Michigan State Announces Major Athletic Award Winners
June 6, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Five Michigan State University student-athletes have been recognized for excellence both on the playing field and in the classroom, earning the school's highest athletic awards for 2013-14.
The awards include the George Alderton Male and Female Athletes of the Year, the Big Ten Conference Medals of Honor, the Chester Brewer Leadership Award and Dr. James Feurig Achievement and Service Award. A panel of administrators and head coaches selected the winners.
Senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard (Dry Branch, Georgia) was named the George Alderton Male Athlete of the Year, while senior women's golfer Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin) earned George Alderton Female Athlete of the Year honors.
A consensus first-team All-American and winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, Dennard helped lead the Spartans to a school-record 13 wins, a final No. 3 national ranking, the Big Ten Championship, and their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. He was chosen the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row in 2013. A unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches, he was named Big Ten Defensive MVP by ESPN.com and CollegeFootballNews.com.
Ferrell became just the third Spartan to place in the Top 10 at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships and shot the lowest 72-hole score in school history (283) at nationals to finish tied for 10th. She sank a 9-foot putt on the final hole of the Big Ten Championships to give MSU its third Big Ten title in four years, and was named to the All-Championships Team for the second year in a row after tying for fifth place. Ferrell led the team with a 74.14 scoring average, the sixth lowest in an MSU single season.
Senior ice hockey forward Greg Wolfe (Canton, Michigan) and senior field hockey midfielder Kristen Henn (Prospect, Kentucky) were named Michigan State's recipients for the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor. The Big Ten, the nation's oldest collegiate conference, is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor this year. The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." Big Ten schools currently feature more than 8,200 student-athletes, but only 24 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In the 99 years of the Medal of Honor, over 1,300 student-athletes have earned this distinction.
Senior volleyball setter Kristen Kelsay (Wheaton, Illinois) was named the recipient of both the Chester Brewer Leadership Award and the Dr. James Feurig Achievement and Service Award. She is the fourth student-athlete in MSU history to receive the Brewer Award and Feurig Award in the same year.
In addition, junior thrower Antonio James (Romulus, Michigan) and junior jumper Tori Franklin (Westmont, Illinois) were named the recipients of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award for Michigan State, as previously announced by the conference office. One member of each varsity sports team on every campus was chosen by the institution as a Sportsmanship Award honoree and from each university's list, two outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners were then selected.
AWARD - WINNER
GEORGE ALDERTON MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Darqueze Dennard (Football)
It was quite a year for Darqueze Dennard. From the beginning of the season in August, when he was named a co-captain, to the beginning of May, when he was a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, Dennard ascended to heights few Spartans have ever reached.
Individually, Dennard became Michigan State's first cornerback to earn consensus All-America honors and also the first to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. Dennard also was selected recipient of the Jack Tatum Award, presented to college football's best defensive back by The Touchdown Club of Columbus. In addition, he was named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (presented to the nation's top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America).
The Dry Branch, Georgia, native was chosen the 2013 Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row. A unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches, he was named Big Ten Defensive MVP by ESPN.com and CollegeFootballNews.com. At the team's banquet in April, Dennard won the Governor's Award as MSU's most valuable player.
Dennard finished the season ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 62 tackles, including 3.5 for loss (8 yards). He led the team and ranked sixth in the Big Ten with 14 passes defended, and also tied for the team lead with four interceptions and 10 pass break-ups.
But perhaps more importantly, Dennard led Michigan State to one of its finest seasons in its storied history. MSU won a school-record 13 games, defeated No. 5 Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl Game, beat No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game for the school's eighth Big Ten title, and finished No. 3 in both national polls, the highest ranking for the Spartans since 1966. Michigan State (13-1) became just the third team in Big Ten history to win at least 13 games in a season (Minnesota, 1904; and Ohio State, 2002).
Dennard was one of the main reasons Michigan State finished No. 1 in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in pass efficiency defense (92.3 rating), No. 2 in total defense (252.2 ypg.), No. 3 in pass defense (165.6 ypg.) and No. 3 in scoring defense (13.2 ppg.).
Dennard shined in MSU's biggest games of the season, including the 100th Rose Bowl Game, as he helped the Spartan defense limit No. 5 Stanford to its third-lowest offensive output of the season in the 24-20 victory over the Cardinal. Stanford also threw for just 143 yards, its second-lowest total of the season. He also produced a 2-yard tackle for loss and three stops overall, and was named to ESPN.com's Big Ten All-Bowl Team.
He recorded three tackles, two pass break-ups and forced a fumble in Michigan State's 34-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans limited the Buckeyes to 25 total yards in the fourth quarter, including zero passing yards, as MSU rallied from a 24-20 deficit to claim a BCS berth in the Rose Bowl.
On Senior Day against Minnesota in his last appearance at Spartan Stadium, Dennard tied his career high with nine tackles and also broke up a pass.
He recorded a career-best nine tackles and an interception in MSU's 30-6 victory at Northwestern, as the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Legends Division title for the second time in three seasons. It marked Dennard's personal-best fourth interception of the season and 10th of his career.
Dennard also had a pick against Michigan and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after tying his career high with two interceptions at Iowa.
All of Dennard's success added up to a first-round selection in the NFL Draft (No. 24 overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals, as he became the first Spartan taken in the first round since 2002 and the first Spartan defensive back drafted in the first round since 1961.
"It's crazy (on being selected the George Alderton Male Athlete of the Year)," Dennard said. "I want to congratulate the other Athlete of the Year finalists: Gary Harris (basketball) and Mike McClure (wrestling). They both had outstanding seasons in their respective sports.
"The Alderton Award is the perfect way to cap off what has been a remarkable year for me and our football program. I've been blessed with a number of individual awards this year, but what I cherish most are the championships we celebrated together as a team: winning the Legends Division, the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl Game. Those are memories that will last a lifetime. I want to thank the coaching staff and all of my teammates for making the 2013 season so special. I received a lot of individual honors but none of it would have been possible without all of them.
"Even though my college career ended in the Rose Bowl, it's really been quite a spring: graduating in May, being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft and now winning the Alderton Award. I feel so fortunate and blessed."
"We congratulate Darqueze Dennard on being selected MSU's Male Athlete of the Year," head football coach Mark Dantonio said. "Darqueze is a complete corner and one of the best that I've ever coached during my career. He's an extremely competitive and gifted athlete, who helped anchor a great defense and an outstanding secondary last season. Darqueze really was a cornerstone of our defense for the last three years. This honor is well deserved after such an incredible year for him and everything that he accomplished."
Dennard started three years at cornerback for the Spartans. He collected 167 tackles and 30 passes defended (20 pass break-ups, 10 interceptions) in 44 career games, including 40 starts (29 consecutive to close out career). Dennard finished his career ranked tied for 11th in MSU history with 10 interceptions.
PAST WINNERS - ALDERTON MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
GEORGE ALDERTON FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Allyssa Ferrell (Golf)
For all of the school records that Allyssa Ferrell established her senior season - and there were several - the moment that stands above the rest was her 9-foot putt on the final hole of the Big Ten Championships that secured Michigan State's third conference title in four years. Her clutch shot with everything riding on the line was one of the biggest moments in program history and placed MSU's senior class in rarified air.
"In 19 years of coaching, the putt that Allyssa made to win the Big Ten Championship was the best sports moment that I've ever seen in college women's golf," head women's golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. "I think for a kid to be able to come up with the guts and the nerves to have to make that 9-footer on the last shot on the last day to win a Big Ten Championship was an amazing accomplishment."
The senior trio of Ferrell, Christine Meier and Liz Nagel not only helped lead the Spartans to three Big Ten Championships, but also four appearances in the NCAA Regionals and a school-record tying three consecutive trips to the NCAA Championships. The Spartans placed a school-record ninth at the NCAA Championships in 2013.
As for the records, Ferrell set new program lows for a single round (67), 54 holes (207) and 72 holes (283) during the 2013-14 season. She carded the lowest-ever score by a Spartan at the NCAA Championships (283) and became just the third player at MSU to place in the Top 10 at nationals. In addition, her score of 69 in both the first and second round at the NCAA Championships tied for the lowest single rounds in school history at the national tournament.
Ferrell had a record-setting two days at the Central District Invitational in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, in mid-February, carding a 9-under-par 207 (71-67-69) - the best 54-hole score ever at MSU - to win her first collegiate tournament and earn Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors. Her 5-under 67 in the second round of the CDI also tied a school single-round record. As a team, the Spartans shattered the previous 54-hole team record by 11 shots by compiling a 15-under 849.
The Edgerton, Wisconsin, native finished her senior year with a team-best 74.14 scoring average, which stands as the sixth lowest in an MSU single season. She also led the team with eight under-par rounds and tied for first with five Top-10 finishes. Ferrell placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships and was named to the All-Championships Team for the second consecutive year.
"I wasn't expecting this at all, so the news came as a complete surprise," said Ferrell. "Getting that phone call as a senior from coach about winning the Alderton Award meant a lot to me and was very exciting.
"One of the things I really wanted to do before I left Michigan State was leave a footprint that couldn't be erased. I feel like I accomplished a lot of things my senior year and I can walk away with no regrets and a big smile on my face. I want to thank coach, because a lot of this award goes to her as well.
"I think our team winning three Big Ten Championships in four years for me is really exciting," said Ferrell on what she's most proud of during her career. "That's one of the biggest team accomplishments you can achieve; not many people get to say that they did that. Personally, I always wanted to win a college tournament, and I captured that in February (at the Central District Invitational), so that was exciting as well. There were always highlights every year, but they kept getting better and bigger."
"I think Allyssa is very deserving of the Alderton Award and we're very proud to put another women's golfer on that trophy," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "I think one of the great stats about Allyssa is that when you look at her four-year career at Michigan State, she got better every year. She loves to play the game and has an incredibly tough mental state about her.
"She was very vocal about what she wanted to accomplish at Michigan State and was very driven to achieve those goals. She wanted to win four Big Ten titles and won three. She is an extremely driven young woman who has a passion for Michigan State and what we're trying to do with our golf program, which is to maintain our national prominence."
A two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection, Ferrell finished her career with the sixth-lowest scoring average (75.87) in school history. She collected 10 Top-10 finishes and 17 Top-20 finishes in her career. Ferrell also excelled in the classroom and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
This marks the eighth time a women's golfer has won the Alderton Award (Emily Bastel, 2000, 2002; Sara Brown, 2007-08; Caroline Powers, 2011-12-13).
PAST WINNERS - ALDERTON FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
BIG TEN CONFERENCE MEDAL OF HONOR
MALE WINNER: Greg Wolfe (Ice Hockey)
A relentless worker at both ends of the ice, and in the classroom, Spartan hockey captain Greg Wolfe is the ninth player in program history to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor and the first since Shawn Horcoff in 2000.
Wolfe, who graduated with a degree in finance in May, saved his best season for last, finishing with a team-high 13 goals and 31 points, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention. In Big Ten games, he led the Spartans with 19 points, which was fifth most of any player in the league.
"This is certainly a well-deserved honor," said hockey head coach Tom Anastos. "As a two-year captain, Greg has been our team leader on the ice, in the classroom and in the community. Greg is an exceptionally hard worker in everything he does and it's great to see him rewarded with such a distinguished honor."
"I'm truly honored and humbled to receive this award," said Wolfe. "At the same time, it's a great feeling to be regarded in the same class as so many well-respected student-athletes.
"I would not have been able to have achieved this type of honor without the unbelievable support of coaches, teammates, my family and everyone involved with the program. The support staff at Michigan State is second to none and I feel very blessed that we have so many great people that do everything they can to help on a daily basis."
Wolfe was one of six Spartans to appear in all 36 contests last season and recorded seven multi-point games. His lead-by-example approach proved more evident as he elevated his level of play with the competition, finishing the season with a team-best 11 points in games against ranked opponents.
Down the stretch, Wolfe was held without a point just twice over the final 11 games and ended the season with a career-best five-game point streak.
As just the ninth player in program history to be named captain at least twice, Wolfe finished his career with 89 points, marking the highest-career point total by a Spartan since 2009.
Wolfe's dedication extended to both the classroom and the community. With a 3.61 cumulative grade-point average, Wolfe was voted to the Academic All-District V First-Team. The two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree also was the hockey team's representative on the Student Athletic Advisory Council for two years. He led the team's involvement in several community initiatives, including: Teams for Toys, annual food drive, Accessible Halloween, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Relay for Life, Spartan Buddies and March is Reading Month.
PAST WINNERS - BIG TEN CONFERENCE MEDAL OF HONOR MALE WINNERS:
BIG TEN CONFERENCE MEDAL OF HONOR
FEMALE WINNER: Kristen Henn (Field Hockey)
A three-time captain, Kristen Henn led the Spartans to three NCAA Tournament appearances during her tenure along with two Big Ten Tournament titles. In the four seasons that Henn earned a varsity letter, the team went 57-30, highlighted by a run to the NCAA Elite Eight during her senior season.
"I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to pursue both an undergraduate and graduate degree while competing on the field hockey team at Michigan State," said Henn. "I was surrounded by professors, coaches and support staff that aided in my development on the field and in the classroom. There are many talented student-athletes at MSU and I'm honored that my achievements in academics and athletics were recognized by both Michigan State and the Big Ten with this prestigious award. I'm also humbled to join the past Medal of Honor winners, Melissa Pryor and Veerle Goudswaard, who were also members of the field hockey team."
Henn played a crucial role on the Spartan back line and was an All-Big Ten selection in 2010 and 2012. In 2013, she was a Second Team All-West Region selection for the second time, with the other coming in 2010. She finished her career with 16 goals and seven assists, good for 39 points.
After a successful final season in the Green and White, Henn was selected to play in the Front Rush/NFHCA Division I Senior Game, featuring the nation's top seniors. She was also voted as the team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year at the team banquet.
Her high performance on the field carried over to the classroom, as she completed her undergraduate career with a 3.55 GPA, majoring in biosystems engineering. Henn was an Academic All-Big Ten selection three times and a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2012. In 2011, Henn was honored as a member of the NFHCA National Academic Squad. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in biosystems engineering.
"Kristen receiving the Big Ten Medal of Honor for MSU is a very fitting and well-deserved honor for an exceptional student, athlete, and person," said head field hockey coach Helen Knull. "Kristen is never one to be concerned with her own personal accolades, always putting the team first. Kristen was a leader on and off the field which directly affected our success this past fall, winning the Big Ten Tournament and making it to the Elite Eight. She was a role model for her peers, balancing a rigorous academic schedule in biosystems engineering along with being a three-time captain and two-time All-Big Ten and Regional All-American selection."
Henn is the third field hockey player to win the award (Veerle Goudswaard, 2005; Melissa Pryor, 1998).
"I'm proud to have coached Kristen and have thoroughly enjoyed watching her grow over her time at MSU," said Knull. "She has set the standard for others to follow. For Kristen to be receiving the Medal of Honor in its 100th year is an honor for the field hockey program and speaks volumes to her passion, work ethic, drive, and legacy."
PAST WINNERS - BIG TEN CONFERENCE MEDAL OF HONOR FEMALE WINNERS:
CHESTER BREWER LEADERSHIP AWARD
WINNER: Kristen Kelsay (Volleyball)
DR. JAMES FEURIG ACHIEVEMENT & SERVICE AWARD
WINNER: Kristen Kelsay (Volleyball)
Senior setter Kristen Kelsay wrapped an impressive collegiate career with a standout senior season that saw her recognized not only for her play on the court, but also her work in the classroom and the community. In recent weeks, she was named the Detroit Athletic Club Female College Athlete of the Year, and also the recipient of a Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship. Kelsay, who graduated with high honors from MSU's Honors College, has already begun a graduate assistantship with MSU's Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) and begins post-graduate work on her Master of Science in finesiology, focusing on the psychosocial aspect of sport and physical activity, this fall.
"From the day I was offered an opportunity to play at Michigan State, this institution has given me the best of everything it had to offer," said Kelsay. "Looking back on my four years, I had so many amazing experiences not only as a part of the volleyball program and as a student-athlete, but also as a college student. There are so many people to thank for every opportunity I was given. It was a thrill to wear the uniform, but also a great honor to act as a representative of this University for four years. I'm so excited about my new post-graduate career, and I never considered going anywhere else. My sincere thanks to everyone who made every day of my MSU career a memorable and fulfilling one."
"Kristen Kelsay just absolutely embodies the term `student-athlete,'" said volleyball head coach Cathy George. "She excelled as a leader and an athlete in our program, but also used her time to become a part of the campus community and something larger than herself. There just are not enough superlatives to use to explain what she has meant to our program as an ambassador. These are very well-deserved honors, as are every single accolade that she received during her time here. Kristen is a tireless worker, a dynamic young woman, and I look so forward to seeing what her future holds."
Throughout her undergraduate career, Kelsay was a leader in the campus community. The president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), she attended the 2013 NCAA Leadership Forum in addition to completing a mission trip to Africa in the summer. She participated in community outreach events like the Student-Athlete Food Drive, Family Fun Nights at local elementary schools, Chuck-a-Puck events to raise money for children's cancer research, adopting a needy family at the holidays, and many others.
As a psychology major and member of the MSU honors college, Kelsay earned Academic All-America honors as a senior, in addition to being a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection as well as a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. She boasted the team's top cumulative GPA in three of her four years, making the Dean's List every semester and compiling a perfect 4.0 GPA in four semesters. She was recognized as the Harold & Raynor Shnider Office of the Provost Award (which honors academic performance, community involvement and leadership ability), and most recently earned MSU's prestigious Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service and Leadership Award at MSU's Academic Gala in April. She was one of nine students who were profiled in the 2014 Michigan State University President's Report, and was also featured in the "Faces of the Big Ten" campaign.
Kelsay, a three-year captain of the volleyball team, helped lead MSU to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and back-to-back NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in the most difficult volleyball conference in the country. She finished her career ranked eighth all-time at MSU in career matches played (133), fourth in career sets (473), and sixth in assists (3,040). In addition, she twice was honored with the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
PAST WINNERS - CHESTER BREWER LEADERSHIP AWARD:
FEURIG ACHIEVEMENT & SERVICE AWARD PAST WINNERS:
BIG TEN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD
MALE WINNER: Antonio James (Track and Field)
FEMALE WINNER: Tori Franklin (Track and Field)