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The 2011 One Foot Down Football Awards Banquet

Will the Voodoo Child pick up an award? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Will the Voodoo Child pick up an award? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty Images

This weekend the Notre Dame football team will hold its annual awards banquet handing out various awards to the players who work so hard as true student-athletes.

On campus Brian Kelly will hand out the usual suspects for awards, but at One Foot Down we like to take things a little further.

Take a seat at your table, enjoy the complimentary Old Milwaukee (your welcome), and enjoy the ceremonies.

Let's get right to the big awards...

The Johnny Lujack Award (Team MVP): Michael Floyd

Get an extra chair Mike, because you're going to need it for all the hardware you're going to pull down tonight. You were a great redemption story and a fierce senior leader this season. I'd argue that you're the best receiver in school history, but just go sit back down before I start crying.

The Jim Lynch Award (Defensive MVP): Robert Blanton

Pound for pound the toughest player on the defense and one who made an enormous impact on a handful of games. Your performance against Michigan State was one of the best games I've ever seen from an Irish corner. From the first game onward, Blanton was the most consistent defender playing at a high level.

Surprise winner for sure, but definitely well deserved.

The George Gipp Award (Offensive MVP): Michael Floyd

Should we just start throwing these plaques over to your table, Mike? We don't want to wear out your legs getting up and down so much to come get these honors. You're right, your legs don't get tired. Come here big fella!

The Mike Anello Award (Top Special Teams-Defense): Austin Collinsworth

It's almost 2012 but you'd think it's 1947 with how difficult it is to research special teams tackles. But I'm pretty sure Austin led the team in this category---and if he didn't he certainly led in impact tackles.

I believe Mike Mayock summed it up best when he said, "Ummm yeah, you might want to think about someone blocking this Collinsworth kid."

The Rocket Ismail Award (Special Teams-Offense): George Atkinson III

Anytime you start matching records with a player named Rocket, you're doing good things out there on special teams. Perhaps some day our memories will fade of the fair catch-fest in the punt return game, but it will take much longer to forget those kick return touchdowns against Michigan State and USC.

The Ross Browner Award (Top True Freshman): Aaron Lynch

The bar of expectations was set pretty high for this Floridian, and he nearly met all of them. 28 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 pass break ups, 1 forced fumble, and 13 quarterback hurries is one heck of a start at this level for a true freshman.

The Kraken was definitely released this year.

The Michael Floyd Award (Top Sophomore): Cierre Wood

It's been a while since Notre Dame fans could be this excited about a young running back. The doubters had some questions about your play coming into this season, and I think you answered many of them. A 1,000 yard season with a healthy 5.2 yards per carry is something to be proud of.

Please stay for two more years.

The Jimmy Clausen Award (Top Junior): Manti Te'o

We may never know how hurt you really were this year, but a hurt Te'o is worth starting every game. Your 115 tackles were down from your sophomore year, but 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks are damn impressive for a defense that doesn't blitz very often.

By the way, I just got back your NFL underclassman draft grade and for some reason it says early 6th round. Don't question it---use it for fuel in your senior year.

The Maurice Stovall Award (Top Break Out Senior): Jonas Gray

It's in the works that this award be re-named for this year's winner. Jonas Gray exploded on to the scene this year with one of the most productive senior seasons in school history. His injury still tugs at our hearts but there's some good news on the horizon that Gray might be able to work out for his Pro Day.

6.9 yards per carry with over 100 touches is just flat out awesome. This award was as big of a no-brainer as any tonight.

The Aaron Taylor Award (Top Offensive Linemen): Trevor Robinson

Out of all the linemen, the switch to a spread offense clearly affected you the most. After an up and down junior season, Robinson was able to turn things around and play at a very high level again.

As the most talented senior on the line you were tasked with calling out the protections and getting everything set up front---a very underrated yet crucial aspect of this offense. Here's hoping you find a home in the NFL!

The Tim Brown Award (Top Receiver): Michael Floyd

It's pretty simple: Floyd led the wideouts in receptions (setting a single season school record with 95), yards, and touchdowns. Factor in his blocking and extra efforts---like turning into the Road Runner to make a tackle off an interception against Stanford---and you have a receiver that future classes of Irish players should always look up to.

The Ken MacAfee Award (Top Tight End): Tyler Eifert

What a season for a tight end! Eifert finished the regular season with a school-record 57 receptions, 713 yards, and 5 scores. Just imagine what you could have done with improved quarterback play and the offense running at full power.

Ah, Floyd's over there shaking his head---we know, man. Anyway, it wasn't too long ago that Eifert was a middle-of-the-road recruit with a possible career ending back problem. Now, look at you getting all this NFL attention. Terrific season Tyler---top notch.

The Jerome Bettis Award (Top Running Back): Jonas Gray

Not to take anything away from Cierre Wood who had one heck of a season this year, but Jonas Gray just completed perhaps the finest season from a running back at Notre Dame over the past 15 years. If you wish to debate this topic after the show I'll be backstage ready to prove you wrong with Burger demonstrating runs by Gray on an iPad.

Fun fact: Gray ran for 4 more touchdowns in 2011 than Armando Allen did during his entire career. That says a lot of things, but one of them is that Gray just finished a fabulous season.

The Frank Carideo Award (Top Quarterback): Tommy Rees

Many didn't think you'd be the starting quarterback, and although you had your ups and downs this season, there were some fine moments to be proud of.

Gunning balls all over the field against USF, the beautiful touchdown against Michigan State, and the quick strike to start off the Purdue game will all be fondly remembered. Now go get mentally prepared for Florida State---we're going to need you to be on your game.

The Leon Hart Award (Top Defensive Linemen): Louis Nix

We had some injuries to upperclassmen on the defensive line, but Louis Nix deserves this award as much as anyone. There were concerns about his endurance or if he'd even be a starter as a redshirt freshman, but Big Lou just laughed all that junk out of the stadium and put the nose guard position on lock down.

With 42 tackles and 4 tackles for loss in his first season of play, Nix is well on his way to becoming a dominant interior lineman.

The Michael Stonebreaker Award (Top Linebacker): Manti Te'o

Te'o had some competition from Darius Fleming, but this was sort of a runaway victory.

We can only hope Te'o comes back to win this award again next year.




The Luther Bradley Award (Top Defensive Back): Harrison Smith/Robert Blanton

Our first and only co-winners of the evening. Blanton was the team defensive MVP from his corner spot and Hayseed picks up this award for his leadership and commendable play during his senior season at safety.

Perhaps neither player was an All-American this year, but both will leave enormous holes to fill at their positions.

The Ricky Watters Award (Player Who Exhibits the Most Swag): Cierre Wood

He's sometimes brash yet confident. He'll talk a little trash, but back it up with game. And if you do happen to knock him down, it ain't nothing but some dirt on his shoulder.

Yes, Cierre Wood brings that Cali swag to the Fighting Irish and it's much needed. The team will be getting a double dose injection pretty soon with the arrivals of freshmen Deontay Greenberry and Tee Shepard.

The Brady Quinn Award (Player Who Looks the Best in Uniform): Michael Floyd

No mouth guard or knee pads---no problem. Tiny little thigh pads that are barely noticeable---that's what leg muscles are for.

Your best bet to win this award is to be tall and be all ripped up like Rambo, and that's what Floyd has been like since he first stepped on campus. The kid just looks good in a Notre Dame uniform.

The Tom Gatewood Award (Player with the Best Hair): Tyler Eifert

TJ Jones and Dan Fox might be disappointed not to win this award, but neither of them can match the locks of Tyler Eifert. Sorry guys, there's just something of badassery nature to a tight end rocking the longer hair.

The Arnaz Battle Award (Top Play of the Season): C. Wood hurdling Purdue's Ricardo Allen

Because any time you can hurdle a player and you make him clap at nothing but air---you deserve an award of some kind.

The Julius Jones Award (Top Individual Performance in a Single Game): R. Blanton vs. Michigan State

6 tackles, half of which were made with linebacker power, plus 3 tackles for loss, 3 pass break ups, 1 sack, and a game-clinching interception taken back the other way for 82 yards.

Need we say more?

The Jeff Samardzija Award (Top Touchdown of the Season): J. Gray vs. Pittsburgh

In the middle of a sluggish performance by the Irish, Jonas Gray broke off a run that immediately swung the game in Notre Dame's favor.

The 79-yard score was the longest on the ground in far too many years and will be looked upon fondly for many more to come.

The Alan Page Award (Top Scholar-Athlete): Deion Walker

It's tough to come to Notre Dame as a top 20 receiver prospect in the Weis/Kelly era and end your career with one catch. I'm not even sure how that's possible, but give Walker credit for sticking it out and working hard in school.

May his post-college life be more successful than it was on the field for the Irish.

The John Huarte Award (Most Likely to Succeed): Brandon Newman

If it wasn't for "Trick Shot Monday" and "Our Team, Our Story" we wouldn't even know some of the players on the roster. Newman is a good example of this as a host for the latter internet program and highly visible in the former.

Newman is well-spoken and seems like he's got his stuff together in life. I bet he ends up becoming wildly successful in whatever endeavors he pursues after college.

The Frank Leahy Award (Senior Most Likely to Coach): Carlo Calabrese

Carlo will someday become a coach because he's a linebacker and that's always a good position to learn all the intricacies of football, he looks like someone who would make a living coaching, and his last name has a nice ring to it---Coach Calabrese.

You can bet Calabrese will be the head coach of a New Jersey high school team within 15 years.

That's it for the awards banquet. Let's hit the after party guys.