Dec. 10, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – University of Notre Dame senior wide receiver Michael Floyd joined an exclusive list of past Fighting Irish football players when he was named 2011 Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player tonight at the 91st Notre Dame Football Awards Ceremony.
A repeat selection as Notre Dame’s top player, Floyd became the 10th Irish football player to earn team MVP honors for a second time. He was selected in a vote by members of the Notre Dame football team and was one of 12 awards presented Friday at the show sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley.
Prior MVP repeat winners are QB Terry Hanratty (offensive MVP in 1967-68), LB Greg Collins (defensive MVP in 1973-74), LB Bob Crable (1980-81), RB Allen Pinkett (1983-85), WR Tim Brown (1986-87), QB Tony Rice (1988-89), WR Derrick Mayes (1994-95), RB Autry Denson (1998-98) and QB Brady Quinn (2005-06).
In 2011 Floyd set a school single-season record with 95 receptions (that number has a chance to grow in the Champs Sports Bowl) and led the Irish with a career-high 1,106 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches. His 174 receptions over the last two seasons are the most by any Notre Dame player in consecutive seasons–and Floyd became just the second Irish player to record two seasons with at least 60 receptions.
Owner of five career school records, Floyd will leave Notre Dame as the most prolific wide receiver in school history. He already has registered the most career receptions (266), receiving yards (3,645), touchdown receptions (36), receiving yards per game average (86.8) and 100-yard receiving games (17).
Senior safety Harrison Smith received the Nick Pietrosante Award. The Pietrosante Award is given to the student-athlete who best exemplified the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride of the late Irish All-America fullback. Pietrosante, Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 1957 and ’58 (and later a number-one draft pick and two-time all-pro selection with the Detroit Lions), died of cancer on Feb. 6, 1988. The recipient is determined by a vote of the players and past winners have included Robert Hughes, Mike Anello, Tom Zbikowski, John Carlson, Jeff Faine, Aaron Taylor and Chris Zorich.
Smith was a leader of the Irish defense and the sole team captain in 2011. He is the first lone season captain at Notre Dame since 1999 and only the fourth to have such a distinction in the last 40 years. He ranks second on the team with 84 tackles and leads the Irish with 10 pass breakups. Smith ranks tied for 36th nationally in pass breakups this year and his 28 career pass breakups rank second all-time at Notre Dame. He became the 11th player to reach the 300-tackle plateau at Notre Dame and currently has 304 tackles, including 17.5 tackles for loss. He ranks 10th in career tackles at Notre Dame and his 216 tackles as a defensive back are fifth most in Irish history. Smith is the only player in Notre Dame history to record at least 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass breakups in a career.
Junior offensive tackle Zack Martin won the Guardian of the Year Award, presented by the Guardian Life Insurance Company (a sponsor of Irish football on the IMG Notre Dame football radio broadcasts), as the top offensive lineman. Martin joins Ryan Harris as the only players to win the award multiple times in their Notre Dame careers. Martin had the highest grade of the offensive linemen and recorded the most snaps this year. He led the team in knockdown blocks and extra individual effort and allowed only one sack plus permitted the fewest pressures. Martin was a key component to an offensive line that improved the rushing yards per game by 39.4 yards. The 31.1-percent improvement from 2010 to 2011 was the 13th-best in the FBS this year and the 39.4-yard increase was the 17th-best improvement. Martin was also an essential piece to the pass protection that was the best at Notre Dame since 1998. The Irish allowed only 13 sacks all season and yielded one sack for every 34.8 pass attempts.
Senior outside linebacker Darius Fleming claimed the Lineman of the Year Award presented by the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. Fleming started every game in 2011 and tallied a career-high 54 tackles and added seven tackles for loss with three and a half sacks. He ranked third on the team with 42 tackles on running plays and ranked second with seven quarterback hurries. Fleming added one interception, three pass breakups and one forced fumble this year. He was a member of a defense that held 10 of 12 teams below their season rushing averages and 11 of 12 teams below their season scoring averages.
Junior linebacker Manti Te’o was honored with the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award. Te’o, who was named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All- America squad (second team), has posted a 3.37 cumulative grade-point average and is a design major. Te’o became Notre Dame’s 222nd all-time Academic All-American and 56th selection from the football team. Te’o also excelled on the field this year as he paced the Irish with 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and four and a half sacks. He was named a finalist for the Lott Trophy, presented annually to the top college football defensive player that also excels in the classroom and community, and Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker. He earned second-team All-America honors last night from the Walter Camp Foundation.
Junior wide receiver Robby Toma captured the Next Man In Award. Toma played in every game–but he was inserted into the starting lineup after Theo Riddick was injured against Wake Forest. Toma totaled 15 receptions for 173 yards and one touchdown on the season, but in his first two starts against Maryland and Boston College he caught a combined 12 passes for 138 yards. Only Floyd’s 19 receptions for 182 yards topped Toma’s output against the Terrapins and Eagles combined.
Making its debut in 2011 was the Back of the Year Award, which was presented to senior cornerback Robert Blanton. Blanton was one of the top cornerbacks in the country this year and was a physical presence in Notre Dame’s secondary. He tied for the team-lead with two interceptions and ranked second on the team with eight tackles for loss. Blanton’s seven passes defended and five pass breakups both tied for second most on the team while his 69 tackles ranked third on the squad. Blanton’s eight tackles for loss this year are the most in a season by a Notre Dame defensive back since A’Jani Sanders had 10 in 1999 and Blanton’s 19 career tackles for loss are the most by a member of the Irish secondary since the beginning of the 1998 season.
The Offensive Newcomer of the Year Award was presented to senior running back Jonas Gray. Entering the year with only 75 career carries and 22 games played through his first three seasons, Gray burst onto the scene in his final year and became one of Notre Dame’s best offensive weapons. Gray gained 791 yards and 12 touchdowns on 114 carries and started four of the 11 games he played. His 6.9-yard per carry average was the fifth best in Notre Dame history and second best since 1930. Gray averaged a touchdown rush every 9.5 carries, the third-best ratio in college football this year. He failed to record a touchdown run in the first 25 games of his career, but ran for at least one touchdown in eight consecutive games in 2011. It was the longest touchdown streak by a Notre Dame player since Autry Denson scored in 10 consecutive games in 1998.
Junior linebacker Dan Fox was presented with the Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award. Fox did not play as a freshman and appeared primarily on special teams in 2010 but was one of six defensive players to start every game in 2011. He set career highs in every statistical category including 46 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. Fox tied for the fifth-most tackles on running plays and had the sixth-most tackles on the team this year. He was a key member of a defense that allowed fewer than 21 points per game for the second straight year, the first time a Notre Dame defense had accomplished that in a decade.
Sophomore Austin Collinsworth earned the Special Teams Player of the Year Award. Collinsworth made six tackles on special teams last year but paced the Irish in 2011 with 15 special teams tackles. He led Notre Dame with 13 tackles on kickoff coverage and tied for team- high honors with two stops on punt coverage.