On Thursday night, senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
Dennard, who led the team with 14 passes defended, 10 pass break-ups and four interceptions, is the first Spartan to win the award.
“Our team, we had a great defense this year,” Dennard said on the College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. “I couldn’t have won this award without my teammates and the coaching staff. I think we all just did a great job.”
According to ESPN Stats and Info, MSU’s opponents went 3-31 on throws of 15-plus yards to receivers covered by Dennard.
MSU head coach Mark Dantonio and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi were shown applauding as Dennard accepted the award.
Earlier this week, Narduzzi won the Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant coach. Narduzzi also won Athlon Sports’ Coordinator of the Year Award.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler asked Dennard what it meant to be playing in the 100th Rose Bowl and first for the Spartans since 1988.
“It means everything, not just for me, just the team,” Dennard said. “Also Spartan Nation. Just to put Michigan State back up where we’re supposed to be. The team believed we’re an elite program. Now we’re getting respect and it’s going to continue to be like that.”
Earlier in the day, Dennard was named first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, chosen by NCAA Football Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors.
“Darqueze Dennard is a complete corner,” MSU head coach Dantonio told msuspartans.com after the Walter Camp announcement. “He’s an extremely competitive and gifted athlete. Darqueze has great ball skills, outstanding tackling ability, remarkable change of direction and plays the deep very well. He really has been a cornerstone of our defense for the last three years.”
Dennard’s teammate, sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun, earned second-team Walter Camp honors.
“Shilique Calhoun had a breakout year from his defensive end position,” Dantonio told msuspartans.com. “He’s a high-motor guy, who has the knack for making big plays. Shilique has played at a consistently high level all year, not only pressuring the quarterback but playing versus the run as well.”
Calhoun leads the Spartans with 7.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hurries, and 32 quarterback hits.
USA Today also named Dennard to their first-team All-America Team and Calhoun to the second team.
Dennard also won the Jack Tatum Award, given to the best defensive back in college football by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, and the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year award. He was named first-team All-Big Ten for the second straight season. CBSSports.com named Dennard the No. 3 defensive player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.