Three University of Louisville football players were tabbed to a pair of the nation’s top player of the year award watch lists, the Maxwell Football Club announced Monday.
Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was selected as a candidate for the Maxwell Award, given to the College Player of the Year, while junior safety Calvin Pryor and senior safety Hakeem Smith were chosen to the Bednarik Award watch list.
Bridgewater, widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, is poised to lead a Cardinals’ offense that returns seven starters and averaged over 30 points a game last year. In guiding the Cardinals to an 11-2 record last year and a Sugar Bowl win over fourth-ranked Florida, Bridgewater, who was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player and the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, threw for a career-best 3,718 yards and 27 touchdown last season.
Starting 11 games, the Miami, Fla., native completed 68.5 percent of his throws and tossed just eight interceptions en route to being named first team All-BIG EAST Conference and an honorable mention All-American.
A two-year starter at safety, Pryor has emerged as one of the top safeties in the country. A second team All-BIG EAST award winner last season, Pryor was second on the Cardinals in tackles with a career-high 100 in 13 starts. He forced a team-best five fumbles, which ranked seventh nationally, and recorded seven games with eight or more tackles, including a career-high 11 in a triple-overtime loss to Connecticut.
One of the more decorated players on the team, Smith is vying to become just the second Louisville football player to garner all-conference honors for four-straight seasons. A second-team honoree last season, Smith finished third on the squad with 73 tackles, but has been a mainstay in the secondary with 38 career starts and owns a string of 37 straight.
The Maxwell Award, named in honor of Robert W. "Tiny" Maxwell, has been given to America's College Player of the Year since 1937. Maxwell's contributions to the game of football were extensive, including as a player, a sportswriter and an official. The Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995. Chuck Bednarik, former standout at Penn and with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame's Class of '69 and the NFL Hall of Fame's Class of '67.
The watch lists will once again incorporate a broad spectrum of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs and conferences from coast to coast. Returning Maxwell Award semifinalists from 2012 include Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, USC WR Marqise Lee, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, Alabama QB AJ McCarron, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller and Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas. The list also showcases six defensive players, and for the first time in Award history three offensive linemen, Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews and Stanford OG David Yankey. Defending National Champion Alabama is the most represented program, with RB T.J. Yeldon, WR Amari Cooper and LB C.J. Mosley joining McCarron.
The Bednarik Award watch list features three of last season's semifinalists as well, Mosley, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney and Arizona State DT Will Sutton. All three are included on the Maxwell Award watch list as well. Despite losing LB Manti Te'o to graduation, Notre Dame places four players on the watch list, one more than Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Stanford, which are all represented by three players.
Last season, Te'o made history by becoming the first player to win the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award in the same year. The last defensive player to win the Maxwell Award was Pittsburgh DE Hugh Green in 1980. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Te'o was selected in the second round by the San Diego Chargers, and is expected to start as a rookie.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced Oct. 29, while the three finalists for each award will be unveiled Nov. 25th. The winners of the 2013 Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show held in Dec. 12th. The formal presentations of these awards will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Harrah's Entertainment Atlantic City on March 7, 2014.
The watch list candidates have been chosen by the Maxwell Football Club's selection committee, which analyzes both past performance and future potential. The Club reserves the right to make additions and deletions to these lists as the 2013 season unfolds. All members of the Maxwell Football Club, NCAA sports information directors, FBS head coaches and selected national media are eligible to vote for the awards.