Cox a worthy Thorpe finalist, but so is Jackson
The Jim Thorpe Award is one of my favorite trophies in college football. Yes, because of who it honors. Yes, because the trophy looks cool. Yes, because the committee is locally based.
I like the Thorpe Award because it recognizes defensive backs — to me the second-most pressurized position behind quarterback. In the past, I have suggested the Thorpe Award should go to college football’s best all-purpose player. It could recognize two-way players, those who start and double-up on special teams. This would be a great way to pay tribute to the greatest athlete of the 20th century. What’s most important, however, is that the award exists and has quickly gained nationwide respect.
The list of this year’s 12 semifinalists has been released and senior cornerback Perrish Cox is Oklahoma State’s first semifinalist since Mark Moore in 1986, the first year the award was presented.
The Thorpe committee looks at multiple aspects when picking its candidates, including athletic ability and character. Certain stats can be misleading. Superb defensive backs often lack opportunities for interceptions because no one throws their way. The committee considers kick returns yards, but not all defensive backs are returners, so it’s not the end-all, be-all.
Cox is the best of both worlds. He leads the nation with 1.86 passes defended per game and has done well against prolific receivers such as Georgia’s A.J. Green and Texas’ Jordan Shipley. Cox also is the Big 12’s all-time leader in kick return yards.
Cox unquestionably is worthy of being a semifinalist, but so is Oklahoma’s Brian Jackson. The Thorpe committee noted Jackson received honorable mention, which to me is not nearly high enough status for this senior cornerback, who tied a school record with at least one interception in four straight games. Not one for hyperbole, OU coach Bob Stoops has described Jackson’s play this season as “incredible.”
This year’s semifinalists are: Javier Arenas, Sr., Alabama; Eric Berry, Jr., Tennessee; Barry Church, Sr., Toledo; Perrish Cox, Sr., Oklahoma State; Joe Haden, Jr., Florida; Brandon Harris, So., Miami (Fla.); Taylor Mays, Sr., USC; Tyler Sash, So., Iowa; Darrell Stuckey, Sr., Kansas; Earl Thomas, So., Texas; Alterraun Verner, Sr., UCLA; Kyle Wilson, Sr., Boise State.
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