Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

December 13, 2013

Winston, McCarron headline NCAA awards night

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jameis Winston walked away with another major award Thursday night, the latest national prize to put on his mantle.

He might want to save a spot for the Heisman Trophy.

The Florida State star headlined a big night for the Atlantic Coast Conference, winning the Davey O’Brien Award as the country’s top quarterback at the annual College Football Awards Show at Disney.

Winston also won the Walter Camp player of the year award in a separate announcement.

The redshirt freshman, who led the top-ranked Seminoles to a 13-0 record and a berth in the BCS national championship game against Auburn next month, said he continues to be humbled by every accolade he’s received in recent weeks.

“It feels good. It’s an honor just to be here,” Winston said. “I’m just glad to bring them back to Florida State.”

Winston hopes to become the fourth O’Brien Award winner in a row to take home the Heisman in the same year. He would join current NFL quarterbacks Cam Newton (2010) and Robert Griffin III (2011), as well as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel in 2012.

Now that a sexual assault complaint against him in Tallahassee, Fla., has been closed without charges being filed, Winston is the overwhelming favorite to win college football’s highest honor Saturday night in New York.

Several players shared the hardware Thursday, though.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron won the Maxwell Award for player of the year, and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald took home two big prizes: the Chuck Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year and the Outland Trophy as most outstanding interior lineman.

The ACC led all conferences with four winners out of the nine awards that were presented - two for Donald, one for Winston, and the Doak Walker Award that went to Andre Williams of Boston College as the nation’s best running back.

Williams joins Winston, McCarron and Manziel among the six Heisman finalists.

Williams became the first Doak Walker winner from his school and from the ACC. He is also the sixth 2,000-yard rusher to claim the honor.

The Eagles’ senior actually missed graduation night Thursday to be at the announcement. When he mentioned that on stage, he received an ovation from the audience.

“It’s great. It feels like I was being honored as an athlete and a student at the same time,” he said. “That’s supposed to be the mission, so it felt great.”

Though he said this week that he believed he had a season deserving of his Heisman nomination, McCarron, a fifth-year senior with three national championship rings at Alabama, looked visibly taken aback when his name was called for the Maxwell Award.

“Super surprised,” McCarron said. “I don’t think I’m the best player out of those other two guys that were mentioned. But I can’t thank them enough. It’s an honor to be here.”

McCarron was sometimes overlooked despite leading Alabama to an 11-1 season that left the Crimson Tide just short of a chance to play for its third straight national championship. He threw for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns with five interceptions this season.

Now, he prepares to make his first trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony, and McCarron said his game plan is simple.

“I’m just going to enjoy the moment and live in the moment,” he said.

Donald became the first defensive lineman to win the Bednarik Award since Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh in 2009.

“Just to see all that hard work I put into football, it’s paying off today,” Donald said. “It’s exciting to bring it back to the defensive side. But at the same time there’s a lot of talented offensive linemen, so I’m just honored to be able to take a turn.”

The two awards capped a big week for Donald, who also took home the Bronko Nagurski award this week as the best defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award given annually to the nation’s top college lineman.

Other award winners Thursday were Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard (Jim Thorpe Award for top defensive back), Oregon State junior receiver Brandin Cooks (Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver), and Memphis senior Tom Hornsey (Ray Guy Award for top punter).

Winston wasn’t the only Florida State player to be honored. Seminoles freshman Roberto Aguayo won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best place kicker.

Winston stood and applauded as Aguayo walked up to accept the trophy. Winston said no matter what happens at the Heisman ceremony Saturday, moments like that are what he is savoring most right now.

“That’s just how I am. I love my teammates,” Winston said. “And I think they deserve that type of applause because they’ve had an excellent season. And it’s not over yet.”

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