ATLANTA | It was trophy season for Minkah Fitzpatrick on Thursday night at the College Football Awards at the College Football Hall of Fame.
The standout Alabama junior defensive back took home the night’s two biggest defensive honors, winning the Thorpe and Bednarik awards and becoming just the third player in history to claim both joining Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson. The Thorpe Award is given annually to the nation’s top defensive back and the Bednarik is awarded to the country’s top defensive player.
The list of defensive backs to play under Nick Saban during his time at Alabama is impressive. From Kareem Jackson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins among many others, all played at a high level. But none of them captured the Thorpe Award.
Fitzpatrick became just the second Alabama to win the award joining Antonio Langham, who won the honor in 1993.
“It’s kind of crazy, all those names (who came before me) are doing great in the NFL right now, and they’re having great careers, and to be mentioned in a sentence with them is truly an honor,” Fitzpatrick said. “So just being able to win this award means a lot to me and my family. This definitely was way higher than my expectations.”
As the presenter paused after announcing the three finalists, it was the second time since Sunday that Fitzpatrick experienced a dramatic pause. On Sunday, he was in the locker room when the College Football Playoff committee announced Alabama’s inclusion into the playoff. This pause made him anxious too. Just not as much.
“I was a little bit more nervous for the playoff (announcement), for real,” he said.
The award meant a little bit more to Fitzpatrick who suffered a hamstring injury against LSU that limited his play at the end of the season.
He capped the night off with the Bednarik Award, beating out Georgia’s Roquan Smith and N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb.
Fitzpatrick said it was a dream come true to join Woodson and Peterson as the only players to ever win both awards.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I don’t think it’s hitting me right now. My mind is elsewhere right now, thinking about Clemson and the future and getting back to my team. I appreciate all the honors and all the accolades but I’m focusing on the future.
“Me and my team faced a whole lot of adversity this year,” Fitzpatrick said. “We had a lot of people get hurt in the first game. I was injured. My teammates pushed me and got me better. It wasn’t (anything) too serious. We all worked together and pushed through it. So winning this award after all that is a nice way to cap it off. But we want that ring to finish it off for sure.”
JK Scott was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s top punter. Texas punter Michael Dickson won the award.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.
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