Senior cornerback for Michigan State’s football team, Darqueze Dennard has been named the winner of the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award. The award is awarded annually since 1986 to the nation’s top defensive back. Dennard is the first Spartan to receive the award.
The All-American Dennard has helped lead the Spartans to a 12-1 season and their first Big Ten Championship game win and first bid to the Rose Bowl in 26 years. He led the team with interceptions (4), passes defended (14), and pass break-ups (10).
In addition to winning the Thorpe Award, Dennard found his name on many other awards watch-lists. He was one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is presented to the nation’s top defensive players.
Along with the national recognition, the senior was the recipient of the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row. A unanimous first-team pick by the coaches, Dennard recently was ranked the No. 3 defensive player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision by CBSSports.com.
The cornerback was an important part of the Spartan defense, which was ranked the best in the nation for the duration of the regular season, and ranked highly in multiple defensive categories including rushing defense (first at 80.8 yards per game), total defense (first at 248.2 ypg.), opponent third-down conversions (first at .277; 53-of-191), passing efficiency defense (second with 91.5 rating), scoring defense (fourth at 12.7 points per game), turnover margin (seventh at +1.1 per game) and passing defense (sixth at 167.4 ypg).
"Darqueze Dennard is a complete corner," head coach Dantonio said. "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."
"I'm awfully proud of the way Darqueze Dennard has played not only this season but throughout his entire career," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "He is coached by the best defensive backs coach in the country, in Harlon Barnett, and without a doubt, Darqueze has turned out to be the best defensive back in the country. The best way to describe him is fast, physical and smart. Plus, he has the ability to make big, game-changing plays."
The three year starter has totaled 164 tackles, 30 passes defended, 20 break-ups, 10 interceptions in 43 total career games, 39 of which he started in.
Spartan fans will have one more chance to see Dennard in the green and white as the Spartans will travel to Pasadena to face Stanford University in the Rose Bowl on January 1st.
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