Kentucky safety Mike Edwards and Louisville defensive back Jaire Alexander earned spots on the 2017 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list highlighting the nation’s top 45 defensive backs, it was announced Friday.
The award is given annually to the best defensive back in college football based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character.
Edwards, a junior from Cincinnati, led all Southeastern Conference defensive backs in tackles in 2016 with 100 and was one of just six players overall in the SEC with 100 or more tackles on the season. He ranked second on the team and seventh overall in the SEC in tackles per game (7.7) and tied for 10th in the conference in total passes defended (11). He was a second-team Associated Press All-SEC selection, and was a third-team pick by Athlon and Phil Steele.
Edwards had two interceptions of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in Kentucky’s win over No. 11 Louisville in 2016, earning him SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
Louisville’s Alexander, a junior from Charlotte, N.C., earned second team all-ACC accolades in 2016 and led the team with five interceptions, two of them in a career game versus nationally ranked Clemson. He also forced a Tigers fumble. He was also nominated for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Thursday, which honors the nation’s top defensive player.
The Thorpe Award was established in 1986 and is named after history’s greatest all-around athlete, Jim Thorpe. Thorpe excelled not only as a running back, passer, and kicker on the offensive side of the ball; but also stood out as a defensive back. In addition to his legendary performance on the football field, Thorpe played professional baseball and won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon.
The Thorpe Award winner is selected from three finalists and will be announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards Dec. 7 on ESPN.
College football award watch lists