Ole Miss junior Robert Nkemdiche has been named a finalist for the sixth annual Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse and given to the most versatile player in major college football.
The Rebels’ starting defensive tackle, considered by experts to be a future high first-round NFL Draft prospect, has been dominant as a tackle and occasional end on the defensive line this year. His constant pressure in opposing backfields helps Ole Miss rank 15th in the nation in tackles for loss (7.7/game) and 24th in interceptions (13), while also ranking top four in the SEC in defensive takeaways (17) and defensive touchdowns (3). His effort in the win at No. 2 Alabama (6 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 0.5 sack) earned him SEC and National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Nkemdiche has also lined up as an H-back and scored three offensive touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving). The Loganville, Georgia, native has also blocked a field goal and serves as a protector on Ole Miss punts.
Nkemdiche is the first defensive lineman to be named a finalist for the Hornung Award.
The other three 2015 Hornung Award finalists are Adoree’ Jackson (USC), Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) and Jabrill Peppers (Michigan).
So far this season, three of the finalists who primarily play defense – Jackson, Peppers and Nkemdiche – have combined to play every position on that side of the ball. All four finalists combined have played every position in the offensive backfield and every receiver position, with McCaffrey playing every spot except tight end. McCaffrey, Peppers and Jackson also return punts and kicks.
The announcement was made Thursday by the Louisville Sports Commission along with football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung. The finalists were chosen by a 16-member national selection committee, with online fan voting counting for the 17th vote. Online voting that will account for the 17th vote for the winner opens Thursday at paulhornungaward.com. The 2015 Paul Hornung Award winner will be announced Friday, Dec. 11.
The skills of the Paul Hornung Award finalists will be on display the remainder of the season as Michigan, Stanford, Southern Cal and Ole Miss all vie for spots in their conference championship games. Stanford, leaders in the Pac-12 North, closes out the conference schedule in the Big Game against Cal, then hosts Notre Dame to finish the regular season. Ole Miss faces LSU at home and Southern Cal visits Oregon this weekend, and Michigan hosts Ohio State in the Big House in the regular season finale. If Southern Cal and Stanford win their remaining conference games, the Trojans and Cardinal will meet in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game.
“There is a lot to like about this group of finalists for our award and I want to congratulate them,” Hornung said. “They look like a tough lot and have demonstrated a willingness to play any position on the field to help their teams win. That’s how I played the game.”
Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Hornung was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Notre Dame in 1956 and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player with the Green Bay Packers whose versatility earned him enshrinement in both the College and Professional Football Halls of Fame. At Notre Dame, Hornung played every position in the offensive backfield, handled punting and placekicking duties, returned kickoffs and started at safety on defense. He set an NFL single-season scoring record for the champion Green Bay Packers in 1961 that stood for 46 years.
All votes for the Paul Hornung Award are independently tabulated by regional accounting firm Dean Dorton, one of the largest accounting and financial advisory firms in Kentucky, with offices in Louisville and Lexington. The winner and his family will be honored on Feb. 25, 2016, at the annual Paul Hornung award banquet presented by KentuckyOne Health at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville. For tickets to the banquet contact Julie Howell at 502-587-6742 or JHowell@Louisvillesports.org.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports Information