The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) has announced this afternoon in a press release that Northwestern linebacker Collin Ellis has been named the National Defensive Player of the Week.
Ellis earned the honor largely based on being the first player in Northwestern history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the 44-30 victory at California Saturday night. Those two pick-sixes netted a total of 96 return yards.
That's not bad for a player who just won the starting outside linebacker position in fall camp over Drew Smith!
Here is a clip of the first interception return that put Northwestern up 27-24 in the third quarter.
Here is a clip of the second interception return (beginning at 0:15 mark), which iced the game by extending Northwestern's lead to 37-27.
In addition to the two interceptions, Ellis added four tackles. One of these tackles was for a loss. The effort and weekly award puts the linebacker on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded in December to the best defensive player in the country for 2013. (Manti Te'o won the 2012 award.)
Ellis has been a spot contributor in his first two seasons for the Wildcats defense, never achieving more than six tackles in a game to date. However, his performance Saturday night gives him an inside track to compete with other great defensive players like Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina for national accolades at the end of 2013.
Of course, his mentorship under the coaching hands of Pat Fitzgerald—who won the Bronko Nagurski award in 1995 and 1996 as a player for Northwestern—can only help him reach these lofty goals. Keep an eye on Ellis as the season progresses to see if "Chicago's Big Ten school" has another great linebacker ready to shine.
Or to put it in the words of the great Northwestern fan blog, Sippin' On Purple: "Yeah! (jumps up and down, scissor-kick high-steps, horizontal double fist-pump)."
Syracuse's new quarterback struggled mightily against Penn State in Week 1, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. With the Orange coming to Evanston this weekend, Collin Ellis could be in line for another big game-changing play next weekend.
While it is a long road from new starter to national award winner, or even All-American, the signs are great so far for this linebacker. It will be fun to see if he can continue to surprise Northwestern opponents and become a breakout player for 2013.
Thanks for reading! Please provide your thoughts on whether Ellis can become the next great Northwestern defensive star in the comments below.
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