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Cleveland: Two Hottest Teams in the NFL

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

You can make a strong case that the two hottest teams in the National Football League are the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. Both keep winning. Both boast excellent play at the all-important quarterback position.

And, for our purposes today, both are quarterbacked by the only two-time winners of the C Spire Conerly Trophy which goes annually to the most outstanding college football player in Mississippi.

Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Ole Miss won it as a sophomore in 2001 and again as a senior in 2003. Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys and Mississippi State last year became the first ever winner of consecutive Conerly Trophies.

The C Spire Conerly Trophy, co-sponsored by C Spire and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, has become a Mississippi tradition. They’ll give away the 21st Conerly on Nov. 29 at the Clarksdale Country Club.

Why Clarksdale? Traditionally, the C Spire awards in all sports are awarded at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame but the banquets are moved around from time to time. This year, the Conerly is being held in the hometown of its namesake, the late Chunkin’ Charlie Conerly, who played at Ole Miss, went off to become a hero in World War II, then returned to be an All American for John Vaught’s first Ole Miss team. Legend has it, Vaught said he would only take the job if Conerly, already drafted by the Washington Redskins, returned to play his senior season. Conerly, who had already been drafted by the NFL, did return, and Ole Miss won the first of Vaught’s six SEC Championships.

Conerly then went on to a sparkling NFL career that included Rookie of the Year honors and leading the New York Giants to three championship games and one NFL Championship. He made All-Pro three times and was MVP once. He is a College Football Hall of Fame but somehow has never been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s a bone to pick another day. Today’s topic is the trophy that bears his name and it has established quite the history in over two decades.

In fact, let’s see how well you know your C Spire Conerly Trophy history. You’ll find the answers at the end of the column.

  1. Eli Manning won the Conerly in 2001 and 2003, so who won the award in 2002, which would have been Manning’s junior season?
  2. a) Delta State QB Scott Eyster, b) Mississippi State DB Fred Smoot, c) Southern Miss LB Rod Davis.
  3. Only one interior lineman has ever won the Conerly. He was…
  4. a) Peria Jerry of Ole Miss, b) Gabe Jackson of MSU, c) Michael Oher, Ole Miss.
  5. The 2000 Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated Florida, Auburn and Alabama and produced two Conerly finalists in Dicenzo Miller and Fred Smoot, but who won the Conerly that year.
  6. a) Josh Bright, Delta State; b) Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss; c) Adalius Thomas, USM.
  7. Who won the first Conerly Trophy in 1996, which also was the year the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum opened?
  8. a) Ole Miss TE Kris Mangum, b) USM LB Marchant Kenney, c) Delta State RB Tregnel Thomas.
  9. Quarterbacks have won the Conerly nine times. What position has won the trophy the second most times with six.
  10. a) running back, b) linebacker, c) wide receiver.
  11. Eli Manning was a three-time finalist for the award. Who was the only four-time finalist for the Conerly Trophy.
  12. a) Scott Eyster, DSU quarterback; b) Josh Bright, DSU quarterback; c) Tregnel Thomas, DSU running back.
  13. Awards banquets have been held in Jackson, Biloxi, Clarksdale and one other Mississippi city…
  14. a) Hattiesburg, b) Vicksburg, c) Tunica.
  15. Which school has produced the most Conerly winners?
  16. a) Mississippi State with 7, b) Ole Miss with 6, c) Southern Miss with 4.

Answers: 1. c) Rod Davis; 2. b) Gabe Jackson; 3. a) Josh Bright; 4. c) Tregnel Thomas; 5. a) running back, 6. a) Scott Eyster; 7. c) Tunica. 8. a) Mississippi State.

The 21st annual C Spire Conerly Trophy presentation will be held Nov. 29 at the Clarksdale Country Club. A 5:30 p.m. reception will be followed by the banquet and trophy presentation at 6:30 p.m. For ticket information, contact the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum at 1-800-280-FAME (3263), 601-982-8264 or generalinfo@msfame.com.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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