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Dan Morgan Named Finalist For Bronko Nagurski Award

Nov. 14, 2000

DALLAS – Miami linebacker Dan Morgan, California end Andre Carter, Missouri end Justin Smith, North Carolina State linebacker Levar Fisher and Tennessee tackle John Henderson were named finalists on Tuesday for the 2000 Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club to the best defensive player in college football regardless of position.

The five finalists will appear at a gala awards banquet on Dec. 4 in Charlotte, N.C., where the winner of the 2000 Bronko Nagurski will be announced. South Carolina head football coach Lou Holtz will be the keynote speaker at the banquet. Virginia Tech end Corey Moore won the award last season.

“Butch Davis. “His character, integrity and all-out, unceasing effort exemplifies what all football players strive to be. Our program would not be where it is today without Dan Morgan. It’s just that simple.”

“It’s a tremendous honor to be a finalist for the Nagurski Award,” Morgan said. “And it’s an even greater compliment to be mentioned among the other finalists for this trophy. This has really been a special season for me and I have a lot of people to thank for it. But, right now, my main focus is to help our team win our remaining games along with the Big East championship and the national title.”

More about the Nagurski finalists:

Linebacker Dan Morgan, Miami, Fla., 6-3 , 245, Sr.

Tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar player in the mold of Dick Butkus, who comes to play every game. He performs in workman-like fashion, with little flash. He set a record for Miami career tackles, breaking the record of 490, held by All-America George Mira, Jr (1984-87). With 100-plus tackles in 2000, Morgan became the first Miami player to surpass the 100-tackle plateau in four different seasons. His best game was when he earned Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors, for 17 tackles, 14 unassisted, in Miami’s 27-24 victory over then-No. 1 Florida State. Morgan has started the most consecutive games by a Miami defensive player in 17 years. He was among the top 10 nationally in total tackles all season and at one point led the nation.

More Morgan . . .

Despite moving to middle linebacker after three seasons at weakside linebacker, Morgan has emerged as perhaps the nation’s most productive defensive player . . . Has started 40 games at linebacker, the most starts by any Miami linebacker ever and the most by any Hurricanes defensive player in the history of UM football . . . Those 40 starts are consecutive, the most consecutive starts by a UM defensive player in history . . . Particularly in games against ranked opponents this season, Morgan has been a beacon of excellence . . . Morgan’s totals against nationally ranked opponents this season: at Washington: 20 tackles, 1 pass interception, 1 fumble recovery, vs. Florida State: 17 tackles, 1 pass interception, 1 forced fumble, vs. Virginia Tech: 11 tackles . . . Two-time Butkus Award Semifinalist (1999, 2000) . . . Three-time Butkus Award Watch List Honoree (1998, 1999, 2000) . . . Two-time Nagurski Award Watch List Honoree (1999, 2000) . . . 1999 Nagurski Award Semifinalist . . . The first player in Miami history to be named a team captain three seasons by a vote of his teammates . . . Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week following UM’s win over Florida State . . . CNN/SI Mid-Season All-American . . . BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week following Miami’s win over No. 1 Florida State . . . Has recorded double-digit tackles totals in seven of nine games this season . . . Leads Miami in tackles with 113 (74 solo) . . . Recorded 20 tackles, 1 pass interception and recovered a fumble at Washington . . . Racked up 17 tackles, 1 pass interception and a forced fumble vs. No. 1 Florida State . . . Made 20 tackles against Pittsburgh to break the UM career tackles record, becoming the . . . first UM player to record 500 total tackles in a career.

End Andre Carter, California, 6-4, 260, Sr.

Carter owns both the Cal single-season and career record for sacks. Had tackles for losses totaling more than 100 yards this season. Carter has tremendous stamina and has been in nearly defensive play for the Golden Bears this season. He was often double-teamed, but still made spectacular plays. In a matchup against Illinois’ standout offensive tackle Marques Sullivan, Carter had nine tackles ( two for losses) and forced a holding penalty on Sullivan. Carter forced a fumble against Washington, which was returned 34 yards for a touchdown by another Cal player. He forced another fumble, which the Golden Bears returned deep in USC territory to set up a touchdown. His father is a former NFL player and current defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins. The FWAA E-Guide’s Mel Kiper says Carter will be a Top Five pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

Linebacker Levar Fisher, North Carolina State, 6-1, 223, Jr.

“He is so strong physically that he is able to ward off blockers,” said Duke coach Carl Franks. “He is aggressive and can time up your snap count and get through the line of scrimmage and be on your quarterback before the running back has a chance to block him.” Near the end of the 2,000 season, Fisher ranked as the nation’s top tackler and had posted three of the top 10 single game tackle totals in school history. Fisher was involved in one of every four plays for the Wolfpack this season, either making the tackle, pressuring the quarterback or breaking up a pass. He was among North Carolina State career leaders in tackles for loss and caused fumbles with another season of eligibility remaining. He has come close in several games this season in matching the North Carolina State record for tackles in a game, 24, held by current Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.

Tackle John Henderson, Tennessee, 6-7, 290, Jr.

Henderson has been the dominant player on the Tennessee defense this year. Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer has remarked several times that Henderson is playing as well as any defensive tackle Tennessee has ever had. That includes All-Pro Reggie White. Henderson is threatening White’s school record for sacks in a season, leads the Southeastern Conference in sacks and tackles for loss and has more tackles than any other SEC interior defensive lineman. Henderson is also a major reason that Tennessee has ranked among the top five teams in the nation against the rush.

End Justin Smith, Missouri, 6-5, 270. Jr.

Smith set a Missouri record for sacks in a season and broke the Missouri career record for sacks. “He belongs in the NFL already,” said Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch. “Every week he is so consistent and he works harder than anyone on the field.” Usually around the ball, Smith also forced a couple of fumbles and recovered two this season. In one game this season, he had four sacks and seven total tackles for losses. “I threw him up (on film) for the whole team to watch,” said Colorado coach Gary Barnett. “He just plays the game the way you would like someone to play it. He’s just a great player with a great motor. You watch him and you go. ‘Wow, that’s the way you’re supposed to play the game.'” With 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, a 30.5-inch vertical leap and a school-record 485-pound power clean, Smith is considered to be a first-round pick if he comes out after his junior season.