S.C., has 35 unassisted and 16 assisted tackles. He has 14.5 tackles for 91 yards in losses, broken up four passes, caused two fumbles and recovered three fumbles, returning one for a touchdown.
Hall is this year’s version of Woodson. The 5-11, 195- pound senior cornerback from Vista, Calif., has 35 tackles, 27 unassisted for the unbeaten Wolverines. He had two tackles for eight yards in losses. He has made three interceptions, broken up 15 passes and recovered two fumbles.
Laurinaitis, a 6-3, 231-pound sophomore linebacker from Hamel, Minn., will spearhead the Buckeyes’ defense in their showdown with Michigan on Saturday. He plays more like a defensive back at times, with five interceptions. But he still leads the Buckeyes in tackles with 91, including a career best of 13 against defending national champion Texas. He has 8.5 tackles for loss and has forced three fumbles.
Nelson, a 6-1, 195-pound junior strong safety from Melbourne, Fla., has 26 unassisted tackles and 14 assisted. He is considered one of the hardest hitters on the Florida team. He has four interceptions this season and returned one of those 70 yards for a touchdown against Alabama. He intercepted passes vs. Tennessee on the first and last play of the game.
Willis, a 6-2, 240-pound senior linebacker from Bruceton, Tenn., leads the Southeastern Conference with 11.2 tackles a game. He has failed to reach double-digits in tackles only once this season and has 6.5 tackles for loss. He has broken up six passes, recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.
Bronko Nagurski, in his day, was a massive 6-2, 225- pound physical specimen who dominated college football at Minnesota as a bruising fullback and tackle from 1927 through 1929. He could have been an All- America at any position, playing 60 minutes and was the best player on the field wherever he lined up.
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