Darqueze Dennard Named Alderton Award Winner
June 6, 2014
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.
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