Because Justin Gilbert was not semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the Oklahoma State cornerback being named one of three finalists for the honor on Monday was a bit of a surprise.
Even to Gilbert himself.
“It’s shocking,” he said. “It was totally unexpected, from not being on the top 15, the semifinal list. Just to make that jump, for me, was an impressive jump.
“I think it really came down to me making plays, and those guys up front allowing me to make those plays. The defensive line getting tremendous pass rush on the quarterback and just me making breaks on the ball. Everybody’s doing their job.”
Gilbert is tied for fifth in the nation with six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. He’s also compiled 37 tackles, five pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.
Gilbert found out about being a finalist from cornerbacks coach Van Malone. But he was told to keep it a secret since there had not yet been a public announcement.
Gilbert obliged for most of the day, but “broke at the end,” sharing the news with teammates Deion Imade and Shaun Lewis and giving them the same order.
Shortly after, though, Gilbert received a tweet from former Cowboy safety Markelle Martin. The message? “Bring that Jim Thorpe Award home.”
“I was like, ‘How does he know?’ Gilbert said. “So I looked on Twitter and I saw a bunch of people tweeting my name, so I pretty much knew it was out.”
Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner are the other finalists for the award.