December 10, 2009

Awards notebook: McCoy takes top honors

MORE: Heisman hopeful Suh cleans up on awards night

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - His subpar performance in the Big 12 championship game last week cost Texas quarterback Colt McCoy his status as the Heisman Trophy front-runner.

But even if he doesn't win college football's most prestigious individual honor Saturday, McCoy will return home with a few impressive consolation prizes.

McCoy received the Maxwell Award as the nation's top overall player and the Davey O'Brien Award as college football's top quarterback Thursday at the College Football Awards ceremony at Disney's BoardWalk. He also was named the Walter Camp national player of the year.

"I'm very thankful and very honored," McCoy said. "It's been a fun night."

Although both awards are given to the nation's most outstanding player, the Maxwell recently hasn't served as an accurate Heisman Trophy indicator. Tim Tebow won both awards in 2007, but that represents the only time in the past nine years that the Maxwell recipient has gone on to win the Heisman.

"Who knows?" McCoy said. "All these awards are voted on by different groups of people. I'm honored to be able to go back to [the] Heisman [ceremony]. These awards tonight were obviously very special. It's a tribute to my teammates, my coaches and my family."

TATE LIKES NOTRE DAME'S CHOICE

Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate doesn't know Brian Kelly personally, but he has heard enough about him to believe Notre Dame made a solid choice in hiring the former Cincinnati coach.

"I don't know very much about him, but I know that he's been winning over at Cincinnati and has a great program," said Tate, who won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's most outstanding receiver. "He seems to be a guy of high character, so I'm very excited for him. He's good for the Irish."

As much as he liked the hire, Tate said the move was unlikely to change his mind about entering the NFL draft. Tate caught 93 passes for 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns in his junior season.

"As of now, I'm pretty set on leaving," Tate said.

Tate was asked what Notre Dame needed to turn things around. The Irish went 16-21 during Tate's three-year career.

"I have no clue," Tate said. "If I had that, I'd be applying for the job. If we just keep doing what we're doing, sooner or later we'll turn it around."

BEAUTIFUL DAY

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart's celebration Thursday started several hours before he won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.

Gerhart has taken an astounding 21 credit hours this fall and was completing his final exams even as he flew to the awards show. As soon as he finished his archaeology exam Thursday to complete his coursework for the semester, Gerhart felt a huge weight get lifted from his shoulders.

Everything that happened the rest of the day was a bonus.

"I turned that in this morning and went over to Disney World, hung out for a little bit and walked around," Gerhart said. "Then I get ready for this, walk down the red carpet. It's like a dream come true, a perfect day."

One of the other finalists for the Doak Walker Award was Alabama's Mark Ingram, one of Gerhart's main competitors for the Heisman.

"Mark's a great player," Gerhart said. "My friends update me all the time on all the different polls that are out. It's really close. It's going to be exciting. We'll see what happens."

BERRY GOOD SEASON

Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry didn't make as many plays as he delivered last season, but his team won two more games. Berry was more than willing to make that trade.

"I just felt like a lot of people just weren't throwing my way or giving me opportunities just because of what had happened in the past," said Berry, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. "If that's helping out my team, I can deal with that all the time, if it's helping get us wins.

"The season in general was a good start. I think we laid a foundation for Tennessee football for the years to come. I feel like that's a big deal."

Only time will tell whether Berry continues to be part of that foundation. Berry, a projected first-round pick, hasn't indicated whether he will stay in school for his senior season and said he wouldn't make an announcement until he speaks to Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.

"I'll probably do that after all the award shows and after everything settles down," said Berry, whose two interceptions this season increased his career total to 14. "When I get back and I talk to him, I'll know what I'm doing."

ALMOST PERFECT

UCLA's Kai Forbath went 26-of-29 on field-goal attempts and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker, but he still fell short of at least one goal.

He wanted to be perfect.

"My goals for this season were to be perfect," Forbath said, "and I obviously wasn't."

He almost was. Forbath has made 35 consecutive field goal attempts from 50 yards or closer. All three of his misses were from at least 51 yards.

Even though each of his misses was from long range, Forbath still believed he should have made every one. No matter how long the attempt, Forbath goes into every kick expecting to make it.

"You have to [think that way],'' Forbath said. "Confidence is the biggest thing. If you're not confident going into a kick, you're probably going to miss it."

CONTINUING A FAMILY TRADITION

The pressure of living up to his family name never caused Georgia punter Drew Butler to hesitate about his decision to attend his father's alma mater.

Butler's father, Kevin, starred at Georgia in the early 1980s and is considered one of the top college kickers of all time. He later kicked in the NFL for the Chicago Bears.

"I knew I was going to be a punter," Butler said. "My dad was a great kicker. I could kind of write my own legacy, I guess."

He certainly has done that.

In his first year as Georgia's main punter, Butler led the nation with an average of 45.8 yards per attempt while also helping the Bulldogs rank first in the nation in net punting. That achievement helped make Butler the winner of the Ray Guy Award as college football's top punter.

What made Butler decide to specialize in punting instead of kicking?

"I did do both in high school," Butler said. "It was just a more natural ability. I guess college coaches saw me as a punter at the next level. When I heard that, I realized that was going to be my future, and I just stuck to punting.''

TEBOW'S SPECIAL GUEST

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow didn't win any trophies Thursday, but the Davey O'Brien Award and Maxwell Award nominee helped make a young woman's dream come true.

Tebow walked along the red carpet with Kelly Faughnan, a 20-year-old cancer survivor from Clifton, Va. Faughnan was diagnosed with a brain tumor last November, had surgery Dec. 15 and returned home on Christmas Eve, said her father, Jim Faughnan.

Faughnan asked on the morning of her surgery whether her family could go to Disney World this December to see Tebow at the College Football Awards Show. Faughnan was wearing an "I Love Timmy" button at a banquet for the award finalists Wednesday at Disney's BoardWalk when an ESPN producer introduced her to Tebow.

Tebow spoke with Faughnan for at least a half-hour before asking if she wanted to walk the red carpet with him the following night.

"Kelly cannot believe she not only got to see Tim, but she got to meet him and that he spent so much time with her," Jim Faughnan said in an e-mail. "He truly is making a great impact on many people's lives."

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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