Alabama Football’s Evans, Fitzpatrick, Harrison and Payne Named to Nagurski Trophy Watch List
Alabama senior linebacker Rashaan Evans, junior defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison and junior defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne have been named to the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List announced today by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
The four are among 103 candidates from around the country named to the preseason list. Jonathan Allen became the first Alabama recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2016.
Evans spent his first season at inside linebacker in 2016 after playing on the outside as a freshman and sophomore and provided critical depth to the Tide linebacking corps. He started the final two games his junior campaign – the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the College Football Playoff Championship Game – and totaled 53 tackles with four sacks (-16 yards), 4.5 tackles for loss (-17 yards), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He added six quarterback hurries and two pass breakups to his season totals in 2016.
The leader of the Crimson Tide secondary after a pair of standout seasons in his first two years in Tuscaloosa, Fitzpatrick made the move to safety midway through the season in 2016 and will once again direct the Tide secondary in 2017. He has returned four interceptions for touchdowns during his career to set the Alabama all-time mark for pick-sixes. The Old Bridge, N.J., native was a first team All-American by the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association and Pro Football Focus in 2016 and earned second-team honors from Walter Camp and The Sporting News. He led the team in interceptions (6) and interception return yards (186) as a sophomore and his 186 return yards ranked near the top nationally while his six picks tied for seventh in the FBS.
Harrison totaled 86 tackles to rank second on the team, and added two interceptions - one of which he returned for a touchdown - two fumble recoveries, including one that was returned for a 55-yard score, and two quarterback hurries. The Tallahassee, Fla., native also had 1.5 tackles for loss (-8 yards) and seven pass breakups. He blocked one field goal on the season, tied for the team lead with eight tackles on kickoff coverage and tied for third on the team with eight stops overall on special teams.
One of the key cogs along the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defensive front, Payne totaled 36 tackles, three quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2016. He added 3.5 tackles for loss (-13 yards) and 1.5 sacks (-10 yards) from his nose guard spot on one of the top defenses in Alabama history. The Birmingham, Ala., native scored a key touchdown in Alabama’s come-from-behind victory at Ole Miss last season with a three-yard return early in the third quarter to highlight his sophomore campaign.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy has been presented annually since 1993 by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Football Writers Association of America to recognize the top defensive player in college football. The award is named in honor of college and NFL Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski. The 2017 winner will be announced at the Charlotte Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet in December of this year.