CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Clemson end Da'Quan Bowers claimed the 2010 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which annually is awarded to the best defensive player in college football.
Bowers became the 18th winner of the award as voted upon by the Football Writers Association of America. He received the award on Monday night at a banquet at the Westin Hotel that is sponsored by the Charlotte Touchdown Club. The four other finalists were Auburn tackle Nick Fairley, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Bowers is the first Clemson player to be named a finalist for the Nagurski Award since the late Gaines Adams in 2006 when Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis claimed the trophy. Bowers wears the same No. 93 that Adams wore at Clemson. The two players were close friends until Adams, who played for the Chicago Bears, sudden death last January in South Carolina.
Bowers broke Adams' Clemson school record for sacks by a defensive lineman this season week when he had a sack at Florida State late in the season. He also broke Adams' record for consecutive games with a sack, with nine straight in 2010.
Bowers' father, Dennis, passed away in the summer before the season. The two had bonded during the summer playing in a rock band on the road.
"I have dedicated this year to my dad," Bowers said during the season. “We had many talks on the road this past summer about being in the best shape to improve my quickness and doing all the little things to have a great season in 2010."
Bowers, a 6-4, 275-pound junior from Bamberg, S.C., is a big-play pass rusher who led the nation in quarterback sacks with 15.5 (1.29 a game). He was second in the country in tackles for loss with 24.5 (151 yards). He had nine tackles, one quarterback sack, two tackles for loss and a pass interception in the Tigers' 16-13 loss to Florida State.
“This is a great honor for Da’Quan,” said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney, who was the keynote speaker for the banquet. “He has had a terrific year, a dominant year. He has come to play every single game this year and is very deserving of this award.”
Bowers' efforts certainly mirror the person for whom the trophy is named. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is given in memory of the legendary Nagurski, a former All-America lineman at Minnesota (1927-29).
Nagurski was a farm boy of Ukrainian and Polish stock who developed his body by pulling a plow. He was discovered, legend has it, by Minnesota coach "Doc" Spears, who stopped by a farm field in International Falls, Minn., near the Canadian border and asked directions from a big kid plowing a field without a horse. The kid showed Spears where he wanted to go by picking up the plow in one hand and pointing it in the direction Spears was heading.
Nagurski dominated college football at Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle and could have been an All-American at any position. He then became a star for professional football's Chicago Bears in the 1930s.
Notre Dame defensive tackle Mike McCoy received the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award presented by CSX Intermodal. McCoy was a member of the FWAA's 1969 All-America Team. Each year, a top defensive player from a past FWAA team is honored at the banquet.