Dec 7, 2012, 10:16 PM EDT
While several Notre Dame players and coaches have been receiving national recognition this week, the Fighting Irish held their own awards show on Friday night at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
The evening included several highlight reels celebrating the team’s 12-0 regular season, as well as a tribute video honoring this remarkable senior class.
But the main focus of the annual show were the 17 awards that were handed out. From a senior walk-on to a Heisman Trophy finalist, here’s a look at the winners.
Scout Team Player of the Year (Offense): Nick Fitzpatrick – Week in and week out, the walk-on from Mishawaka played an integral role in helping the Notre Dame defense prepare for its upcoming opponent. As Sam Stryker wrote in The Observer last month, Fitzy was tasked with the role of playing quarterback Denard Robinson, prior to the Michigan game in September.
Scout Team Player of the Year (Defense): Tyler Stockton – When the defensive end appeared on the Brian Kelly Radio Show, his coach talked a lot about what an important part the senior had played on the scout team. But T-Stock will be most remembered by the Notre Dame fan base as a locker room and YouTube legend, for carrying on the “Trick Shot Monday” tradition started by his friend and fellow scout team standout Brandon Newman.
Newcomer of the Year (Offense): Everett Golson – After winning the quarterback battle in training camp, the sophomore had a few early season struggles, but showed tremendous resiliency and poise, especially in leading Notre Dame to victories at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC. His finest moment however, may have been the game-tying drive and two-point conversion against Pittsburgh, when the Irish’s national championship dreams seemed to be slipping away. The best part about Golson? He has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Newcomer of the Year (Defense): KeiVarae Russell – When Lo Wood suffered an Achilles injury in August, it was tough to tell what made Irish fans cringe more – the idea of a torn Achilles or the thought of a freshman starting at cornerback. Recruited as a running back, KeiVarae was outstanding in his first season at Notre Dame. The fearless freshman picked off two passes, ranked fifth on the team in total tackles (50), and though it may seem odd to give a guy credit for committing penalties, it was his heads-up pass interferences that helped set up the Irish’s goal line stand for the ages at USC.
Irish Around The Bend: Mike Golic Jr. – Before stepping into a starting role towards the end of last season, a lot of outsiders looked at Mike as “Mike Golic’s son.” But the graduate student from West Hartford, Conn. has been much more than that, both on and off the field. Mike has been a tremendous leader on Notre Dame’s campus, and a big part of the team’s Irish Around the Bend community service programs. He has dressed up as Santa Claus at the Pediatric Christmas Party, led the team’s participation in The Bald & The Beautiful event for childhood cancer research, and was part of this season’s AllState Good Works Team. You can bet Mike will continue to make Notre Dame proud wherever his post-college career path takes him.
A-Team: Kapron Lewis-Moore – In the offseason, Coach Kelly and his staff instituted “The A-Team” – a set of principles (accountability, appreciation and achievement) that guided Notre Dame throughout the season. One of the elder statesmen on the Fighting Irish, Kap has been outstanding, not only in Notre Dame’s resurgence on the gridiron, but in changing the program’s culture too. One of the team’s four captains, he has been a teacher for younger players both on the defensive line and with regards to student life at Notre Dame. Often seen courtside at Purcell Pavilion, you won’t find too many student-athletes who appreciate the college experience more than KLM has during his time in South Bend.
Count on Me: Theo Riddick – He began his career as a running back, shifted to wide receiver, and prior to his senior campaign, returned to the backfield. Having rushed for nearly 900 yards, Theo has been a reliable force in the Irish offense. Like former teammate Robert Hughes before him, Riddick turned in a career performance in his final regular season game, lifting Notre Dame to victory at USC (146 rushing yards and a touchdown).
Father Lange Iron Cross: Braxston Cave – During his time at Notre Dame in the early 1900’s, Rev. Bernard H. B. Lange, C.S.C. developed a reputation as a legendary strongman priest. After the graduate student’s senior season was cut short by a foot injury in 2011, Cave has been the toughman at the center of Notre Dame’s offense – literally and figuratively – helping the Irish rush for 22 touchdowns this season. A local guy (Granger, Ind.), Braxston is a leader on an offensive line that is nothing short of a family. His presence will certainly be missed, both on the field and in the locker room.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Kyle Brindza – From the game-winning kick against Purdue to the five field goal performance at USC, the sophomore came up huge this season. Brindza also kicked 25 touchbacks, part of the reason why the Irish did not allow a single kickoff return for a touchdown.
Pietrosante Award: John Goodman and Robby Toma – Presented each year to the Notre Dame player who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride of late Irish fullback Nick Pietrosante, this year’s award went to a pair of senior wide receivers. Goodman and Toma have been vital to Notre Dame’s 12-0 season, and their impact goes far beyond the box score. Their loyalty to the Fighting Irish may be unmatched, and each takes immense pride not just in being a Notre Dame football player, but a Notre Dame student.
Moose Krause Linemen of the Year: Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt – Spend two minutes watching any media coverage on Notre Dame’s defense, and you will undoubtedly hear about this dynamite pair of defensive linemen. Nix and Tuitt have put fear in the eyes of opposing quarterbacks for 12 weeks, and even behind his dominant offensive line, you can bet Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron is not looking forward to seeing these two coming after him on Jan. 7.
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Zack Martin – Notre Dame’s senior left tackle allowed just one sack this year, and it came on the opening drive of the game against Navy. The co-captain from Indianapolis has been a starer for three seasons, and is a big reason why the Fighting Irish averaged 202.5 rushing yards per game in 2012.
Rockne Student-Athlete: Danny Spond – The junior linebacker’s story is a special one. Earlier this summer, he thought he might never walk again, let alone play football. But with 38 tackles, three pass breakups, and an interception, Spond has been an important part of Notre Dame’s top-rated defense, all while excelling in the classroom as a political science major.
Next Man In: Tommy Rees – After being suspended for the opener in Dublin, the junior quarterback took at least one snap in 11 games this season. Rees has been called upon at a moment’s notice on multiple occasions. He helped lead winning drives against Purdue and Stanford, he started in place of an injured Golson versus BYU and came through in relief to help the Irish beat Michigan. This marks Rees’s second time receiving the Next Man In Award (2010), further proving what a reliable player he has developed into during three years at Notre Dame.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Eifert – The latest in Notre Dame’s line of excellent tight ends, Eifert has all the tools to be an NFL star. The co-captain was the Irish’s leading receiver with 44 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns. Though the 2012 Mackey Award winners offensive numbers are a bit lower than last season, his blocking ability, and his versatility to lineup at both tight end and wide receiver have been a huge part of the Irish’s success.
Defensive Player of the Year: Zeke Motta – The team’s second-leading tackler with 61 stops, the senior safety has led a young, inexperienced secondary all season. Zeke has his sights set on the NFL, and if there was a Most Improved Award to be handed out, you can bet #17 would be in the running for that hardware as well (He would probably be up for Best Facial Hair, but fellow safety Matthias Farley might have something to say about it. #BeardGang).
Most Valuable Player: Manti Te’o – Nothing more needs to be said. Simply put, the Fighting Irish would not be where they are today – one month from playing in the national championship game – without Te’o.
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