Oct. 30, 2002
Notre Dame senior center Jeff Faine and senior punter Joey Hildbold have been named to the semifinalist lists of the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Ray Guy Award respectively. Faine is one of 12 finalists of the award given to the nation’s best interior lineman, while Hildbold is one of 10 people still in the running for the country’s best punter award.
Faine, from Sanford, Fla., is one of the top centers in the nation starting all eight games for the Irish in 2002. A leading candidate for not only the Lombardi Award, but also the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award, Faine could become Notre Dame’s first All-America center since Tim Ruddy in 1993. He was a preseason first-team Street & Smith’s All-American and a preseason second-team All-America selection by Athlon. He was ranked fifth nationally among centers in Lindy’s and The Sporting News before the start of the season and has played a major role in the Irish beginning the season with a perfect 8-0 record and a No. 4 national ranking, its highest since 1994.
Faine has started 30 consecutive games for the Irish and has led the Irish in playing time the last three seasons. He has served as a team captain versus Maryland, Michigan, Stanford and Florida State and has opened gaping holes for sophomore running back and Doak Walker award candidate Ryan Grant to six 90-plus-yard rushing games in 2002, including a career-high 190 against Air Force. He also helped the Irish rush for season-high 249 yards vs. Stanford and helped the Irish have two running backs rush for over 100 yards (Rashon Powers-Neal with 108 yards and Ryan Grant with 103 yards) for the first time since 1997. Notre Dame also rushed for 335 yards against Air Force, a season-high and its highest rushing total since last season’s game versus West Virginia.
“Jeff is in a class by himself,” head coach Tyrone Willingham says.
“There are not many players that play the game at the level Jeff does. In some regards, he’s a throwback to some of the really tough guys that played the game when there was no facemask. He plays the game with that kind of mentality and its a great way to play. I wish we could have more guys play that way, but that’s what makes him special, because most guys cannot play like that.”
Hildbold, from Centreville, Va., was a Street and Smith’s preseason honorable mention All-American. Averaging almost 40.1 yards a punt in 2002, he is currently ranked third in Notre Dame history for career punting average at 40.7. In eight games this season he has averaged over 40 yards a kick in four games, but the most telling statistics of all for Hildbold is he has already tied a career-high for punts inside the 20 with 22 and has eight inside the 10 yard line, including three against Florida State. The ultimate team player, Hildbold was a team captain vs. Pittsburgh and responded with a season-long 53-yard punt and pinned the Panthers inside the 20-yard line twice.
“Joey Hildbold is one of the best punters in the nation, although his average might not show it because he is such a team player and will sacrifice his numbers for the good of the team.” Willingham says.
“Just look at how many times he has kicked the ball inside the 20 and the 10 especially.”
Four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award will be announced after Nov. 11, with the winner honored at the Rotary Lomandi Award Dinner in Houston, Texas, on Dec. 11. The winner of the Ray Guy Award will be announced on Dec. 12 as part of the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Orlando, Fla. The winner will then be honored again at the Greater Augusta Sports Awards Gala in Augusta, Ga later that month.
Semifinalists for the Rotary Lomnardi Award:
Boss, Bailey – Georgia
Faine, Jeff – Notre Dame
Harris, Tommie – Oklahoma
Henderson, E.J. – Maryland
James, Bradie – LSU
Joseph, William – Miami
Kennedy, Jimmy – Penn State
McDougle, Jerome – Miami
Redding, Cory – Texas
Romberg, Brett – Miami
Stinchcomb, Jon – Georgia
Suggs, Tyrrell – Arizona State
Semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award:
Ansel, Curtis – Kansas
Biasatti, Joey – TCU
Burns, Vinnie – Virginia Tech
Colquitt, Dustin – Tennessee
Fleming, Pat – Bowling Green
Hildbold, Joey – Notre Dame
Larson, Kyle – Nebraska
Mariscal, Mark – Colorado
Pakulak, Glenn – Kentucky
Scifres, Mike – Western Illinois