Conner and Haynes make Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Conner and Haynes make Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list

DALLAS – A pair of Rebels have been named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) announced Friday morning (July 8). Tony Conner <>  and Marquis Haynes <> , two leaders of the Ole Miss defense, found their names on the watch list for an award given to the National Defensive Player of the Year.

This is the second watch list featuring the Landshark duo this preseason. Conner and Haynes were named to Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List on Tuesday (July 5). Last season, they helped the Rebels rank in the top three among SEC teams in tackles for loss (8.1/game – 7th in NCAA), interceptions (15 – 23rd in NCAA) and takeaways (23 – 38th in NCAA).

Conner is back for his senior season, ready to lead the Ole Miss secondary. A three-year veteran at the hybrid Huskie position (a safety who has to cover passes and often lines up in the box, as well), Conner has the size (6-0, 225) and speed to create big problems for the opposing offense. After playing in every game during his first two years on campus, the Batesville, Mississippi, native was limited to five games last year due to injury. In 31 career games, Conner has racked up 152 tackles, including 18 tackles for loss. He is receiving preseason recognition for the fourth straight season, dating back to being a Freshman All-American in 2013.

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With 17.5 sacks over his first two seasons at Ole Miss, Haynes already ranks tied for fourth in school history. The Jacksonville, Florida, native made 10 sacks in 2015, cracking the top five in the conference and ranking 19th nationally. In fact, his 7.0 sacks against SEC opponents were tied for second-most in the league. Along with his sack total, Haynes recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and finished the season with 43 tackles. Three times throughout 2015, he was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week en route to second team All-SEC honors at the conclusion of the regular season.

The Ole Miss defenders helped the Southeastern Conference lead all conferences with 27 players on the list, followed by the Big Ten (13), Pac-12 (13), ACC (11), Big 12 (10), Mid-American (4), Mountain West (3), American Athletic (2), Conference USA (2), Sun Belt (1) and Independents (2).

Players may be added or removed from the watch list during the course of the season. Once again, the FWAA will announce a National Defensive Player of the Week from early September through mid-November. If not already on the watch list, the honored player will be added at that time. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce five finalists for the 2016 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Thurs., Nov. 17.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be chosen from those five finalists who are part of the 2016 FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the association’s entire membership, selects a 26-man All-America Team and eventually the Nagurski Trophy finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner, the best defensive player in college football.

The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet, presented by ACN, will be held on Mon., Dec. 5 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte. In addition to the 2016 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner’s announcement, the banquet will also celebrate the recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by the CTC and Florida East Coast Railway. Navy’s Chet Moeller, a member of the FWAA’s 1975 All-America Team and a College Football Hall of Famer, will be honored. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe will be the keynote speaker at the banquet.

The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.